Enhance – Inclusion and Diversity Management (IDM)

The Yerevan communiqué (2015) as well as subsequent national strategies on the social dimension encourage European Higher Educations Institutions (HEIs) to provide inclusive systems for previously under-represented student groups. The aim is to widen access to university and to improve the outcomes for a more diverse range of applicants (e.g. disabled students, students with different national/ethnic/cultural/ linguistic backgrounds, and students with differing levels of maturity or prior work experience).

In response an Erasmus + consortium of four European Universities is currently working on training and development materials to promote more inclusive practices amongst Programme Leaders. The objectives of the project are twofold. Firstly, the project aims to raise awareness among this key staff group in HEIs by enhancing their competences in relation to inclusion and diversity management (IDM). Programme Leaders play a vital role in ensuring the quality of the student experience and are usually right at the heart of that experience. Secondly, the project aims to foster an enhanced learning and teaching experience for all students by helping to reduce drop-out rates and boosting student success.

The project’s target group of Programme Leaders (PLs) are the main decision-makers in their own courses and have the capacity to adapt their curricula to contemporary needs.  Additionally, they dispose of formal and/or informal authority locally as well being able to seek out and secure support for the implementation of diversity-sensitive practices at a faculty or institutional level.  They have influence on their colleagues (both teaching staff and administrative / support personnel) and can highlight the benefits of an inclusive approach. As Programme Leaders are accountable for the academic health of their programmes they have a keen interest in articulating and delivering effective inclusion and diversity management strategies in the interests of all those involved (tutors, students, central teams) as well as for their university as a whole. More inclusive institutions are likely to reap competitive advantages as a result from marketing and reputational perspectives.

In many European HEIs historically PLs have been poorly prepared and supported in ensuring student success for our ever more diverse student populations. In addition, some study programmes and curricula do not always meet inclusivity demands. The PLs involved in this project will be trained to design and deliver more inclusive curricula and classroom settings that manage diversity from a more holistic angle (incorporating demographic, cognitive, disciplinary, functional and institutional diversity) to improve student attainment for all. The project also aims to support PLs in their developing leadership capability by providing diversity management tools and web-based scenario training to help them to become better equipped at handling the challenges and realising the opportunities presented by their increasingly diverse student cohorts.

The four partner HEIs involved in the ‘Enhance: IDM’ project are:

University of Applied Sciences, Upper Austria brings in core values of inter-functional team work as well as the means to facilitate cooperation among the 4 partner HEIs.

Birmingham City University (UK) brings in extensive working knowledge in demographic diversity, particularly in relation to disabled students, ethnic/religious/linguistic backgrounds, age and social mobility.

Technische Hochschule Köln (Germany) contributes extensive working knowledge in disciplinary diversity due to their wide range of differing disciplines and their numerous interdisciplinary projects.

Laurea University of Applied Sciences (Finland) is well suited to addressing the theme of cognitive diversity as a result of its specially designed teaching model, “Learning by Developing” which allows flexible and appreciative ways for students to study.

The project was launched in September 2017 and its final report is due in autumn 2020. For EAIR colleagues interested in the progress of the project and its interim outcomes please direct any enquiries to the following e-mail address: Silke.Preymann@fh-ooe.at.

Mark O’Hara, Silke Preymann

Mark O’Hara, Silke Preymann

Mark O’Hara, Birmingham City University Silke Preymann, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria

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