It's nice to be important, but more important to be nice

Students looking out over lake with Trent building - EDI blog

This time two years ago I was coming to the end of a quite lengthy induction process in my then new role of Pro Vice-Chancellor. This predominantly involved meeting a wide range of people across the university to learn about them and their roles. The complexity of the structures and different job titles at the organisation was, at times, overwhelming but one single message prevailed from everyone I met; they thought the people at UoN are nice. 'Nice' feels a subtle and perhaps inconsequential word but what struck me as powerful at the time was that the 100 or more people I had met in the first few weeks of my role had consistently said it.   

Having been in my role for some time now, I understand what nice at UoN really means. It means that colleagues feel it is as important to be supportive of each other and inclusive as it is to focus on excelling individually. It means we are respectful and tolerant of each other and that we can debate contentious issues well. It means that people work collaboratively and collegiately to deliver an exceptional student experience and excellent research. It means a shared pride in the work of the university and a collective desire to sustain this for the future. This is not a culture that many universities have. It is not something at UoN we should take for granted and it is something to be celebrated. 

Last month saw the university recognising and celebrating LGBT History Month. Co-ordinated by our university LGBTQIA+ lead, Doug Little, February was a rainbow of activities and events across the whole university. These included how to embed LGBTQIA+ into the curriculum, liberation cafes, shared experiences of those who are neuroqueer (neurodivergent and queer) and transgender history. 

March sees our community celebrating International Women’s Day through a range of university events designed to inspire inclusion and I encourage those of all sexes and genders to come along. The UoN culture of nice is integral to why as an organisation we are sector leading in equality, diversity and inclusion and is why we were the first university in the country to secure a gold Athena Swan award for gender equality. We will be celebrating all who have contributed to this achievement, alongside the Vice Chancellor, Professor Shearer West, at a networking and knowledge sharing event on Tuesday 26 March, from 11.30am - 2pm. Everyone is welcome to join us and more details on the event and how to book can be found here.   

If you’d like to know more about what the university did to gain the award you can view a summary here alongside our plans to continue our gender equality work in our new Athena Swan Five-year action plan. A key part of this plan is sustaining the progress we have already achieved but also working collaboratively with other equality groups to ensure we take an intersectional approach. Pleasingly, there is already evidence that my aspiration for UoN to be inclusive by design, which I began articulating when I joined the university two years ago, is starting to come to fruition. This is very much testament to the hard work and commitment of the UoN community and I have attempted to capture the most significant progress in the new University EDI annual report. 

As we navigate our way through the challenging times that the whole Higher Education sector in the UK is facing, I think it is imperative that we hold on to our UoN niceness.  It is what will help us to empathise with others when we are making challenging decisions, allow us to be magnanimous when needed, support each other effectively and allow us to collectively determine the best way forward to ensure the university and its community thrives.

The university is committed to our campuses being inclusive but as in any community issues can arise.  If they do, then please do utilise the array of wellbeing support the university offers and do report any incidences of unacceptable behaviour via Report and Support so these can be addressed. Reports can be made by our staff, students and anyone in the community beyond the university.  Only by knowing where any problems lie can the university address them and can we proactively ensure that UoN continues to be a nice place to study and work. 


Professor Katherine Linehan 
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and People
4 March 2024

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Trent Building
University Park Campus