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
Summary of recent activities
During the Grenoble session, the workgroup was asked to reflect on the previous two editions of the Aurora Equality and Diversity award. More specifically, participants received the opportunity to brainstorm on topics such as student involvement, redefining the nomination and evaluation procedure and to what extent the award can and should include participation from non-partner institutions. Also, a new jury has been formed for the 3rd edition of the award that took place at the Amsterdam Aurora Biannual.
About the award
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 practices can be shared across the partner universities, and partners can build on each other’s strengths in their work on diversity and equality. The winner receives an inter-exchangeable award and will be facilitated to visit one of the Aurora institutions and share practices on diversity. For each award, 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)
Summary of recent activities
Multicultural Personality Questionnaire: At the Antwerp Aurora Biannual, a training workshop on the Multicultural Personality Questionnaire (MPQ) has been conducted by Jader Franklim Pinto (KIT Intercultural Professionals, part of KIT Royal Tropical Institute).
We are in the process of assessing which institutions would be interested in using the tool at their respective institutions and whether users would be limited to students only, or a possible widening of the target group to also include staff. For this, Skype calls are being set up.
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 the internationalisation 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 developing the intercultural competencies of students because future academics in contemporary societies need to be able to function effectively both as a citizen and as a 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 empathising with the feelings, thoughts, and behaviours of individuals from a different culture.
- Open-mindedness reflects an open and unbiased attitude toward cultural differences.
- The social initiative refers to a tendency to approach social situations actively.
- 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. The final aim is to be able to diagnose students intercultural skills as a basis for further development.
At the Duisburg-Essen Aurora Spring Biannual in 2018, the initiative was launched to create an e-book on sharing good concepts of Outreach, and Empowerment Programs aimed to enhance study success and transition to the labour market. The initiative builds on examples at both VUA and UEA of several outreach and empowerment programs giving first-generation students a head start to enhance equal opportunity in comparison with those students who are born into a family that has experienced academic life.
The eBook will have chapters on initiatives for secondary school students, programmes promoting study success, and programmes to enhance the transition to the labour market. Publication the eBook has suffered a delay due to staff changes, and so it has been put on the agenda for the Grenoble meeting to discuss how to advance the project further.
Part of the Diversity group meeting in Grenoble was devoted to further discuss the development of benchmarks for specific areas of diversity. By setting robust quality standards, Aurora universities may raise the quality of their policies and practices. Such benchmarking needs to be evidence-based. As most universities have adopted practices promoting the position of female faculty and staff at work, this will be taken as a starting point. The benchmarks will be on the inclusiveness of the work environment as well as on the attractiveness of career perspectives.
Although a start has been made during previous bi-annuals, we plan to elaborate on the work which has already been done. The University of Aberdeen and the University of East Anglia gave a presentation on their journeys to embed gender equality principles within their universities. This has primarily been driven by a charter mark, Athena SWAN, which both of the universities have signed up to. The presentation provided information on the charter and suggestions for overcoming challenges to implementing gender equality.
Furthermore, several new topics have been added to the diversity workgroup agenda: Aurora Libraries supporting diversity and inclusion, LGBT initiatives, refugee projects, student belonging, to name a few. These might be added to the list of projects depending on its relevance within the diversity group.
Two interconnected pillars are the basis of this project: “gender sensitive knowledge” and “gender budgeting”. The relationship between the two 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 project is based on two interconnected pillars+” (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 the University of Iceland and the University of Aberdeen.
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, sectoral and national policy with the first-hand experience of both refugees and other stakeholders that are central to the problem 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.