Cologne University, Germany

At the Cologne University, there is an “Equal Opportunities Strategy”, within the Department for Gender and Diversity Management. The strategy was established by the Rectorate (Vice-Rector for Gender Equality and Diversity) together with the Department for Gender and Diversity Management (DGDM). Currently, the strategy supports persons with disabilities, low-income students, first generation students, LGBTQ students/staff and staff/students of colour. These equity groups were proposed/identified by the university’s internal policies, by students and based on relevant academic and policy research.

The activities that the DGDM has carried out (in the last two years) with regard to equal access/inclusion/diversity are: 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); and improving physical accessibility. At this university, lectures, training courses and public promotion were the activities with the greatest impact because they reached out to a great number of staff and students. 

In addition to activities to support inclusion, Cologne University implements measures/activities to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices through binding policy (legislation), strategy/action plan(s), recommendations/guidelines and preventive programmes.

At the Cologne University, the motivation for establishing the service came from the Rectorate in order to put all existing actions under one umbrella and to identify “new” topics. The factors crucial for the institutional leadership in deciding to establish a service for wider access/inclusion/diversity for students/staff was mostly the lack of legal regulations for diversity issues other than gender equality and ablism. This is a successful service because there is a broad participation of all status groups (especially students), strong focus on “decentralized” responsibilities in the faculties, strong support by the rectorate and promotes visibility to specific topics/groups.
The main challenges to establishing this service was to explain differences and commonalities between gender equality and other diversity dimensions, lack of resources for diversity issues and lack of legal regulations for diversity issues. The main obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the service is the change of leadership/rectorate (since each rectorate might have different views on diversity policies). The service is funded by the Rectorate (in case of gender equality most resources come from the regional and national legislation).
Cologne University has a formal evaluation process of the service. The process consists of defining certain qualitative goals for three years, in the framework of the audit, that are evaluated every three years by the Stifterverband (donor’s association) and together with external critical peers. The results are disseminated to all relevant stakeholders and status groups involved within the actions and strategies. They are also involved in the review day, every three years, where everyone discusses the goals with external critical peers.
The program has a formal evaluation process. The evaluation data are collected through individual questionnaires and statistical indicators. The evaluation report is being disseminated by the management to the interested parties.

Equal Opportunities Strategy

Cologne, Germany