23 SES 02 C, HE, Diversity, Inclusion and Justice
In the context of globalization and increasing migration, the Dutch educational landscape has transformed greatly during the last decades. Second generation (non-western) minority students have managed to enter the educational pipeline successfully and are now part of a relatively new group of underrepresented students in higher education institutions (HEIs). However, the number of minority students that succeed when looking at retention rates or access to the labor market and in business are still disproportionally smaller compared to the dominant (native) student population (Andriessen, Nievers & Dagevos, 2012). Education forms an important predictor when it comes to opportunities people have at various levels, such as job positions and active involvement in social interaction (Gijsberts, Huijnk & Dagevos, 2012: 76). Even though second generation (non-western) migrants are higher educated than first generation migrants and despite the increase in social economic growth within the different ethnic communities in the Netherlands, there is still a clear gap in social position compared to the native Dutch majority (ibid.). Therefore, with the rise of these student populations in Dutch HEIs, the need was born to guide these students on their way to a successful academic career in order to enter the labor market. This means that there is not only a need for a solid inclusive support system, but also for a systematic reform of educational institutions at an organizational and structural level. During the last years, European universities with a large number of minority students have gained considerable experience in incorporating diversity management strategies and ways of enabling multicultural education policies. However, there have been few empirical studies on the complexity of implementing successful strategies and policies in educational innovation. This means that it still needs to be discovered what happens at the ‘in between’ the policy-level and the teaching and learning practice in HEIs in implementing diversity policy. It also raises the questions of what the characteristics of the process are when diversity policy finds its way into practice, and how the dialectic process between outside enforcement and inside activism (Acher, 2006) could be seen in terms of processes of power, cultural interaction and incremental change when we look at the different organizational levels (organizational culture and structure) (Cox, 1993; Zanoni, Nilsson, Janssen, & Wahlin, 2010).
In the context of globalization and increasing migration, the number of institutions in higher education that have formulated a diversity policy (e.g. in their mission statement) is growing. Since 2008, the Dutch government has funded universities for applied science in urban areas in order to develop diversity policies and strategies to stimulate access and success of minority students. For the last three years, Dutch research universities in the urban areas with a large number of minority students have also received government grants to develop similar diversity policies and strategies. In this way, theoretical paradigms of ‘how to deal with diversity in organizations’ became applicable to higher education institutions.
The present study offers more insight into the dynamics that occur when putting policy into practice in the field of higher education. It describes the implementation of diversity policy as a process in order to overcome or deal with exclusion (Ghorashi & Sabelis, 2012). This paper presents a thorough descriptive and interpretive analysis of the dynamics in the process of implementing a diversity policy in higher education, in which VU University Amsterdam (VUA) is used as case study.
Based on the above, this paper focuses on the following research questions:
- How does the process of implementing diversity policy within an institution of higher education evolve?
- In what way do outside enforcement and inside activism play a role in creating and executing diversity policies in HEIs?
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