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Research project on diversity and inclusion in higher education

31 March 2023
Organisations do all sorts of things to promote diversity and inclusion, but what actually works? And what scientific evidence is there? A consortium of five academic institutions has received an NWO grant for the JEDI NOW project to develop a knowledge platform for promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education. Rashmi Kusurkar from Amsterdam UMC is the project's coordinator. On behalf of VU Amsterdam, sociologists Maurice Crul and Maeve Powlick are involved in one of the subprojects.

A lot is happening within organisations to promote diversity and inclusion. Think of a mentoring programme for ambitious professionals of colour, appointing diversity officers and critically reviewing job postings. But does this work? When is it sufficient and is there a scientific basis for this?

Research into substantiation and effectiveness
JEDI stands for: Justice Equity Diversity & Inclusion. The project is ambitious: there will be a knowledge platform for the scientific foundation of promoting diversity & inclusion in society. The knowledge about this is currently still very fragmented. Internationally, quite a lot of research has been done, but says the main applicant of this project Rashmi Kusurkar of Amsterdam UMC: "A lot of international knowledge is not locally applicable to the Dutch situation because you are dealing with very different population groups here, for example." As a result, any organisation that does or wants to do something about diversity and inclusion does not really know the effect of the interventions. This platform wants to gather all scientific knowledge and bring coherence to it, but also the knowledge of the professionals in the field: so, for example, policy officers whose mission is JEDI. The three pillars of the platform are: knowledge building, policy advice and policy intervention.

In three years' time, the platform should be accessible with all information in both English and Dutch. Input is provided by all consortium members who are each responsible for a subproject. Sociologist Maeve Powlick is working on one of the subprojects on behalf of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam: "I will identify the knowledge on how to conduct research in an inclusive way and build a network that adheres to the values of JEDI. There will be regular coordination with higher education people and stakeholders to use their input to understand how best to promote JEDI in higher education." Other subprojects include: an investigation into power structures within organisations that make diversity and inclusion difficult, developing ways to make the most of a diverse team's differences when it comes to research and innovation. Another subproject is about taking stock of theoretical frameworks and concepts of JEDI and drawing up a research agenda for the future, and there will be a study on the experiences of professional field staff whose mission is to promote diversity and inclusion in their organisations.

This consortium is part of a broad €1.3 million NWO research programme that contributes to culture change in the field of equity and inclusion in academia. Read more about NWO's research programme here.