Strong equal opportunities strategies enhance college reputations and help them recruit and retain students, says the leading staff development forum for further education in a report this week.
Moreover, discrimination is expensive, says the report - A Guide to Good Practice. It undermines staff morale and makes the college unattractive to students. Victims can now be awarded unlimited damages by tribunals. Adverse publicity from such cases, or external, formal investigations of alleged discrimination may prove an additional liability.
The Further Education Development Agency has published a guide which sets out how colleges should develop their equal opportunities policies, how to monitor them and how to identify achievements and shortfalls.
It is endorsed by the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Further Education Funding Council.
The guide says a college respected by the community will attract partnerships and the best staff. Colleges are urged to target under-represented groups and collect data on ethnicity, gender, age and disability to review applications, admissions and retention. All governors and staff should be trained in its effective implementation.
Kamlesh Bahl, chair of the EOC, said: "Equality needs to be built into everything society does if we are to have a healthy society and a healthy economy.
"The guide will help build good practice into every aspect of college life. The EOC is proud to contribute to this invaluable work."