Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

Networks & Information

The Departments of Biology welcomes students and staff from all parts of the world and walks of life. We are committed to fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintain a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected. We are aware of shortcomings in this area, acknowledge struggles that marginalised members of the Departments may be experiencing presently, and strive for a fair and equal future.

The Departments expect all members of its community to treat each other with respect, courtesy and consideration at all times. The University of Oxford Equality & Diversity Unit outlines this commitment and what action can be taken if its principles are not observed.

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Since 2010, the Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology have held Athena Swan Awards that recognises and celebrates good employment practice for women working in science, engineering and technology (SET) in higher education and research.  We are working hard to support and recognise the achievements of all our staff and students, be they female, male, or nonbinary, through adopting best practice in the workplace. Our Athena Swan status aims to assist the recruitment, retention and progression of women in SET. 

For further information contact our Athena Swan Champion, Ashleigh Griffin

In addition, several staff participate in the activities of groups such as WISE, FEST, UKRC GetSET WomenBritish Science Association, Soapbox Science, and the Oxford Women’s Network.

The Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology have collaborated over the past year to create a Racial Equality Action Plan, to target existing instances of racial inequality and racism in our systems and to increase inclusion and equity moving forward. More information about this action plan will be published on this page shortly. 

In September 2020, the BIPOC STEM Network launched for research staff, academic staff, and postgraduates that identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour or BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). This group aims to:

  • Create an inclusive social support group  
  • Highlight the contributions of People of Colour in STEM within the University of Oxford and beyond 
  • Provide a platform for professional networking and career development 
  • Nurture a welcoming environment to raise awareness of racial issues and shared experiences 

Email bipoc.network@mpls.ox.ac.uk for more information.


During LGBTQ+ History Month in February 2020, the Biology LGBTQ+ Network was launched to provide a place for members of the LGBTQ+ community to socialise and support each other, as well as host events relating to LGBTQ+ topics throughout the year. 

For more information, please email Jack Common.

For LGBTQIA+ Pride 2021, the Departments hosted a series of seminars about queer representation in science, which you can watch in the below YouTube playlist.

Breaking Barriers in Biology is an Independent Undergraduate Collective challenging equality, diversity & inclusion (ED&I) in Biology. They aim to share knowledge about colonialism in Science and create a healthier Biology course. In 2020, the group submitted an open letter to the Departments and called for reforms to the curriculum and to teaching practices. They also raise awareness of areas of the course that are not promoted and made resources more accessible to all.

To find out more and get involved, you can visit their website here.

Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from the Departments of Zoology and Plant Sciences have a group to coordinate and plan events, share resources, and decide actions to advocate for. If you’d like to join this group, please email Lauren Chapell or Floren Scrafton.

We are aware that our undergraduate degree course does not embody as diverse a cohort of students as we’d like to see represented in our subject matter. As such, we worked with Dr Tanesha Allen (a recent DPhil student of ours) to conduct a strategic outreach report that delved into analysing the barriers faced by some in choosing to study biology at school and/or university. The aim of the report was to improve access and equity for our MBiol course for both BAME (Black,  Asian and Minority Ethnic) and state school students.

Dr Allen analysed UK-wide data and spoke extensively to our current student body and local teachers in order to understand where barriers stood and how we could best counter them.  A key finding of the report showed that a perceived lack of career opportunity prevented many candidates from applying to a biology degree course, and as such a strong recommendation from the report is that we work more closely with our alumni community to build career and mentorship opportunities.

Since the publication of this report in December 2020, a core focus of the Communication's team is to work with our alumni community to work on implementing the suggested actions of the report. To get in touch with the team, please email: alumni@biology.ox.ac.uk 

To read Dr Allen’s report, please click here, and find the appendix here.

Training & Resources

The University offers a range of training related to ED&I topics. Find more info about it here

The Departments also run ad hoc ED&I training, which will be added to this page as and when it becomes avaliable. In the past, this has included Implicit Bias training, Responsible Bystander training, Reverse Tutorials for members of academic staff, and LGBTQIA+ Allyship 101.

If you're keen to learn more about ED&I and how it relates to modern biology, here are some resources to check out:

We’re keen to keep this list of resources to date, and to hear suggestions for more we could do to work towards a fairer Oxford. In the first instance, please send any comments or questions to comms@biology.ox.ac.uk.

Harassment Advisors

In line with the University of Oxford Policy and Procedure on Harassment, the Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology does not tolerate any form of harassment or victimisation and expects all members of its community, its visitors and contractors to treat each other with respect, courtesy and consideration. 

We are committed to fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all members of the University community are respected. Our departmental Harassment Advisors are Jack CommonNick KrugerRoni McGowanStuart WestSunetra GuptaAmy Dickman (WildCru), and Paul Johnson (WildCru). Whilst we have advisors based in WildCru, if there's a different person you'd be more comfortable approaching, you're welcome to do so. You can also approach an Advisor outside the dept via the EDU Harassment Line, or can contact Advisers who are BAME, LGBTQ+, or who are experts in certain areas via https://edu.admin.ox.ac.uk/support.

A chat with a Harassment Advisor does not automatically begin a formal complaint. The advisors are there to confidentially listen to your experiences, ensure you're aware of all of your options, and provide support with any actions you may decide to take. 

Mental Health First Aiders

The Department of Plant Sciences and Zoology have supported a large cohort of staff at all levels to become Mental Health First Aiders, accredited by Mental Health England. We're aware that there is often a lack of resources, and often a lack of understanding, about mental health issues in the workplace, and this is one of the steps we've taken to better take care of our researchers and our support staff.  

Mental Health First Aiders are trained to spot the signs of mental health issues and guide a person towards the most appropriate support for them at that point in time. It does not teach people to be therapists, but does teach people how to respond in a crisis.

We're aware that different people have different needs, which is why we've tried to train a diverse cohort of Mental Health First Aiders, so you can choose who you'd feel most comfortable talking to. Anyone can approach a Mental Health First Aider, whether you're currently experiencing a crisis or have noticed yourself starting to struggle more, or if you're looking for advice about how best to support your colleagues.

Our Mental Health First Aiders aim to have:

  • an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect well-being
  • practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of a range of mental health issues
  • confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress using the Mental Health First Aid action plan
  • enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgmental listening
  • knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support - whether through self-help resources, internal support, or external sources such as their GP
  • an understanding of how to keep themselves safe while performing their duties.

Please feel free to get in touch with any of the mental health first aiders listed below, and pass on this information to anyone who you think might benefit from having an informal chat with someone at a convenient location that suits them. 

Further Resources

The University provides health and counselling information for both staff and students, such as the TogetherAll website (select “I’m from a University or College”) and the staff counselling services. These services are there for you: please don’t hesitate to use them.

The University Student Wellbeing and Mental Health Strategy adopts a holistic approach to mental health and wellbeing covering all aspects of students’ university experience from learning and life skills to community, inclusion, and support.

If you wish to explore more options, there are a number of websites below which you may useful (please note that these are external to the Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology).

For additional online resources, and to find out how the University of Oxford Occupational Health service maybe able to help please contact Occupational Health.

Additional home-working advice, wellbeing guidance, self-help resources and counselling information for staff can be found on University Website.