The Aurora workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion aims to:
(1) Create equal opportunities for our staff and students; (2) Create a working and learning environment at our universities in which different perspectives are explicitly valued and (3) Capitalize on the ability to generate creativity from different perspectives both in teaching and in education.
We do so by:
- Identifying and exchanging good practices in research, education and supporting systems (research, education, HR, communication, campus). We also aim at developing new practices.
- Setting up a research agenda that focuses on opportunities of diversity in higher education and on the effectiveness of existing and new practices
- Stimulating joint activities aimed at developing diversity related competencies in our students (e.g., cultural events, competency training, diversity related courses, internships/summer school courses)
- Stimulating joint activities aimed at developing diversity related competencies in our students
The first concrete results of the Aurora workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion are:
The objective of the award is to identify and exchange good practices and advance the Aurora network’s vision on diversity. Each institution can nominate 1-3 activities or interventions which have stood out and been successful. This way, best practice can be shared across the partner universities and partners can build on each other’s strengths in their work on diversity and equality. The first winner will be awarded in November 2017. The winner will be facilitated to visit one of the Aurora institutions and share practices on diversity. In addition, a booklet will be created to include best practices from the award procedure.
Measuring Intercultural competencies in an international university context: application of the Multicultural Personality Questionnaire (MPQ)
The student population of European universities is increasingly diverse, both as a result of increasing numbers of students with a first- second or third generation migration background, and as result of internationalization of higher education across Europe. Universities in the Aurora network actively strive to use the diversity amongst their student population as a tool for excellence in education. It is regarded as crucial to develop the intercultural competencies of students, because future academics in contemporary societies need to be able to function effectively both as citizen and as professional in a diversifying and globalizing context. The MPQ (Van der Zee & Van Oudenhoven, 2000, 2001) has been developed as an instrument to measure five intercultural competencies:
- Cultural empathy refers to empathizing with the feelings, thoughts, and behaviours of individuals from a different culture.
- Open-mindedness reflects an open and unprejudiced attitude toward cultural differences.
- Social initiative refers to a tendency to actively approach social situations.
- Emotional stability reflects an ability to stay calm under novel and stressful conditions
- Flexibility refers to interpreting novel situations as a positive challenge and adapting to these situations accordingly.
This AURORA-project aims to test and develop the MPQ for application in a university context among students. Final aim is to be able to diagnose students intercultural skills, as a basis for further development.
The project is based on two interconnected pillars; “gender sensitive knowledge” and “gender budgeting”. The relationship between the two pillars can be described as interdependent and mutually beneficial. Without gender sensitive knowledge and theoretical foundation gender equality work risks being misplaced. In the same manner, without being applied and gender knowledge is a waste. We adhere to “gender+” (gender plus) equality policy, indicating “gender equality policy that recognises that gender inequality and other inequalities are connected and are thus best addressed with those intersections in mind”.[i] Innovative methods on gender+ budgeting will be developed, which can facilitate structural and sustainable improvements at different levels of government. A vital part of the project is to overview and research the process of gender budgeting along the way, by mapping facilitating factors as well as hindrances and resistance. This is a collaborative project between University of Iceland and University of Aberdeen.
This project is aimed at first generation students and students with a migrant background and attempts to identify personal, institutional, and curriculum related determinants of integration, efficacy and study success. An important aspect of the collaboration would be to develop a shared set of measurement devices and to build a joint database.
An attempt to create an overview of all projects related to diversity and inclusion within all Aurora partners has proven to be quite an time-consuming task. Based on a preliminary version of this overview, it has become clear that the project needs additional tweaking as there is a division in categories and dimensions that needs to be considered, as well as the selection process of interventions organized university-wide. The aim is to be able to present all projects on the Aurora website, and to create an interactive platform which would enable members to share their best practices and get inspired.
In addition to the projects which have been discussed in Reykjavik and which have been outlined above, previously a joint Horizon 2020 proposal has been put forward by 4 Aurora members:
The CORAL project’s main objective is to contribute to innovative policy design that enables refugee inclusion in the European labour market by developing a new conceptual framework for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in different European policy contexts. The aim is to impact policy by employing a co-creation process that integrates knowledge production about challenges and opportunities in local, sectorial and national policy with the first-hand experience of both refugees and other stakeholders that are central to the challenge of labour market integration in Europe. We will pursue a form of knowledge production that underscores refugees’ individual experience and the way it resonates among stakeholders such as the governments, NGOs, municipalities, and business firms as well as universities, which are primary vehicles for the integration of refugees into the labour market. CORAL will provide innovative knowledge and concrete tools for the design and implementation of successful integration policies. Aurora partners are VU Amsterdam (coordinator), University of East Anglia, Gothenburg University Bergen University and the University of Antwerp.