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A place for everyone

Ulster University set out its aspiration in its People and Culture Strategy that ours is an environment and place of learning where we can Achieve Excellence

Together. Achieving excellence together requires us all to focus on both what we do as well as the way that we do it.

University is a place to be challenged; but it is also a place to be respectful and tolerant of the views of others, even if they are different from our own.

Our organisational values of integrity, collaboration, enhancing potential and inclusion are central to everything we do.

For some of you this may be the first time you meet people who are different from you; people from different countries, cultures and people with different values. The opportunity for you is to see the differences that exist as an opportunity to learn about yourself with other staff/students.

The University will treat all students, staff and stakeholders with respect and dignity and will seek to provide a positive working and learning environment, free from discrimination, harassment or victimisation.

The legislative context for ‘good relations’

The University’s equality scheme sets out how the University proposes to fulfil its statutory duties under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. This places equality of opportunity and good relations central to policy making and service delivery within Northern Ireland.

Under the ‘Good Relations Duty’ (Section 75 (2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998), in carrying out its functions in relation to Northern Ireland, the University must have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.

Under good relations legislation we have a legal duty to have regard to the desirability of promoting the University as a place for everyone.

What is meant by ‘good relations’?

Neither ‘good relations’ nor ‘promoting good relations’ is defined in legislation, nor is there a commonly agreed definition. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland has developed the following working definition of ‘good relations’:

‘The growth of relationships and structures for Northern Ireland that acknowledge the religious, political and racial context of this society, and that seek to promote respect, equity and trust, and embrace diversity in all its forms….

‘Good relations’ could be said to exist where there is:

  • a high level of dignity, respect and mutual understanding
  • an absence of prejudice, hatred, hostility or harassment
  • a fair level of participation in society.’

How can we promote ‘good relations’?

We are committed to, and support, the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion, through the promotion of good relations within our work. We promote good relations by promoting cultural diversity and respect for cultural identities.

We promote the University as a place for everyone.

Promoting good relations can involve proactively challenging sectarianism and racism.

This requires not only reacting swiftly to incidents and manifestations, such as graffiti or name-calling; but also educating and training people to understand that prejudice is not acceptable.

It can involve challenging misconceptions, preconceptions, stereotypical assumptions and prejudices against people perceived as outsiders or different.

It can mean creating an ethos, a culture, of good relations and recognising the need to promote good relations both within and between communities. To promote good relations:

  • Familiarise yourself with the University’s ‘Equal Opportunities’ and ‘Dignity at Work and Study (Bullying and Harassment)’ policies
  • Complete the University’s online Equality & Diversity training
  • Attend unconscious bias awareness training
  • Consider the impact on good relations of your policies during policy development/review
  • Find out more about promoting good relations (see below)

What is meant by ‘promoting a good and harmonious working environment’?

‘A good and harmonious working environment is one where all workers are treated with dignity and respect, and where no worker is subjected to harassment by conduct that is related to religious belief or political opinion.’ (Equality Commission for Northern Ireland)

The Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998 places an obligation on the University to take all reasonable steps to ensure that those who work at the University, or come in contact with it (as a student, customer or user of its services or facilities), do not feel threatened or intimidated on grounds of religious or similar philosophical belief or political opinion. In other words, the University and its staff must take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment.

Harassment is defined by law as ‘unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’.

The underlying principle of harassment applies to all forms of religious belief and political opinion.

The duty to promote a good and harmonious working environment should be considered within the broader contexts of the statutory duties under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which covers nine protected characteristics.

Where can I find out more about promoting ‘good relations’?

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland has developed the following guidance on good relations:

The Northern Ireland Executive has developed the following strategy on good relations:

How do we promote good relations for students?

The Students’ Union Good Relations Policy Working Group (SUGRPWG) was established in October 2013 to review, develop and equality screen (in accordance with Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998) the Students’ Good Relations Policy.

The Group is also responsible for developing/overseeing an action plan to ensure inclusion and support the Students’ Good Relations Policy.

The SUGRPWG has as its Chair the overall Students Union President. It consists of senior staff from the Students Union and the University, nominated Students’ Union Officers and representatives from Student Societies and the Chaplaincy.

Since 2016, the main remit of the Group has been to support the implementation of the Students’ Good Relations Policy and action plan and to provide an advisory forum for the Students’ Union as and when good relations issues arise.

How is progress in delivering good relations measured?

We monitor:

  • changes to our staff and student profile (demographic change)
  • fair participation in employment
  • delivery of the student good relations action plan.

We report progress in delivering good relations within our Annual Section 75 Annual Progress Report.