University of Constance– Constance, Germany

About the students support office/program At the Konstanz University, there is an Equal Opportunities Office (Referat für Gleichstellung, Familienförderung und Diversity). The office was established in the 90’s to support women in science and has since developed further and broadened its offers and mandate. Currently, this office supports persons with disabilities; low-income students; first generation students; students/staff with a refugee or migrant backgrounds; LGBTQ students/staff; staff/students of colour; and staff and students with care obligations. These equity groups were proposed/identified by national plan/legislation; 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; 
  • language trainings courses for refugees; 
  • and developing and designing policies to increase university level of inclusion. 

At this university, several activities have a great impact. At an individual level, support and counselling will help university members in a direct and measurable way, while public promotion will raise awareness within the community. However, university policy has a long-term impact on goal setting and it is likely that new policies (such as the inclusive leadership policy adopted in 2022) will have the strongest long term impact.  

The latest innovative practices and tools introduced at Konstanz University to promote inclusion, diversity, and equal access can be summarized as follows:

Inclusive Leadership Policy (2022): In 2022, the University implemented an inclusive leadership policy applicable to all leaders within the institution. This policy is accompanied by specific training programs aimed at enhancing inclusive leadership skills.

Unconscious Bias Learning Tool (2023): In 2023, Konstanz University introduced the Unconscious Bias Learning Tool. This tool allows University members to independently explore and understand unconscious biases at their own pace, fostering self-awareness and promoting bias mitigation.


In addition to these initiatives to foster inclusion, Konstanz University employs a range of measures and activities to combat exclusionary and discriminatory practices. These efforts are supported by binding policies, strategic action plans, and a set of recommendations and guidelines.

At Konstanz University, the motivation for establishing this service was originally to support women in science and to increase the proportion of women, especially among the professors. The factors crucial for the institutional leadership in deciding to establish a service for wider access/inclusion/diversity for students/staff were a combination of public awareness of inequalities in the universities and internal pressure to create better support structures as well as changes in state-law mandating representatives and measures. This is a successful service because the establishment of this Equal Opportunities Office has had an impact on the university in a number of ways: it has raised awareness of inequalities within the university community; it has ensured that certain groups, such as women and minorities, are taken into account in decision-making processes; in providing financial support to groups that need it (e.g. students with children, young women researchers, members with caring responsibilities); helping to change organisational culture by encouraging discussion and organising events; helping scientists apply for grants by reviewing materials with an eye for DEI-relevant details; and in providing training and development opportunities for all members of the university.
The Equal Opportunities Office is partly required and regulated by state law (e.g. the requirement to have a contact and support person for students with disabilities and the requirement to have a contact and support person for discrimination). Other aspects, such as diversity policy development, are organised within institutional frameworks and policies.
The office is part of the University’s Professional Services and provides direct support to the Vice-Rector for Internationalisation, Equality and Diversity. It consists of 16 members (at the time of writing) in three teams: Gender Equality Team, Diversity Team and Family Support Team under a common team leader. Diversity, inclusion and equality topics are mentioned in this office and at the university’s strategies, policies and work plans. At Konstanz University, decisions are made interactively between different university bodies. The Rectorate makes broad policy decisions but is also sometimes involved in more detailed programme decisions. The University’s Equal Opportunities Council also has decision-making powers on all matters relating to diversity and equality. At the same time, the Office has wide discretion to develop and follow up on programmes, as the Office is seen as the centre of expertise on these issues within the University. However, all decisions are normally made in consultation with the Rectorate, the Equal Opportunities Council and other relevant bodies within the University. The university is part of national, regional and local networks. The outcomes from these networks are mostly the opportunities for exchange and learning for some unofficial benchmarking and learning from best-practice.
The main challenges to establishing this service were/are financial constraints for new staff members to fulfill the required roles. This office is almost totally independent from the help of unpaid volunteers. The main obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of these programmes are the available funding. Many programmes can only continue as long as funding remains stable. However, much of the funding has to be applied for at regular intervals. In addition, the decentralised structure of academic departments makes it difficult to achieve structural and procedural changes within the university to make processes more inclusive and fairer. Funding for this office comes partly from the Excellence Strategy (, partly from third-party funding for smaller projects and partly from the university budget.
Konstanz University has a formal evaluation process of the service. Gender equality is measured at all levels of the university and must be reported annually to the Ministry of Education and Science. There is also qualitative reporting on the success of certain measures. Qualitative data is collected in consultation with institutions, the gender equality data is collected from the departments and central data collection offices. The evaluation report is disseminated within the decision-making structures of the university (Rectorate, Senate, committees) and the ministry for education and science.

Equal Opportunities Office

Konstanz, Germany