AURORA Brown Bag Lecture Series - "Doing Diversity in Higher Education", Lecture 1

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Culture, diversity, and identity are all highly contested concepts and generate tension. Especially the notions of culture and identity have been reviewed critically for their potential to evoke essentialism and for their use in rhetorics and practices of segregation and discrimination. Diversity, however, is associated with an appreciation of difference and social inclusion. Universities have committed to this concept of diversity, not only in academic debate but also on the level of mission statements, administration and recruitment. Diversity has become a key aspect in the self-image and social commitment of universities.

We therefore propose to address the concept of diversity in higher education and its multi-faceted effects on university life in the lecture series “Doing Diversity in Higher Education”. Our starting point is the understanding that society is shaped by a dynamic interplay of categories like gender, race, and ethnicity, class, age, and (dis)abilities. These categories influence access to economic, social and legal resources and they affect a sense of membership and belonging as well as experiences of social in- and exclusion.

With inequalities on the rise in the age of globalization, the university strives to be/become/remain a diverse, open, and egalitarian institution while battling a variety of internal inequalities and differences (intellectual capacities and their relation to class background, merit-based access and equality, neo-colonial conditions of knowledge production). The university’s elite past and present and the ideal of appreciating difference constitute a predicament which needs to be tackled on various levels.

We therefore invite colleagues and students from different disciplines, status groups and geopolitical locations of the Aurora European Universities Alliance to share their insights and approaches on diversity in a lecture series. What is the general societal framework for understanding and promoting diversity in the respective countries? How do we fulfil our commitment to diversity in enrolment and teaching, how are diversity policies reflected in recruitment of staff and faculty? How is diversity reflected in social entrepreneurship? What is the student experience of diversity in different countries and types of universities? In short: How do we do diversity in higher education?
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