Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile – San Joaquín, Chile

The establishment of Inclusion Direction (Dirección de Inclusión) at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC) was a result of many actions. Previously, the University had some activities and programs for inclusion, however, following appointment of a new Rector in 2010,, one of the most important subjects the community mentioned was inclusion. In the following years UC worked with a Commission to develop an inclusion policy and initiate the creation of Inclusion Direction, a programme which launched in 2014. The purpose was to work on the implementation of policy, create a vision or a model, and integrate already existing actions, all in order to promote an institutional vision, and have an inclusiveUniversity. The office of Inclusion Direction supports persons with disabilities, low-income students, first generation students, students/staff with refugee or migrant backgrounds, LGBTQ students/staff, and Indigenous/First people. The office identified these equity groups as proposed by national plan/legislation, but also through the University’s internal policies. Proposal was endorsed by students, community, citizens, and other external stakeholders. The University also has access targets for specific equity groups.

In the last two years the office has carried out multiple activities with regards to equal access, inclusion and diversity, such as:

  • 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 physical accessibility, 
  • Improving digital accessibility, 
  • Academic support 

In addition to activities to support inclusion, the office counters exclusionary and discriminatory practices at the university through binding policy (legislation), strategy/action plan, recommendations/Guidelines, and preventive programmes.

The University recently (in 2023) finished actualization of the inclusion policy which summarises their innovations and new goals. Among the changes, UC is now considering access and graduation for all students, not only for specific equity groups.  


The motivation for establishing the office came from the community and authorities who were interested in having a more diverse profile of students who come from different backgrounds to share university life and learning. UC is now a welcoming institution that respects everyone, has a place for everyone and embeds values of accessibility and equity. Support and special interest from authorities were main factors that led to establishment of Inclusion Direction. All the community expressed the need for such an institution, and it became an objective for the new Rector. Establishment of the office was also aligned with national policies. The office can be considered a successful one because of the institutional support as well as the support from authorities and the community (teachers, workers, students). UC Inclusion Direction has a vision that leads the work and puts inclusion at the centre of the institution. The office has a committed team that learns from the experience and data evidence, and shares knowledge with others. The team recognizes that even with the good performance, there is a lot more to learn and improve.
Throughout its work, UC Inclusion Direction considers and applies national policies, as those are aligned with UC’s institutional goals and policies. Feedback from faculties, professionals, authorities, learnings from previous work, and consideration of Chile’s laws and policies informed UC Inclusion Direction policy. UC has also created a new academic program with different curricula that considers special access for students that come from the lower socio-economic contexts and have the lowest access to university in Chile.
UC Inclusion Direction is part of the Academic Affairs Office, one of the 9 Directions. UC Inclusion Direction are part of some institutional main actions, and collaborate with Students Affairs, Admission and Economic Support, Teaching, and Teachers career centre, among others. They also work with service units and with Faculties. Inclusion Direction consists of a Director, a vice director, an administrative team, and works in three areas: equity access, effective graduation (welcoming, emotional support, academic diagnoses, academic support, accommodations, differentiated academic trajectories, etc.), and monitoring and evaluation. Inclusion Direction works with a universal framework and has different actions and interventions: for different equity profiles. Diversity, inclusion, and equality are explicitly mentioned in the UC Inclusion Direction office, and in the University’s strategies, policies and work plans. Many of the decisions are made among members of the team, but are led by the institutional plans. The big decisions and proposals are always reviewed and discussed with authorities in collaboration with the Academic Affairs team of directors The office is part of national networks. Being a part of such networks allows the office to learn from the experience of others, share their own learning points in a systematic way, and develop collaborations, ideas and support. Collaborating with national networks allows better identification of widespread problems.
One of the main challenges that the office had to overcome is understanding and articulating possible and relevant expectations. Other major challenges include having convincing and motivating communication messages, collecting institutional memory and remembering those that worked on inclusion before the office was established, as well as sharing responsibility and proposing concrete ways to collaborate. Collecting data, defining reasonable and concrete goals is also a challenge. The main obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the office include; the resistance coming from different people in the community, the lack of knowledge, and a misunderstanding of what inclusion means. Other obstacles faced are; resources, both human and economic, even though UC has been very supportive. Additionally, there is academic distance between students, and many of the students coming from underrepresented places or profiles usually haven’t had equivalent learning opportunities in school education. Finally, sometimes, the vision about what inclusion should “look like” in higher education, is very variable among institutions and policies. Funding is stable, and the finances come from the institutional budget. The office also applies for national funding schemes and projects.
UC Inclusion Direction evaluates its services through different means, such as; the number of students that access UC using Equity Access System, grades, permanence, number and percentage of approved credits, time needed to graduate (and level of advance compared to expected each semester), comparisons with students between different profiles; Students in academic alert system (an institutional formula to detect student progress and help them improve where needed); and finally, through perception of belonging, satisfaction with services and supports. Evaluation data is collected by using institutional platforms and applying questionnaires. Some of the data is provided by the Director of Institutional Analysis, and some of the evaluation is made by the Inclusion Direction team using the data. The evaluation is used by themselves, to evaluate their work. Data is disseminated to Faculties, Service units, Academic Affairs, the Rector and the Rector’s team. In some instances, evaluation reports are also shared with other institutions, such as the Ministry of Education.

Dirección de Inclusión (Inclusion Direction)

San Joaquín, Chile