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EUA focus group explores institutional strategies towards diversity and inclusiveness

14 December 2017

On 24 November vice-rectors and managers from 20 EUA member universities met at the University of Lille – Human and Social Sciences in France to discuss institutional approaches and strategies towards diversity and inclusiveness.

As our societies change and become more diverse, universities are asked to be more open and inclusive, finding new ways to enable everyone to participate, including students or staff who are traditionally less represented.

There are different drivers that lead institutions to develop specific strategies in the area. In several systems there are certain legal requirements that request universities to foster equal opportunities e.g. through specific policies or offices, but many also reported that they see it as an important part of the university’s mission to serve society as a whole. While at first many institutions approached the topic from a gender equality perspective, several participants reported that more recently the approaches had been broadened to encompass diversity in various dimensions such as gender, age, physical/mental condition, socio-economic background, ethnic origin or cultural and religious background. Several also referred to the increased influx of refugees that had put the issue again on the agenda.

While the topic of diversity and inclusiveness is very broad and encompasses policies and initiatives for very different groups, be it students or staff, participants of the focus group could identify some common issues as far as developing and implementing strategies and concrete projects at the university are concerned. A lack of data and evidence as well as the problem of legal barriers to data collection was often mentioned as an issue which makes it difficult for institutions to develop effective policies. This is often linked to the matter of discrimination. Another common challenge is the need for a change in mindsets and the organisational culture of the university to mainstream openness and inclusiveness.

The focus group was a step ahead to explore the topic of diversity from a comprehensive institutional perspective, including both learning and research, building on other activities such as the EUA Learning and Teaching Initiative and the EUA Refugees Welcome Map showcasing initiatives for the integration of refugees in higher education. EUA will now collect further material and try to structure the outcomes of the focus group with a view to facilitate a further exchange of practices among its members. Issues around diversity and inclusiveness will also be discussed at the EUA 2018 Annual Conference on 5-6 April 2018 and the 11th EUA-CDE Annual Meeting on Excellence through Diversity: Doctoral education in a globalised world which will take place on 6-8 June 2018.

To know more, please have a look at the EUA introductory presentation to the focus group.

European University Association (EUA)

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