University of Trento – Trento, Italy

University of Trento’s IDEA services are organised and implemented in partnership between three university offices: Equity and Diversity Office, Inclusion Service and Inclusion Service for the student community. The offices were established by the Pro-Rector of Equality and Diversity Policies and by the Rector’s delegate for Disability Support with the aim of implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion policies at the University. Equity groups supported by the University’s services are: persons with disabilities, students/staff with a refugee or migrant background, LGBTQ students/staff, staff/students of colour. Equity groups were identified based on multiple sources. National plans and/or legislation as well as university’s internal policies were consulted as well as relevant academic and policy research. Groups were also proposed by the student and other wider (citizen) community and other stakeholders.

In the last two years, the offices have carried out the following activities: 

  1. Support and counselling for students and university staff
  2. Lectures, workshops, seminars for students, faculty and non-teaching staff
  3. Training courses for peer educators 
  4. Public promotion (e.g. production of media content such as podcasts)
  5. Fundraising events
  6. Improving physical accessibility 
  7. Improving digital accessibility 

In addition to regular services, the University implements other measures and activities to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices. This is done by relying on binding policy (legislation), strategy and action plans, recommendations and guidelines and by implementation of preventive programmes. 

The latest innovative practice offices developed in the IDEA field is the active promotion of the principle of gender self-expression by establishing a specific policy of “Regulations for the activation and management of the alias identity for transgender people or people of non-compliant gender”. The policy protects both students and staff members who wish to use a different name than the one ascribed by birth gender. 

The motivation in establishing the services was to ensure organizational and skilled support in programming, supervising and monitoring policy implementation. The crucial factors for university’s leadership in deciding to establish the services were identified gender gaps, especially in academic careers and the lack of inclusivity of the study environment. These factors were particularly established in relation to women and their access to STEM disciplines. There are several factors contributing to the success of the services. Apart from careful planning and monitoring of implemented activities, IDEA values and goals are shared within the University’s community with a strong commitment of the University’s leadership. In addition, the University has a strong network with other universities working towards common goals.
Services provided are governed by national policy regarding equity and diversity management. The University follows the law regulations and has adopted some of the nationally established strategies and action plans related to discrimination and equality.
The structure of the Equity and Diversity Office and Inclusion Service is composed of a manager and two co-workers. These two offices work under the General Directory Office of the University. Inclusion Service for the student community is led by another manager who supervises seven other co-workers. This office works under the Teaching and Student’s Services Directory, and in particular, the Admissions Office. Diversity, inclusion and equality are all explicitly mentioned in the university’s strategies, policies and action plans. Decisions regarding programming and activities are mainly made by university leadership and are shared by the office’s management and employees. The University is also participating in both national and regional networks which enables IDEA management and workers to share experiences but also to collaborate in ensuring policy adoption in a wider and national HE context.
The main challenge in establishing the services was to raise awareness on the importance of inclusion, diversity and equality policies. Regarding long-term sustainability, the main obstacle is a disproportionate number of employees in relation to increasing goals that were set by the offices. Currently, the offices estimate the sustainability of their funding as satisfactory but with room for improvement. Offices are entirely funded by the University.
Services have a formal annual evaluation process. Several indicators are used to analyse the data from surveys and the University’s database. For the purpose of the evaluation, working groups are established. The evaluation reports are shared online and within working groups. Some of the reports can be accessed only by University’s employees while others are publicly available.

Equity and Diversity Office and Inclusion Service

Trento, Italy