Equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) are at the heart of YUFE’s vision for a true European University. Here we ask Karen Bush›, from the University of Essex, who leads YUFE’s ED&I work package (WP7), to reflect on YUFE’s D&I successes during the alliance’s pilot phase.
What has been the biggest succes/ es of WP7?
The biggest success, for me, is the way in which the WP7 Taskforce have worked together and supported each other in taking forward ED&I within their own institutions. Whether through sharing challenges and strategies to overcome them, encouraging awareness-raising of previously undiscussed topics or sharing resources to support the development of policies and activities, the value of working in open, honest and collaborative ways has produced tangible results.
What have you most enjoyed about being part of YUFE WP7?
The opportunity to work with, and learn from, a group of like-minded people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. During the three years of the pilot period, we have developed a strong bond that I hope will last throughout the next phase and beyond.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome during the project?
Developing a YUFE D&I Strategy that all partner institutions felt able to implement and would drive forward equity, diversity and inclusion across the alliance despite their different starting points. It took many months of conversations, discussions and negotiations which were, at times, difficult. It required managing differing levels of knowledge and awareness of existing institutional D&I strategies and approaches, managing anxieties around committing an institution to a strategy that felt in some way out of reach, dismantling any pre-conceptions or assumptions about the ED&I culture of each YUFE institution and, probably most importantly, fostering an environment in which WP7 Taskforce members felt comfortable in sharing the true extent to which ED&I was embedded (or not) within their institution.
Why is ED&I so important to YUFE?
YUFE institutions all share a vision of creating a more equitable, flexible, diverse and societally impactful European higher education and research system. As such, the YUFE model of the European University is rooted in the principles of diversity and inclusivity. We advocate for achieving excellence through inclusion that, for us, represents the European approach to higher education, and is our way of contributing towards a more cohesive, just and peaceful European society.
What are you most looking forward to in YUFE 2.0?
Working more closely with YUFE Student Forum members, to equip them with the relevant knowledge and skills to co-deliver ED&I workshops to YUFE students and to be YUFE ED&I Ambassadors. And visiting more YUFE partner institutions, starting with the University of Rijeka in Croatia in February 2023.
How have you enjoyed the experience of working with colleagues across Europe?
I am so glad to have been given the opportunity to be part of something so new, so innovative and so unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Having an almost blank sheet of paper, being able to shape something from the start and working across different European countries that operate within different cultural, political and legislative environments has been such a rewarding experience. I now have a new team, spread across Europe, from whom I learn something new every day. It has opened up opportunities I would not otherwise have had – being invited to speak at an international conference on the topic of inclusive European higher education, being one of those. And I feel as though by sharing my knowledge and expertise I am contributing towards making a positive difference to people, which makes me excited for what’s to come in YUFE 2.0.