Mittweida University – Mittweida, Germany

At Mittweida University there is a support office called Social Contact Point – Family—Inclusion—Health. This service was established by the academic staff (rectorate) with the aim of establishing equal participation in studies and work for all target groups. Currently, the strategy supports persons with disabilities, LGBTQ students/staff, staff/students of colour and people with family responsibilities. These equity groups were proposed/identified by national plan/legislation, by the university’s internal policies and 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;
  • public promotion (e.g. production of media content such as podcasts);
  • improving digital accessibility;
  • improving physical accessibility.
  • compensation for disadvantages

At this university, the activities with the greatest impact were the compensation for disadvantages because it was possible to provide particular students with adequate access to university. The last innovative practise/tool introduced at Mittweida University when it comes to ensuring inclusion, diversity and equal access was to provide loans to auxiliary items.

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

At this university, the motivation in establishing the service was to enable students and employees in special circumstances to participate in studies and work on an equal footing. The factors crucial for the institutional leadership in deciding to establish a service for wider access/inclusion/diversity for students/staff were mostly to create an institution that offers services for all disadvantaged groups and thus to create a work and study environment with as few barriers as possible. In addition, with the establishment of this service, it is possible to bundle cross-university tasks, such as compensation for disadvantages. This is a successful service because it bundles different topics – different needs are processed in one place and coordinated centrally.
This support office is partially governed or influenced by national and international law (sometimes not binding). By ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), Germany has committed itself to comprehensively realising the participation of people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. This is guaranteed by the Disability Equality Act (BGG) and the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG). Examination regulations must be designed in such a way that the concerns of students with disabilities are considered. The AGG is the General Equal Treatment Act, it comprehensively regulates protection against discrimination on racial or ethnic grounds, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual identity by private actors. The AGG grants employees of a company a comprehensive right to complain about discrimination. There are also regulations on conflict resolution in the workplace at university level. At this university, two people are appointed as conflict resolution officers.
The social contact point is linked to the Institute for Communication, Competence and Languages and is therefore linked to the Prorectorate for Education. Two employed social workers work here in the area of advice/mediation/accompaniment. Diversity, inclusion and equality topics are mentioned in this service and at the university’s strategies, policies and work plans. At this university, decisions are taken by the Rectorate/Chancellor committees.
The main challenges to establishing this service was the recognition and sensibilization of all university members to topics such as disability, family, disadvantage etc… The main obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the service is its job policy (it is currently one of two temporary positions). The service is funded by the university and external project funds. The stability of this service is almost completely stable and does not require the work of unpaid volunteers.
Although at this university a formal evaluation process of the service does not exist, an evaluation data to measure success is collected through anonymous statistics on the number of disadvantage adjustments. The results are disseminated to the university management as part of evaluation discussions.

Social Contact Point - Family—Inclusion—Health. Part of the academic affairs department (rectorate)

Mittweida, Germany