Merton College Equality Report 2020-21

This report describes some of the actions Merton undertook to promote equality in 2019-20.


Equality Adviser

Professor Tia Thornton (Fellow and Tutor in Politics) took on the role of Equality Adviser in Michaelmas Term 2020.

The brief of the role is to:

  • Assist with the progression of Merton’s equality objectives for the whole range of protected characteristics.
  • Advocate on equality and diversity matters; promote their consideration in College committees; and maintain an awareness of the University’s work in this area.
  • Advise and contribute to papers and relevant processes.
  • Work with staff and student equality representatives.
  • Convene equalities-related events including the annual Equality Conversation.
  • Attend the termly Equality Forum.
  • Attend the termly Welfare Forum, if wished.

The Equality Adviser also oversees the allocation of funding to student events under the Tri-College Equality and Diversity grants scheme.  

Equality Forum

The College Equality Forum continues to meet on a termly basis. Details of events or activities (either past or forthcoming) of potential interest to the group and the wider Merton community are included on the agenda.  Forum members are also sent the termly Equality and Diversity Newsletter, compiled by the University’s Equality and Diversity Unit.

Equality Conversation

The seventh annual Merton Equality Conversation took the theme “Intersectionality, solidarity and building community”. The speaker was Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, founder of UK Black Pride and director of Kaleidoscope Trust. Further details and a recording can be found here:  

JCR Equality Forum

The JCR officers with a brief for equality (Access & Equality Rep, Gender Equality Rep, Disability Rep, International Students Rep, Ethnic Minorities Rep, LGBTQ+ rep, and Welfare Reps) continue to meet and pass on matters of concern to the College Equality Forum.

Diversity in College portraiture

The Pictures & Chattels Committee commissioned artists to produce the portraits of Prof Tillmann and of Stuart Hall. Although delayed by the pandemic, the portrait of Stuart Hall should be received during 2020-2021.  Similarly, portrait drawings of emeritus fellows have been relocated, and photographs of a number of current fellows will be hung in Fellows V staircase.

HR Manager and HR Committee

The Human Resources Manager, Fiona Lawrence, continues to strengthen the College’s practice in areas including recruitment and selection; induction of new staff; parental leave; and staff communication and engagement.  The HR Committee continues to meet on a termly basis to discuss general issues pertaining to policy and practice and future legislative changes. New advertising strategies have been trialled for staff vacancies to improve the diversity of the applicant pool.

Complaints and Feedback

The Equality Forum has continued its practice of reviewing complaints and feedback on equality matters (College officers and chairs and convenors of committees are asked for details before each term’s meeting).

Disability and Access

The College continues its programme of work to increase accessibility which in 2020-21 has included better promotion of the Disability Fund which students can use to purchase study-related equipment not covered by their Disabled Students’ Allowance.

The Equality Forum reviewed the recommendations of the Conference of Colleges Disability Sub-Group Report to ensure that the College was following recommended practice. In reviewing the College’s equality objectives, the Forum agreed to support the creation of a multi-faith prayer room which will also act as a ‘quiet room’ for anyone needing quiet space, including those with disabilities that can lead to sensory overload.

Merton has a full entry in the University’s Access Guide. The Access Guide is a useful resource for any and all visitors to the College, as well as new staff members and students (see

Both the JCR and MCR now have Disability Reps who raise concerns with the Disability Coordinator and provide advice and support to all disabled students. The JCR Disability Rep initiated a disability mentoring scheme which links disabled freshers with on-course students who could support and advise them, and the mentors have also provided information to prospective applicants with disabilities.

Gender and Transgender

Merton staff attended training on trans issues given by Gendered Intelligence in June 2021. The group included key staff members from the Lodge, Academic Office, Warden's Office, Finance and Domestic Bursaries, Library, Welfare Team, Development Office, and HR, along with the Warden.

The College marked the 40th anniversary of the College’s admission of women students in 2020. Activities include profiles of and talks by Mertonian women. The plans to refresh Hall portraiture were postponed due to the pandemic.


The College commissioned Black composer Daniel Kidane to write a piece of music for the College Choir.

The Merton Street Colleges (Corpus, Christ Church, Merton, Oriel and Univ) hosted an event to welcome black freshers to the University at the start of the academic year.

The College used the University Counselling Service's peer support training programme for the first time in several years. This means that Merton peer supporters are now able to participate in the University-wide "Rainbow Peers" and "Peers of Colours" schemes.


Both JCR and MCR have an LGBTQ+ officer to provide better representation of the student body. In Hilary Term 2021 the JCR rep carried out a survey of LGBTQ+ students and presented the findings to the Equality Forum leading to some suggestions for improvement.

Governing Body voted to allow Civil Marriages and Civil Partnerships in College and the practical arrangements are now underway to facilitate this.

Sexual Consent

Non-mandatory workshops on sexual consent for freshers have been included in the MCR and JCR Freshers’ Week programmes for the last seven years.  Both JCR and MCR now use the same format for the workshops to encourage attendance.


Halal and kosher meals continue to be available to order in Hall.


The Equality and Diversity collection is now an established open-access collection with new publications added. Recommendations from members of the college are welcomed. All protected characteristics are covered, and there are a number of works dealing with intersectionality. 


Academic Registrar & Senior Tutor
November 2021