Karel de Grote University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Antwerp, Belgium

At the Karel de Grote University of Applied Sciences and Arts (KGH) there is a programme called Team professionalization Diversity and inclusion (Teamprofessionalisering Diversiteit en inclusive). The programme was initiated by the University’s management with the aim to increase study efficiency of students with migrant backgrounds. Currently, this office supports mainly students/staff with refugee or migrant backgrounds; LGBTQ students/staff; and staff/students of colour. These equity groups were proposed/identified based on relevant academic and policy research.

The activities that the department 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;
The activities with the greatest impact in the context in which this programme operates was a plan named ’Training of educational staff’. It is designed as a long-term and custom-made training programme. It is designed in collaboration with some of the team members of the team that will follow the training. The factors contributing to its success include continuity (e.g., one year), team-wide training, and co-design
The last innovative practise/tool introduced at KGH when it comes to ensuring inclusion, diversity and equal access was the creation of a checklist for teaching staff to screen their materials and courses on the topic. In addition to activities to support inclusion, KGH implements measures to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices through the creation of a reporting point for discriminatory and transgressive behavior.

The motivation to create this programme was to address the significant performance gap between students with and without migrant background. The factor crucial for the institutional leadership in deciding to establish a service for wider access/inclusion/diversity for students/staff was the need for educational equality and to address discrimination. This is a successful programme because it combines the role of diversity officer and trainer diversity and inclusion in one job. This creates an interesting flow in both directions, where the policy on diversity is being inspired by input from the ’working floor’ and the other way around.
The diversity officer is part of the team called ’Educational development’, a central based service responsible for training and professionalization of teams of staff on different topics regarding education. Diversity, inclusion and equality topics are mentioned in this department and at the university’s strategies, policies and work plans. At this university, decisions are taken mostly with the head of service, in dialogue with the University’s management if needed. The university is part of national networks and the main benefits of participating in these types of networks are the learning experiences as well as the networking opportunities.
The main challenges to establish a successful programme were related to money and time. The main obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the service is a limited budget to overcome all the challenges. The last two years, the programme has been funded by by Voorsprongfonds (Funding for colleges and universities in the Flemish Region of Belgium)
KGH has a formal evaluation process of the service by using quantitative and qualitative indicators. Each academic year, each head of training, in consultation with the education support staff, determines an improvement step regarding making the curriculum development and the learning materials used more diversely sensitive. With each program review, a diversity check of the program is carried out on the basis of the education quality code and this is also explicitly reported in the review note. Each manager works with the team of employees or teachers on the theme of diverse-sensitive-inclusive thinking and acting. Each program head at least explicitly discusses this theme with the students at the program student council and asks about experiences and expectations. In August 2023, 15 teams participated in the professionalization process and the process will be followed by all new teachers. All 80 managers participated in the professionalization process. Each director conducts a working session on inclusive thinking and action with his own team of managers. These 8 teams of managers examine within their own context what actions they can take further. The share of incoming students with migration roots has increased by at least 5% in September 2023 compared to September 2021. The study performance of students with migration roots has increased by at least 5% in September 2023 compared to September 2021. At this university, the evaluation data is collected through the central officer together with officer diversity and head of ’Educational development’ team. The results are disseminated to the university management and Voorsprongfonds (responsible organization for the funding for colleges and universities in the Flemish Region of Belgium).

Team professionalization Diversity and inclusion (Teamprofessionalisering Diversiteit en inclusive)

Antwerp, Belgium