You are here

  1. Home
  2. Impact
  3. Tackling Inequalities

Tackling Inequalities

Our passions drive our research, from tackling religious intolerance and online violence against women and girls to the inequalities LGBTQ+ people face, racial and ethnic educational disadvantages and unequal access and opportunities for disabled people.

Early Pregnancy Endings project logo

Why UK employers need to provide support for early pregnancy endings as the norm

Early endings to pregnancy, including terminations and miscarriage, can be a traumatic experience for employees. While they are a relatively common occurrence, the UK has yet to introduce particular legal entitlements for staff around pregnancy endings.

A prison corridor, with barred cells down one side and at the end

Re-energising education for prisoner rehabilitation

Education has been a life-changing factor for so many people, and yet it’s still not being taken seriously as a means of supporting rehabilitation in UK prisons, argues The Open University's (OU) Professor Rosalind Crone. New research will examine the history of prison education as a means of re-making prison schools that engage prisoners and open up new and genuine opportunities.

Bottles of baby mile and bags of froze baby milk on a table

Reproductive work

Feminist economists have long called for the inclusion of unpaid domestic work, including caring duties and breastfeeding, to be included in national accounting towards GDP. Reproductive work includes the labour of bearing children and raising them, as well as other caring duties, healthcare, and education. The Office for National Statistics in the UK, include estimates for unpaid domestic work, calculating satellite accounts to the national accounts. However, such valuations are partial and systematically undervalue the work of reproduction.

Boy sitting on a bench with a mobile phone in his hands

What can we do about cyber-victimisation of disabled people

People look to social media for a sense of community, to share experiences, advice and friendship. But for some disabled people being online is the beginning of a spiral of hatred, abuse and worsening physical and mental health. With her project, Dr Zhraa Alhaboby is determined to increase awareness on cyber-victimisation as a public health concern and to make sure disabled people get the understanding and support from health professionals.

Nurse giving an injection to a young girl

Assessing the equity implications of Public-Private-Partnerships in health in Africa

Today, there continues to be question marks around the real impact of Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) - especially what they mean for more vulnerable, lower income groups across African countries. Evidence suggests that the private sector’s imperative to maximise profits tends to be incompatible with the ambition to provide healthcare to all as a public good. Yet, private sector involvement in healthcare delivery in the form of PPPs continues to be heavily promoted by donor countries and international organisations as a way of making available additional resources for healthcare. Research led by Dr Julia Ngozi Chukwuma is looking to provide new insights into the possible dangers associated with PPPs in health, as a strategy to furthering universal access to healthcare in African countries.

Mentally disabled woman cuddling a dog

Creating a better understanding of the lives of people with learning disabilities

More than 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability. Many are not fully included in the life of communities, and can have terrible education, employment, and health experiences. We need to challenge this exclusion by sharing stories, research and the history of their lives, argues Professor Jonathan Rix, who is leading work on a major new resource to get more people talking and listening, a way to better understand day-to-day realities, enhance support and provide more meaningful opportunities.

Group of teenage students sitting in a circle around their tutor

How to make a citizen

Is citizenship education working? Evidence suggests that the values learnt by young people in schools stay with them into adulthood - but there are doubts over whether current approaches to teaching citizenship are rooted in an everyday reality that students recognise. Work led by Dr Eleni Andreouli is starting up a UK-wide conversation involving young people, teachers and a host of stakeholders to reinvigorate thinking around how to make politically-engaged citizens for the future.

Members of a jury

Is justice affected by people's ethnicity?

Members of juries play a crucial role as arbiters of justice in courtrooms. But in spite of efforts to reduce bias, evidence suggests that factors outside of the details of a case - such as the ethnicity of the people involved - can affect attitudes towards defendants, witnesses and victims. Injustice in the criminal court system has long-term implications for people’s lives, not just when it comes to initial verdicts but prison sentences and opportunities to re-enter society. A research team led by Dr Lara Frumkin is exposing how bias towards ethnic minorities has influenced decisions, with the aim of helping to establish a new culture of best practice in courts.

Hands showing sign language

Making sure d/Deaf people get justice

The criminal justice system was designed with only hearing people in mind. That means the potential for disadvantage, miscommunications and unfair treatment for d/Deaf* people at any stage of the process: dealing with the police, in courts, prisons and during probation. A lack of understanding of d/Deaf people’s actual experiences and particular challenges means the potential for injustice, argues Daniel McCulloch.

