22 SES 12 D, Student diversity
In the knowledge society, institutions of higher education are challenged by a paradigm shift where equity and inclusion are relevant principles (McNair, 2016). In specific reference to the European territory, the European Commission, together with the Council of Europe, has been developing the 'Human Rights and Democracy in Action' programme since the year 2013, whose focus on inclusion and citizenship includes special attention to underrepresented groups of the population in formal and non-formal education. In this line, the ministers responsible for the European Higher Education Area had already expressed the need for the composition of the student group to reflect the diversity of the European populations, and for the institutions to mitigate the inequalities and plan the corresponding support and guidance services, as well as more flexible itineraries (EHEA Ministerial Conference, 2012). Good practices associated with these aspirations have begun to spread in European higher education (e.g., Dovigo and Casanova, 2017).
In particular, in Spain, attention to diverse groups has been promoted from state regulations (Royal Legislative Decree 1/2013, of 29 November, approving the revised text of the General Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and their Social Inclusion; Law 3/2007, of 22 March, for the Effective Equality of Women and Men), which have resulted in the creation of services of attention to diversity and equity in universities. Márquez, Jiménez and Trabajo (2018), in the context of the research project associated with this paper, have recently studied the conceptions of university policy on diversity in 8 Spanish institutions of higher education, concluding that gender and functional diversity are the protected characteristics to which more attention is paid, while others such as ethnicity, sexual orientation and positioning in relation to religion are hardly addressed. In the study that is now reported we try to extend this diagnosis to the population of Spanish universities, exploring the process of institutionalization of diversity.
In relation to the areas of institutionalization that can be explored, several classifications have been proposed in the literature (Association of American colleges and Universities, 2015; Department of Education, 2016; Ferreira, Vidal and Vieira, 2014; Gause, Dennison and Perrin, 2010; Michael, 2007; New England Resource Center for higher Education, 2017): (a) philosophy and institutional policy in the field of diversity; (b) the opportunity of access for students of all protected groups, as well as the strategies for their participation and progress; (c) a clear leadership in favour of inclusion and equity; (d) the operation of support services for students of protected groups; (e) evaluation, research and innovation processes in inclusion and equity; (f) an inclusive curriculum; (g) an inclusive climate and culture that pervades the social and academic interaction and participation of all students and staff; and (h) the projection of this inclusive culture into the community. To these large areas, a more specific one would be added: (i) the training of staff and, specifically, teachers, both in relation to the conception of diversity and, above all, to the methodologies and teaching techniques (Moriña, 2017; Moriña, Cortés and Molina, 2015; Hitch, Macfarlane and Nihill, 2015). In our study we addressed the diagnosis of these nine areas, as well as the covariation of policies (area a) and practices (areas b-i).
In relation to the proposed objective, a study was carried out with two sequenced phases. In the first one, in order to diagnose the philosophy and institutional policy, an ex post facto and cross-sectional design was implemented, based on documentary analysis and registration of information accessible through the websites of the Spanish universities. Secondly, in order to explore institutional practices, a descriptive-exploratory, cross-sectional and questionnaire-based design was adopted. Initially, the population of the 84 Spanish universities was taken as units of analysis, although in the first phase it was not possible to access the documentation in 3 of them. In particular, 167 documents were extracted in 81 institutions (96.4% of the population). For its part, in the second phase, the managers of services of diversity and equity of 35 institutions (41.7% of the population) responded to the questionnaire. Two instruments were used, a non-interactive one for the first phase (check-list) in order to register the presence of indicators of attention to diversity in the institutional documents, and another interactive for the second phase (a 19 items questionnaire with response in Likert-type scale) with the intention of obtaining data on the practices of attention to the diversity. Both the check-list and the questionnaire were based on a registration form of an earlier study (Buenestado-Fernández, Álvarez-Castillo, González-González and Espino-Díaz, 2018) which had a list of 24 indicators previously validated by two experts with experience in the field of diversity. 5 of the indicators were associated with the area of philosophy and institutional policy and were adapted for the check-list, while 19 were indicative of the 8 areas of practice, being rewritten as items of the questionnaire. Checked the reliability of the questionnaire by Cronbach’s alpha, a high internal consistency was verified (α =. 946). Atlas-ti was used for the recording of documentary information, matching the references of philosophy and institutional policy with 5 codes or groups of information. For the purpose of obtaining an index of institutionalization of diversity policies, the total number of scores in the indicators identified in the normative documentation of each university was added. In the case of the questionnaire, the scores of the persons in charge of the diversity and equity services were averaged through the corresponding items of each practice area.
