The Interview UK
Manchester Metropolitan University
PVC for Education

Prof. Andy Dainty

For many equity, diversity and inclusion professionals, their work is motivated by personal experiences with discrimination and injustice. But as Professor Andy Dainty explains, allies can have a huge impact on the behaviour of those around them and play an important role in pushing progress forward.

As Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), Andy makes sure that every student gets the same chance to thrive and leave his institution as a well-rounded graduate. GoodCourse’s Kitty Hadaway speaks to Andy about what led him to his current role, and the initiatives he is most proud of.

Andy's Journey

Kitty: What has your journey been like, and how did you get to where you are today?

My undergraduate degree was in construction engineering, and I went into that field for a brief period after I graduated. I realised quite quickly that it was a brutal environment, especially in the early 1990s. Even as a straight White man, I didn’t feel comfortable in that setting because of the level of harassment and inappropriate behaviour that went unchallenged.

At the same time though, I was fascinated by the reasons behind why the sector was that way and how it could change in the future. I didn’t want to be an engineer anymore, but I did want the sector to be a place in which people of all identities could thrive. Sometimes the harassment I witnessed was overt, but it was often subtle; sometimes it was called out, but often it wasn’t. Being in that environment has really driven my opinion that men can play very strong roles as allies, especially when we are in senior roles.

I became really interested in academic research into the dynamics of male-dominated workplaces and ended up studying for my PhD part-time at Loughborough University, where I looked into how men’s and women’s careers differ in those spaces. I worked closely with a fantastic social policy professor whose work focused on the experiences of people who have careers in sectors that aren’t traditional for their gender and applied that perspective to my interest in construction.

Being in that environment has really driven my opinion that men can play very strong roles as allies, especially when we are in senior roles.

After finishing my PhD, I moved to Coventry University and became a lecturer. I received grants to publish work looking at the gender dynamics within project-based work, then moved back to Loughborough, where I continued to investigate equity, diversity and inclusion issues with a focus on gender equality across different sectors. I’ve been working in this area for over 20 years now.

Kitty:  Recently, MMU rolled out an active bystander course to lots of students. Why do you think that bystander intervention is particularly important, and how does it work as part of MMU’s overarching approach to equity, diversity and inclusion?

MMU is one of the biggest universities in the country in terms of undergraduate students enrolled on our courses. We have over 38,000 students at the moment, and they’re an incredibly diverse student body – we’re very proud of our diversity. Because of this, we work very hard to develop a learning environment that’s truly inclusive of everyone. We take the value of an education from our university very seriously and want the “exit velocity” our graduates have to be as high as possible – for them to really increase their job prospects because they have studied with us.

We work very closely with our Student Union and other student groups to make this happen and to co-produce content that resonates with the student body. Our Student’s Union leads “The Big Conversation”, where staff and students come together to discuss challenges, concerns and ideas around diversity and inclusion. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a female, Asian commuter student, for example, and that’s why it’s so crucial for us to pay attention to what our students have to say.

What I can bring to the table though is my perspective as someone who has been involved in male allyship programmes for years now. Encouraging male colleagues to call out sexism when they see it happen and advocate for others who can’t do it so easily themselves is crucial for change to happen. Like every university, MMU is on a journey – we don’t have everything the way we would want it to be, and cultural change takes time. Active bystander programmes are important for this reason, because they allow us to be open about the issues at hand, and give opportunities for students to have their voices heard.

3 Quickfire Questions

Kitty: What advice would you give to anyone coming into the equity, diversity and inclusion space now?

Doors don’t always open when you walk towards them – sometimes you have to give them a push. If something doesn’t work the first time around, think about the skills and tools you need to accomplish your goals.

It’s also important to step forward and take accountability and responsibility for your actions, especially as you reach more senior roles. The more visible you become as an equity, diversity and inclusion professional, the more important it is to really consider the impact you can have on others. This is especially important when it comes to calling out discrimination.

Finally, I would say that it’s very important to be resilient. Setbacks are normal, and you will face rejection in your career, but it’s important to keep focusing on what matters to you.

Kitty: Who do you most admire in the Higher Education space?

My PhD supervisor, Professor Barbara Bagilhole at Loughborough University, who sadly passed away a few years ago. She was a uniquely insightful academic who really did believe in social change, and showed me how it could be possible.

Another inspiration of mine is my MMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Malcolm Press. He has really made MMU the progressive sector-leading university that it is today, and I’m very inspired by his ambition and the trust he places in his colleagues.

Kitty: Is there a book that you think everyone in the Higher Education sector should read?

The book I’ve found most useful in my career is Understanding Organisations, by Charles Handy. It’s an incredible insight into how to change the culture of institutions, and what motivates people. Over the course of my career, I’ve kept seeing how Handy was right about everything he wrote.

I also think that Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez is a very important book for men to read. It opened my eyes to how the world is designed by men, for men around their own needs.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Kitty Hadaway
Universities Lead
Kitty is passionate about using technology to create safer and more inclusive campuses, and is an expert on student engagement and delivering training at scale. Get in touch at to learn more.

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