Overlooking the shoulder of a woman with a mobile phone in her hand

Opening more doors to education and careers for disabled people globally

More than one billion people worldwide live with a form of disability. At the same time, the pathways through education tend to have a one-size-fits-all design, expecting disabled learners to find individual workarounds and solutions, often without the right advice and support. The Open University's Dr Tim Coughlan is leading the development of a Digital Access Advisor that will help remove barriers for disabled people and unlock their learning and career potential.

>Young girl peering through metal container doors with chains on them

Addressing human trafficking

Human trafficking is a huge worldwide problem: more than 40 million people are believed to be forced labour in the sex, entertainment and hospitality industries, or have been forced into marriage. Women and girls are a particular target for traffickers who take advantage of poverty and low levels of education and aspirations.

A model structure of DNA

Addressing health inequalities

The UK has a richly diverse population, with almost 20% of people identifying with a non-white ethnicity in the last census. Numerous studies have shown that ethnic diversity is hugely beneficial to population health and leads to greater social cohesion and better health outcomes for individuals. But despite this, there are still entrenched health inequalities between the UK's white population and minority ethnic groups, with minority patients often experiencing worse outcomes than their white counterparts.

Lady with dark hair, standing in front of a Changemaker poster

Changemakers: Active Political Citizens

Current political, socio-economic and cultural tensions illustrate that society is challenged in a number of ways in the UK and more widely – financial stability, rule of law, external security, trust in politicians and media etc. are all current issues society is faced with. Those who are currently young adults will become citizens in a society influenced by these tensions meaning it is important to create learning opportunities inside and outside of formal education to support young adults to think and act in critical ways when confronted with injustice, inequality, and undemocratic phenomena and processes; and to understand how to make political and social change. Enabling them to be active political citizens.

Woman with her head in her hands, looking at a laptop

Ending online violence against women and girls

OU researchers have launched Europe’s first research centre tackling online violence against women and girls. The Observatory on Online Violence Against Women will work with governments, regulators and social media platforms to end this societal inequality and confront digital abuse through law, policy and education.

Man looking a wooden model of the Leonardo Bridge

Rewriting the maths story

Mathematics underpins everything from information technology, product design and scientific discovery to our financial system. Maths skills also have a massive impact on our career and life prospects. But many people still see the subject as boring, difficult and pointless. OU researchers are rewriting the maths story, making it fun and accessible for everyone and tackling inequalities.

A crowd of Indian people, waving an Indian flag

Confronting colonial legacies

Between 1834 and the end of the first world war, Britain transported more than two million Indians to work in its colonies worldwide, from Trinidad to Kenya, in return for payment, land and eventual return home. However, it rarely fulfilled these promises, leaving these indentured workers in poverty far from home. The British Government officially abolished the practice in 1917, but its legacy lives on for these workers' descendants, who still face marginalisation, discrimination and racism. Dr Geetha Reddy is building solidarities between South African and Malaysian descendent communities to tackle these inequalities.

The cyber-vistimisation of disabled people in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic redefined our norms and raised concerns over the escalation of discrimination against disabled people. This included the cyber-victimisation of disabled people, a prevalent phenomenon that impacts physical health, mental well-being, social relationships and living conditions.

What does it mean to be Welsh?

Is Welshness about speaking the language, enjoying the picturesque peaks and valleys, the country's rich industrial heritage or celebrating St David's Day?

Empowering teachers to help children read for pleasure

Professor Teresa Cremin and her colleagues from the Reading for Pleasure project are using their research to develop teachers and inspire children across England and further afield to discover the joy of reading.

From the Pandemic to Putin's War: OU research sheds light on refugees' lives

Professor Marie Gillespie has dedicated her research career to understanding and challenging inequalities migrants experience. Now, she is drawing on the international network of academics, activists and artists she and her colleagues built during the coronavirus pandemic to raise awareness and support families displaced by the war in Ukraine.

Art history is for everyone, not just the elite

Dr Leah R. Clark explains how The Open University’s Art History researchers have pioneered a new expanded inclusive approach to art history to challenge the discipline’s traditional elitist and Eurocentric perception and introduced it to more diverse audiences.

Co-designing better communities

How would our towns and cities, neighbourhoods and public spaces look and function if the people who live and work within them designed them? Theodore Zamenopoulos and Katerina Alexiou’s work is helping groups across the UK to find out and empowering them to become creative citizens capable of positively changing their communities.

