22 SES 02 C, Paper Session
Under the approach of inclusion as the “process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education” (UNESCO, 2005, p.13) in order to safeguard equity and social justice (Moriña, 2017), Goal number 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations, 2015, pp.19-20) is formulated as follows: “(To) ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Inclusion is therefore presented as a cross-cutting challenge and a quality indicator which encompasses the necessary reformulation or redesign of socio-educational institutions.
Within the group of institutions for higher education, in charge of the training and socio-occupational promotion of students belonging to the educational community, universities appear to have a distinct role. They are democratic, representative and distinctive entities capable of reaching the goals proposed in the 2030 Agenda and other programmes, such as the Horizon 2020 (Evans et al., 2019; Santos Rego, 2016). Attention to diversity in universities is acquiring importance, both in political and practical philosophy. This is mainly due to an increase in the introduction of vulnerable or protected groups with the intention to reduce or eradicate the situations of discrimination and exclusion they have been facing in their daily lives (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2014) due to their nationality, age, culture, socio-economic level or intellectual capacities (Thomas, 2016). Nowadays, there are many other differences between students that require special attention, such as gender, race or ethnic origin, religion and sexual orientation (Cardona-Moltó el al., 2017). We are all singular, particular, different and diverse, but some people require stronger support as regards access opportunities, in order to succeed in the quest towards the principle of inclusion.
European institutions for higher education commonly make an association between the concept of diversity and functional disabilities or diversity and gender-related issues (Biewer et al., 2015; Klein, 2016). For that reason, if the main objective does not deviate from reducing the effectivity of the principle of inclusion, it would be appropriate to consider the concept of diversity in its broader sense through institutional policies and practices, so that all of us can relate and feel represented. Nevertheless, the treatment these groups are to receive must not be understood as a process of positive discrimination, leaving aside the particular features of others, but rather as a universal approach to the organisation and functioning of education that guarantees all people equal access to quality education, in terms of equity and social justice (Turner-Cmuchal, 2017); the inequalities of specific groups of people must therefore be pointed out, for institutions to guide their actions focusing on attention to diversity.
Taking the theoretical contents presented before as the starting point, and considering that this work is part of a recent national project on diversity in Higher Education (grant number R&D&I PROJECT EDU2017-82862-R), we intend to discover the role of the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” in the strategic policies of Spanish universities. Secondly, we aim to determine which groups or defining features are included under the concept of diversity proposed by each university, as well as to detect which is their target. Our final, and rather ideal, goal would be to introduce or amend the principle of inclusion within university policies (strategic plans, statutes, organisational and operational standards), which are the basis for the organisation and functioning of universities as institutions for higher education, whilst reflecting the essence of each university.
This qualitative research is fundamentally a descriptive study based on the thematic and semantic analysis and interpretation of the contents of institutional normative documents. The sample of this research, selected through the use of purposive sampling methods, consists of the 50 public universities in Spain, included in the Spanish Registry of Universities, Centres and Qualifications (RUCT, Spanish acronym), issued by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. This register provides updated information on the existing degrees and educational centres, as well as access to their websites. At a later stage, we aim to conduct the same operation taking private universities as the sample (a total number of 35), to draw conclusions based on the control variable we have labelled as ‘ownership’, that is, the distinction between public and private universities, after carrying out a comparative study of the results obtained in two previous works of research. Our main instrument for the collection of information was the use of Systematic Reading, which allowed us to discover issues related to diversity policies in Spanish universities. We focused on the references to the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” in their institutional statements and we aimed at determining the target of the universities’ actions. Using the said technique, we extracted all the contents related to diversity, inclusion and protected groups from several institutional documents, such as strategic plans or statutes. We accessed them through their universities’ websites, which highlights its commitment to diversity (LePeau et al., 2018), and we analysed the most updated documents that we found in a formal format (downloadable pdf files). Once the information was collected, we analysed and interpreted the relevant data for our research. The texts were systematised with the help of the software Atlas.ti (v.7), which enabled us to organise the information collected using a deductive coding or assigning phenomenal categories to text segments according to Miles and their collegues (2014). Specifically, three distinct codes were used for analysis related to our interests from an inclusive perspective: (Code 1) Diversity, (Code 2) Inclusion and (Code 3) Protected groups. By means of these codes, we analysed the conception of diversity and the importance that each university attributed to it in their institutional documents.
