University of Applied Sciences Utrecht – Utrecht, Netherlands

The D&I Network started as an initiative from a group of volunteers who worked and studied at the university. This group aimed to bring more awareness for topics surrounding diversity. They pushed for structural organizing and funding for this cause. As a result of their efforts to become instutionalized, the Diversity and Inclusion Network was established as a program in 2021.

In the last two years, various activities with regard to equal access/inclusion/diversity were carried out namely:
• Policy advising
• 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
• Organising awareness events

On the one hand, there was a lot of societal attention for certain social movements and events, such as Black Lives Matter and the beheading of Samuel Paty. These events deeply moved the university community, and subsequently stimulated the university to adress D&I and undertake action more structurally. Besides this social context, there were also several small projects at the university that were working on D&I themes, such as a research group and a succesful prebachelor trajectory for refugees. The D&I Network was also established to create more coherence between all of these isolated, small projects.
The position paper on diversity of the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (Vereniging Hogescholen) functions as a framework for the action plan of the D&I program. Parts of the D&I program are connected to a national plan to counteract internship discrimination in higher education (‘werkprogramma stagediscriminatie hoger onderwijs’).
There is a core team within the D&I Network that functions as the main contact point and coordinators of the network, and that offers advice to the university on the topics of diversity and inclusion. The core team keeps track of new developments on the topic of D&I policy and strategy, and brings together the relevant knowledge, insights and experiences from the D&I network to make these accessible for the university community. The D&I Network encourages the institution to take action on the themes of D&I. The core team has three portfolios: Collaborate & Connect (1 officer + 1 staff ambassador); Education (2 officers); Policy & Research (Diversity Officer + 1 officer); Student Community (2 studenten). Additionally, the core team has a communications team (1 officer + student team), and a secretary. In the D&I network there are various projects and support communities, such as the Gender & Sexuality Alliance, Cari-Mix (network of mainly Caribbean students), and Medewerkers+ (support service for staff with mental vulnerabilities). Building community within the network is one of the main objectives of the program.
The program is financed through a Quality Fund for the university, specifically a fund allocated for programs that focus on community building and student participation. This funding is only guaranteed until the end of 2024. What will happen after that is still uncertain, there are currently ongoing conversations about this. There is also an external political element to this decision because the Quality Fund is provided and determined by the national government, meaning that there is a political dependency at play despite institutional willingness to continue the program.
The program is evaluated and measured for success using the following indicators: (1) student participation and community engagement and (2) collaborations with other initiatives. The evaluation reports are disseminated to the university committee to check whether the program is in line with its original plan, both content-wise and financially.

Diversity & Inclusion Network (Netwerk Diversiteit & Inclusie) and Gender & Sexuality Alliance at Hogeschool Utrecht (HU)

Utrecht, Netherlands