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Diversity at VU Amsterdam

Diversity at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is a matter of fact. To pursue a diverse and inclusive VU Amsterdam where everybody feel welcomed and at home, the Diversity Office actively strives for a university in which students and staff can make the most of their talent.

VU Amsterdam has one of the most culturally diverse student population in the Netherlands. Our students also differ in gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, physical and mental capabilities, religion, ideology and philosophy of life, and social-economic status. That makes diversity at VU Amsterdam a matter of fact.

On the one hand, diversity enriches. A diverse student population and staff population means that our students and staff members differ in their life experiences, knowledge and perspectives. When our students and staff meet, they learn more about not only each other, but also themselves. This knowledge enriches us as individual people – and with that, VU Amsterdam as a university.

On the other hand, diversity also comes with challenges. The more people differ from one another, the more the risk of for instance discrimination, inaccessibility and exclusion increases. To combat these risks, we need to analyse in what ways VU Amsterdam has to adapt. We may investigate if our application procedure invertedly puts some groups at a disadvantage while favouring other groups. Additionally, we may inspect if our buildings are accessible to everybody who moves through them. In other words, something we’ve ‘always done that way’ is suddenly done differently; these changes can cause tension.

To benefit from the pros and act upon the cons, VU Amsterdam actively creates a university in which everybody is welcome and feels at home. That drives the Diversity Office to, firstly, support staff members, teachers and students with its expertise and, secondly, actively seek various collaborations with faculties, service departments and student organisation as well as other universities and organisation.

Our efforts at VU Amsterdam follow 6 goals. These goals are broad and ambitious and function as dreams for the future. To make these dreams realistic, we specify these goals through concrete steps. We define these steps as we go, because this flexibility helps us to adapt to societal developments and the needs of the VU community.

The 6 goals of VU Amsterdam

  • Goal 1: Staff diversity equals student diversity.

    VU Amsterdam has a very diverse student population, but lags behind when it comes to diversity amongst the staff.

    By critically analysing if structures at VU Amsterdam inhibit some groups and favour others, the university strives to have the staff population reflect the student population. By doing so, VU Amsterdam ensures that students have more role models to encourage them to pursue an academic career.

  • Goal 2: Students and staff experience that VU Amsterdam acknowledges and values differences.

    VU Amsterdam strives towards an inclusive culture in which students and staff experience that the contributions that stem from their background and capacities are actively used and valued in classrooms, on the campus, in teams and in research groups.

    To stimulate this, we critically investigate any implicit norms on what the ‘average’ staff member and student entails. We also consider individual differences during group activities to ensure nobody is left out.

    One of the ways in which we recognize and acknowledge individual differences is by actively putting these differences to work. With the Mixed Classroom as educational model, VU Amsterdam actively employs the diversity among students to teach them how to navigate individual differences in our increasingly complex and dynamic world.

  • Goal 3: Curricula are inclusive in terms of student backgrounds, student success and knowledge perspectives.

    At VU Amsterdam, students should have equal opportunities to be successful in their academic development, regardless of their background and resources. Moreover, diverse knowledge perspectives enrich students’ academic knowledge.

    It is for these reasons that VU Amsterdam strives to enrich curricula with various knowledge perspectives, for instance by explicitly including marginalised voices and the knowledge and experiences of underrepresented groups.

    VU Amsterdam does this with the Curriculum Scans. By critically analysing our curricula, we create opportunities for deepening and enriching our knowledge. We can include, for instance, contributions by marginalised voices and with the knowledge and perspectives of underrepresented groups.

  • Goal 4: VU Amsterdam is a leading university in the Netherlands in research on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

    Over 200 VU scholars research diversity, some of whom are frontrunners in their field of study.

    For VU Amsterdam to become a leading figure in this field, the university is setting up an inventory of available research on diversity and inclusion. Which studies have taken place at VU Amsterdam? And who conducted these studies? This inventory gives us insights into our current position in the field of research on diversity and inclusion.

  • Goal 5: The facilities at VU Amsterdam are accessible for all bodies and minds.

    The facilities at VU Amsterdam, among which the buildings, the interior design and the IT infrastructure, must be accessible by design. Accessible facilities indicate that the university takes the variety of bodies and minds into account, among which visible and invisible disabilities.

    An accessible university meets the needs of students and staff in their learning and working environment. By doing so, our students and staff will thrive at VU Amsterdam.

  • Goal 6: Institutional structures at VU Amsterdam and international cooperation are defined by equality, mutuality and social justice.

    Long-standing and seemingly self-evident processes have resulted in systemic favouritism and discrimination to become entangled in structures and processes within the university. Examples of such structures and processes are international collaborations and recruitment, open access and funding models. By analysing these structures and processes, VU Amsterdam becomes aware of how to stimulate honest and equal relations – both internally and externally.

    For instance, we’re improving the recruitment process with the guidelines listed in the Colourful Staff Action Plan. This action plan encourages faculties and service departments to closely examine to what extent their recruitment process is inclusive – and, thus, fair.

The Diversity Office - diversity and inclusion at VU