University of Hasselt – Hasselt, Belgium (Case 2)

Inclusion Policy Plan (‘Transversale lijn Inclusie’) / Inclusion Steering Committee

In the last two years, various activities with regard to equal access/inclusion/diversity were carried out namely: • 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 • Internal Inclusion newsletter • Inclusion Prize for outstanding contributors to inclusion at the university

The contributions of the informal D&I initiatives at the university created a sense among the institutional leadership that there was a need to centralize and formalize inclusion in the university policy, especially considering the lack of diversity/representation among the student population.
There was a national policy plan from the national government surrounding gender equality at universities. The Flemish universities decided to set up inter-university collaborations group to give shape to this. Within this national plan there are some requirements from the government (for example targets for gender ratios in leadership committees) but in general the universities give shape to this plan themselves. Other than this there are a few other national political mechanisms that in some ways govern the inclusion policy, for example the laws surrounding financing of scholarships (i.e. students with disabilities have to be registered to receive these additional funds). And of course also the (inter)national laws surrounding discrimination and human rights also govern the inclusion policy. But in general the university has a lot of autonomy to give shape to their own plans.
There is no D&I office at the Uhasselt, but Inclusion is one of four main themes (‘transversale lijn’) in the general Education Policy of the university, and thus D&I initiatives structurally take place throughout the university. The execution of this Inclusion Policy Plan is overseen by the Inclusion Steering Committee. There is one Academic Officer for Inclusion at the university, who is also the Chair of the Steering Committee . The Inclusion Steering Committee consists of staff that has an affinity with D&I, and one student representative from the Student Council. The Committee meets 5 times a year to discuss projects and portfolios. Once a year they evaluate to what extent the Inclusion Policy plan has been realised to further stimulate the various faculties/departments/university services involved to take action. The Steering Committee reports to the highest level of the university (the rector, board of directors, and board of deans).
The long-term sustainability of this initiative faces the following obstacles: (1) There are only a limited amount of people responsible involved with the program, which makes it somewhat vulnerable (e.g. when one person leaves due to e.g. retirement, much valuable knowledge and experience is lost). (2) Staff within the Steering Committee do not always possess expertise on D&I, and it is unlikely to attract the (scarce) staff that do due to the limited capacity of this additional job activity (30%).
For the general Education Policy Plan data is centrally collected. There is a national agreement between the universities to obtain the same profile data from students when they register at their university (so the same identity markers are being collected across different universities, but this happens through a form that students fill out themselves when they register at the university). Equity gaps within university data are identified in so far as possible (e.g. within recruitment and promotions), but this mainly happens on the basis of gender ratios, since other data regarding ethnicity is unavailable (sometimes also nationality is used as an indicator but this says little about racialized status) Evaluation reports are only shared with the leadership bodies within the universities.

Inclusion Policy Plan ('Transversale lijn Inclusie') / Inclusion Steering Committee

Hasselt, Belgium