It’s time to talk about menopause in the workplace

Professor Jo Brewis discusses her work to remove workplace taboos around menopause and encourage employers to recognise and support people experiencing this normal but sometimes challenging transition.

It takes a village to raise a teacher

Professor Freda Wolfenden, Kimberley Safford and Dr Deborah Cooper have spent a decade empowering women and children in rural and under-resourced communities in sub-Saharan Africa through education. Their work has helped more than 3,000 women gain confidence and embark on a pathway to financial independence.

Transforming English language teaching in Bangladesh

OU researchers have harnessed the power of innovative technology-enabled teaching methods to transform English language education in Bangladesh, improve children’s life prospects and support the country’s economic development and sustainable growth.

Using keyword signing for more inclusive teaching in Indonesian classrooms

We have introduced keyword signing into classrooms in Indonesia, enabling children with special educational needs to participate.

Consigning the mathematics gender gap to history

During the past twenty years, Professor of History of Mathematics June Barrow-Green has used her research to challenge cultural and historical stereotypes about mathematics and inspire the next generation of women to get into the subject.

Using technology to unite us, not divide us

Technology has brought the world closer together than ever before. However, today it is often blamed for sewing social division. Professor Anna De Liddo believes it doesn't have to be this way and is creating intuitive online tools to help us build consensus, even when we disagree.

Autism: promoting understanding and action

Our research has helped to challenge common stereotypes of autism and promote action for autistic people worldwide.

Using religious history to promote social cohesion

Our research has alerted key decision makers to the importance of historically informed religious literacy as a means of avoiding potential conflict.

Improving student retention

Our research has produced software which can reduce student drop-out rates.

What 19th-century prison education can teach us today

Education has a transformational impact on people in prison and other secure environments and is crucial to rehabilitation. It builds prisoners’ self-respect and self-worth and broadens their horizons. However, Dr Rosalind Crone argues its vital role in English history is often overlooked.

Solving global challenges through open access

We host the world’s largest collection of open access full texts which facilitates free and easy access to research knowledge.

Who started the First World War: a century of controversy

More than a century after it ended, the First World War continues to be the subject of intense debate. Professor Annika Mombauer’s extensive research addresses the question ‘Why did the war start?’ Her print and online publications and teaching materials allow global audiences to learn from the First World War’s brutality and contested legacy.

Continual Professional Development for social workers

The project, led by Joe Hanely, Lecturer in Social Work at the OU’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, had been funded to produce a collection of free resources to enable keyworkers to upskill in disaster social work response. The resources are designed to be accessible to people of any level of social work, from experienced workers to students.

Teachers’ professional learning during and after COVID: A role for open digital badges

Led by Dr Simon Cross, Senior Lecturer at the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology, the project seeks to build on previous knowledge exchange programmes in addressing the need for teacher professional development during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open Centre for Languages and Culture

Dr Mirjam Hauck and Dr Sylvia Warnecke launched the Open Centre in October 2020 to support the learning of languages and cultures in a professional, academic and leisure capacity. The centre provides short courses which cover general linguistic, intercultural communication and particular skills for work.

Co-evaluating e-assessment resources for HE in Africa

Educational experts at the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology and Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies have been working with partners in the African Council for Distance Education to promote professional development programmes for educators, professional staff and heads of department who share responsibility for providing quality distance and online learning across Africa. The project has involved a participatory survey to identify specific regional challenges, raised by local educators across Africa, and address their needs.

Race and Ethnicity Hub

This project is being led by Sas Amoah, Digital Media Producer at the OU, who is producing a short film to be published on the OpenLearn Race and Ethnicity hub. The film will investigate race-related health issues, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the disproportionate negative impact on people of colour. The film will also dispel some of the problematic myths that have arisen in relation to biology.

Funding to explore the development needs of BAME leaders

Funding from the OU's Rapid Response to COVID-19 is making it possible to explore the development needs of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) leaders

Reports call for more support for people with learning disabilities

Two reports on the effect of COVID-19 on people with learning disabilities launched on 10 December at an event: Filling the Gaps, aimed at funders and policy makers

Innovation adopted during COVID-19 is now “business as usual” according to OU research

Research conducted by the OU’s Faculty of Business & Law into online learning in English schools during COVID-19 has found that some innovations adopted have now become “business as usual”.