The documentary analysis made it possible to conclude that approximately two thirds of the institutions integrate the diversity in the declaration of the institution and have an active plan of attention to diversity, but less than one fourth recognise the diversity activities carried out by their staff. Overall, half of the policy institutionalization indicators are observed in the typical university, although the variability between the institutions is broad. As for the practices, the managers of the centralized services of diversity and equity scored above average the actions in matters of attention to the diversity that were carried out in their institutions, emphasizing those implemented in the areas of inclusive climate and culture, and in the projection of inclusive culture into the community, while the most moderate score was given to the area of assessment, research and innovation in inclusion and equity. In the correlational analysis, the area of philosophy and politics (documentary analysis) did not reach a statistically significant association with the practice areas, except with the curriculum. This result was unexpected and could respond to the existence of specific normative developments that mediate between basic institutional documents and practices, and that could give a greater or lesser emphasis to the implementation of actions in various areas; or it could be associated with the amount and type of resources that universities allocate to the activities of attention to diversity (i.e., a greater rhetorical emphasis can be dissociated from the allocation of resources). In short, the rhetoric of diversity and inclusiveness would not yet have a coherent process of transfer into practice.
Association of American Colleges and Universities (2015). Committing to equity and inclusive excellence. Washington, DC: AAC&U. Retrieved from http://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/CommittingtoEquityInclusiveExcellence.pdf Buenestado-Fernández, M., Álvarez-Castillo, J. L., González-González, H., y Espino-Díaz (2018). Evaluating the institutionalization of diversity outreach in top universities worldwide. Non-published Technical Report, R&D Project EDU2017-82862-R. EHEA Ministerial Conference (2012). Making the most of our potential: Consolidating the European Higher Education Area. Bucharest Communiqué. Retrieved from goo.gl/h2Y8AX Department of Education (2016). Advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education. Key data highlights focusing on race and ethnicity and promising practices. Washington: US Department of Education. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/advancing-diversity-inclusion.pdf Dovigo, F., & Casanova, L. (Eds.) (2017). Good practices for equity and inclusion in higher education. Bergamo: University of Bergamo. Retrieved from http://ddd.uab.cat/pub/llibres/2017/171121/A4A_BergConf_a2017.pdf Ferreira, C., Vidal, J., & Vieira, M.J. (2014). Student guidance and attention to diversity in the processes of quality assurance in higher education. European Journal of Education, 49 (4), 575-589. doi: 10.1111/ejed.12098 Gause, C.P., Dennison, S., & Perrin, D.H. (2010). Equity, inclusiveness, and diversifying the faculty: Transforming the university in the 21st century. Quest, 62 (1), 61-75. Hitch, D., Macfarlane, S., & Nihill, C. (2015). Inclusive pedagogy in Australian universities: A review of current policies and professional development activities. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 6 (1), 135-145. doi: 10.5204/intjfyhe.v6i1.254 Márquez, E., Jiménez, M. L., & Trabajo, E. (2018). Análisis de las concepciones de la política universitaria sobre atención a la diversidad a través de documentos institucionales. Non-published Technical Report, R&D Project EDU2017-82862-R. McNair, T. B. (2016). The time is now: Committing to equity and inclusive excellence. Diversity & Democracy, 19 (1). Retrieved from http://www.aacu.org/diversitydemocracy/2016/winter/mcnair Michael, S. O. (2007). Toward a diversity-competent institution. Retrieved from https://www.universitybusiness.com/article/toward-diversity-competent-institution Moriña, A. (2017). Inclusive education in higher education: Challenges and opportunities. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 32 (1), 3-17. doi: 10.1080/08856257.2016.1254964 Moriña, A., Cortés, M. D., & Molina, V. M. (2015). Faculty training: an unavoidable requirement for approaching more inclusive university classrooms. Teaching in Higher Education, 20 (8), 795-806. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2015.1085855 New England Resource Center for Higher Education (2017). Self-assessment rubric for the institutionalization of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education. Retrieved from http://nerche.org/images/stories/projects/Institutional_Diversity_Rubric/NERCHE_PI_Rubric_Self-Assessment_2017.pdf
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