From the policies of the 50 documental sources that were analysed, only 33, that is, 66%, make reference to any aspect directly related to diversity policies. On the contrary, none of the remaining 17 universities, that is, 34%, make reference to this reality in their strategic documents. Taking into account only the 33 universities that mention attention to diversity, only 14 of them include the term “diversity” in their documents, which constitutes a 28% of the total number of public universities in Spain (50). When it appears, the term is placed along with other words that determine, to some extent, the conception of each university as regards diversity, as well as the degree of importance they attribute to it at an institutional level. Interestingly, two universities understand diversity as a “positive value” on its own. Similarly, only 20 universities, that is, 40% of the total number of public universities, include vulnerable groups as a part of their target in their documents. 60% of them (24% of the total number of universities) mention only cases of functional disabilities or diversity and special needs, disregarding other groups, as Biewer et al. (2015) stated. The remaining universities include some of the groups that Thomas (2016) and Cardona-Moltó et al. (2017) mentioned in their studies. In addition, some institutions make reference to immigrants and groups characterised by linguistic differences. For this reason, and bearing in mind that only 7 universities (14%) include the term “inclusion” in their strategic plans, universities, as representative entities for higher education, are entitled to take the first step in what is still a very long way to go. Nonetheless, according to some other research, the institutionalisation of diversity is underway in Spanish universities (Álvarez-Castillo et al., 2021; Langa-Rosado et al., 2021).
Álvarez-Castillo, J. L., Hernández-Lloret, C. M., González-González, H., Espino-Díaz, L., y Caminero-Fernández, G. (2021, Article submitted to publication). Exploring the Status of Diversity in Policies and Practices of Spanish Universities. An Asymmetric Dual Model, Heliyon. Biewer, G., Buchner, T., Shevlin, M., Smyth, F., Siska, J., Kanova, S., Ferreira, M., Toboso-Martín, M., y Díaz, S. R. (2015). Pathways to inclusion in European higher education systems. Alter-European Journal of Disability Research, 9 (4), 278-289. Cardona-Moltó, M.C., Tichá, R. y Abery, B.H. (2017). The Spanish version of the teacher efficacy for inclusive practice scale (TEIP-e): a tool to measure competence for teaching in inclusive settings. In F. Dovigo y L. Casanova (Eds.), Good practices for equity and inclusion in higher education, 61-67. Bergamo: University of Bergamo. Retrieved from http://ddd.uab.cat/pub/llibres/2017/171121/A4A_BergConf_a2017.pdf Equality and Human Rights Commission (2014). Equality Act 2010 technical guidance on further and higher education. Retrieved from https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/equalityact2010-technicalguidance-feandhe-2015.pdf Evans, C., Rees, G., Taylor, C., y Wright, C. (2019). ‘Widening Access’ to higher education: the reproduction of university hierarchies through policy enactment. Journal of Education Policy, 34 (1), 101-116. Klein, U. (2016). Gender equality and diversity politics in higher education: Conflicts, challenges and requirements for collaboration. Women’s Studies International Forum, 54, 147-156. Langa Rosado, D., & Lubián Graña, C. (2021). La Atención a la Diversidad en las universidades españolas a través de los discursos de sus líderes. Revista Complutense de Educación, 32 (1), 79-88. Lepeau, L. A., Hurtado, S. S., y Davis, R. J. (2018). What institutional websites reveal about diversity-related partner- ships between academic and student affairs. Innovative Higher Education, 43 (2), 125–42. Miles, M., Huberman, A. M., & Saldaña, J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook. Sage Publications. 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 Santos Rego, M. A. (Ed.) (2016). Sociedad del conocimiento. Aprendizaje e innovación en la universidad. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva. Thomas, L. (2016). Developing Inclusive Learning to Improve the Engagement, Belonging, Retention, and Success of Students from Diverse Groups. In M. Shah, A. Bennett, & E. Southgate (Eds.), Widening Higher Education Participation, 135–159. Oxford: Elsevier. Turner-Cmuchal, M. (2017). Foreword. In F. Dovigo y L. Casanova (Eds.) (2017). Good practices for equity and inclusion in higher education, 6-11. Bergamo: University of Bergamo. Retrieved from http://ddd.uab.cat/pub/llibres/2017/171121/A4A_BergConf_a2017.pdf UN (2015). Objectives of sustainable development. 17 objectives for changing our world. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/es/ UNESCO (2005). Guidelines for inclusión. Ensuring Access to Education for All. Paris: Autor. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001402/140224e.pdf
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