St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences – St. Pölten, Austria

At St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences, there is a Gender & Diversity Management (GDI) office. This office was initiated by the university management, to comply with the legal policies (§2(5) FHG) and with self-set goals in the university’s statute and strategy. In 2020 a group of (academic) staff started a successful initiative to strengthen the position of the GDI office. Currently, the strategy supports persons with disabilities, first generation students, LGBTQ students/staff, staff/students of colour, students/staff with a refugee or migrant backgrounds, women and people with caring responsibilities. These equity groups were proposed/identified by national plan(s)/legislation, by the university’s internal policies, by students and based on relevant academic and policy research.

The activities that this office 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)
  • Improving physical accessibility
  • Improving digital accessibility
  • Developing childcare possibilities
  • Giving out awards
  • Improving infrastructures for queer people and people with care responsibilities


At this university, the activities with the greatest impact were the workshops and seminars for staff and peer educators, promotion of diversity in recruitment, improving gender and diversity & inclusion monitoring, and offering free childcare (3 weeks at Easter and in Summer).

The last innovative practise/tool introduced at this university when it comes to ensuring inclusion, diversity and equal access was to commit to a Diversity Charter ( In addition to activities to support inclusion, St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences implements measures/activities to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices through binding policy (legislation), strategy/action plan(s), recommendations/guidelines and media campaigns.

The initial motivation for establishing this office was to comply with legal policies (§2(5) FHG) and with self-set goals in the university’s statutes and strategy. This is a successful service because there is a good collaboration with other units and stakeholders, trying to establish several multipliers, extending monitoring and evaluation of measures, equipped with new resources.
The legal basis for this office and its activities at this university are governed by the University of Applied Sciences Act (Fachhochschulgesetzt), the Equal Treatment Act (Gleichbehandlungsgesetz) and supported by recommendations made by the University Conference (Hochschulkonferenz).
This office has 2 persons working on these activities (administrational staff), integrated in the Service & Competence Center for Higher Education Development and Quality Management. Diversity, inclusion and equality topics are mentioned in this office/department as well as in the university’s strategies/ programmes and policies. The programme design, as well as other activities, are aligned and decided with the university’s top management, the UAS Board, works council, students’ union and GDI contact persons (established in every teaching and research department). From time to time every university member is invited to participate and contribute to programme design. The university is part of local and national networks. The outcomes from these networks are mostly the sharing of experiences and best practices, getting to know new colleagues and experts and relief through collegial exchange.
The main challenges to establishing this service were the cost pressure, not enough human resources and the difficulty to distinguish between effective measures and non-effective (but somehow wished for). The main obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of this office are the cost pressure at universities and the high workload. The work of this office is totally independent, without the need for unpaid volunteers. The service is funded by the University itself and the stability of this office is almost completely stable.
The university is currently working on a formal evaluation process by taking into account the number of offers and participants, media outreach, number of counselling cases. This office is also progressing in reaching the quantitative goals established (gender ratio, gender pay gap, among others). The evaluation data is mainly collected by the HR department, plus official statistic on students’ gender ratio. The results are disseminated to the (Top) Management and UAS Board. The results are also made public at the work meetings on the occasion of the international women’s day.

Gender and Diversity Management

St. Pölten, Austria