Łódź University – Łódź, Poland

The Academic Support Centre was established based on the many years of experience of the Office for Persons with Disabilities and Addiction Prevention, and it continues its mission of equalizing opportunities for students and doctoral candidates with disabilities in accessing higher education. The aim of the activities is to provide support to members of the academic community who, for various reasons, require assistance, with particular emphasis on individuals with disabilities and/or difficulties in the process of studying. The scope of activities of the Academic Support Center at the University of Łódź primarily includes support in the following areas: Equalizing opportunities, resolving educational difficulties resulting from health and/or adaptive reasons, Mental health hygiene, Personal development, Addiction prevention and therapy, Crisis management, Obtaining financial assistance in the form of scholarships for individuals with disabilities. Gender Equality Board is a structure the objective of which is to promote and monitor equality in the academic environment. Its establishment is related to the participation of the University of Lodz in the RESET project – Redesigning Equality and Scientific Excellence Together. The Board aims at facilitating the introduction of relevant procedures and changes at the University of Lodz, at the same time supporting the definition of equality measures leading to the institutionalisation of the University’s anti-discrimination policy, the application of which will extend beyond the timeframe of the project. The UL Gender Equality Board begins its work on the date of its appointment (23 February 2021) and will work in this form until 31 December 2024. University Diversity Project comprises of initiatives aimed at building an academic community based on respect for cultural, religious, community identity and social sensitivity. The idea was brought to life by: a researcher interested in the topic of inclusion and diversity, the head of International Relations Office and the head of Promotion Centre. Discrimination Prevention Team – initiated by the rector. The aim was to prevent unjustified unequal treatment concerning a legally protected characteristic. The programme supports persons with disabilities, low-income students, students/staff with a refugee or migrant backgrounds, LGBTQ students/staff, staff/students of colour, persons that struggle with various health conditions that do not have the disability certificate.

Over the past two years, the office has implemented the following activities related to equal access/inclusion/diversity:

  • support and counselling for students and university staff, 
  • lectures, workshops, seminars for students, faculty and non-teaching staff, 
  • training courses for peer educators, 
  • public promotion (e.g., production of media content such as podcasts), 
  • improving physical accessibility, 
  • improving digital accessibility, 
  • awareness campaigns, 
  • direct support for individuals. 
Academic Support Centre – its establishment is related to the need to expand the support provided by the former Office for Persons with Disabilities and Addiction Prevention owing to the growing needs of the academic community. Gender Equality Board – its establishment is related to the participation of the University of Lodz in the RESET – Redesigning Equality and Scientific Excellence Together project. University Diversity Project – The idea for the international project, promoting diversity among the academic community, was born in the summer of 2016. Under the slogan of the University Diversity, they combine initiatives showing both cultural, age and gender diversity of their community. The activities began as an initiative implemented with international students when their number grew significantly. The university Lodz was the first public university in Poland to sign the Diversity Charter, so this was the basis for setting up the following activities. The number of international students grew significantly reaching around 10 % of a student body representing 95 nationalities and nearly all continents of the world. So, the first factor was to conduct activities that support and integrate their international students with the academic community and the residents of the city. They understand the responsibility of the university regarding diversity as the commitment to equal treatment not only based on ethnic origin but also regarding gender, age, health condition, religion, beliefs, political views, gender identity, and other aspects. Discrimination Prevention Team – as an outcome of the work carried out by the Gender Equality Board. Their purpose is to strengthen the protection of the rights of all our academic community members.
Academic Support Centre was established within Social Affairs Centre for Students and Doctoral Students, Division of the Vice-Chancellor for Social and General Affairs. It employs 7 people and is managed by the director who is also a university academic staff. Gender Equality Board is composed of staff members from various units of the university, there is a chair, a secretary and 11 members. University Diversity Project – there is no structure as such, usually the initiatives are carried out by the International Relations Office supported by the Communication and PR Centre. Discrimination Prevention Team – a Discrimination and Mobbing Prevention Coordinator has been appointed. The team composes of 12 people that represent various groups of the academic community. The programme is part of European networks.
The funding of the programme is stable: Academic Support Centre is institutionally funded, they also apply for external grants to secure funding for some of their trainings/workshops. Gender Equality Board was Horizon 2020-funded, RESET project. University Diversity Project is institutionally funded (staff involved within their regular employment), from time to time they get additional external funding obtained within various grants to carry out concrete initiatives that require more resources. This also allows to come up with bigger events and involved external providers. Discrimination Prevention Team is institutionally funded. Some additional activities of the University Diversity and Academic Support Centre are subject to obtaining external funding, which is not always possible. Gender Equality Board is a result of a project and time will tell if upon its completion it can sustain its activities. The programme is independent on unpaid volunteers.
They do not have a formal evaluation process of their programme. But the initiatives are carried out within an externally funded project, then they are subject to both internal and external evaluation by the funding body. The quantitative evaluation measures the number of events carried out and how many people participated (in the case of trainings, workshops, and events), number of outputs produced (in the case of posters), number of visits (in the case of a digital campaign). The qualitative evaluation assesses the process that has led to certain outputs and the impact of the initiatives carried out (which can usually be obtained in, the feedback received from the target groups (both informal and formal expressed via satisfaction questionnaires), the activities carried out are also described within the annual reports of various offices for university management. For trainings there is ex ante and ex post evaluation carried out. The evaluation report is Usually disseminated within the team involved in the initiative, in case of externally funded activities – also with the funding body, particularly interesting information is shared via the communication channels of the university with the academic community and the general public, in the case of anti-discriminatory cases, they are reviewed by the rector.

Academic Support Centre

Lodz, Poland