Inequalities in training for reasons of geographic, ethnic or social origin and in relation to job opportunities, salaries and incomes are critical dimensions of social exclusion. To combat the permanent nature of such exclusion, it is essential to develop educational policies and actions to extend access to opportunities. ACCESS4ALL is an Erasmus+ project which main aim is to promote the educational and social inclusion of underrepresented groups as well as of non-traditional learners, thereby broadly satisfying one of the main priorities of the European Union (i.e., the improvement of the capacities of organisations active in the fields of education, training and youth, notably in the areas of strategic development, quality of learning provision, equity and inclusion, and qualitative and targeted activities for specific groups) and clearly addressing one of the important features of the Erasmus+ programme: promoting equity and inclusion by providing access to learners who are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have fewer opportunities compared to their peers. ACCESS4ALL addresses those needs by designing an operational framework that systematises, orders and promotes the effective development of actions to promote access and retention for underrepresented groups and non-traditional learners in Europe: the A4A Toolkit.
In the last twenty years, the goal of developing the social dimension of Higher Education has been part of the wider effort many universities around the world have undertaken to improve and diversify tertiary education through strategic change. However, the recent shift towards a global, highly competitive and market-oriented university system has put growing pressure on academic centres concerning the expansion and differentiation of the research and teaching offered. New forms of organisation have been generated to address these demands, leading to rapid merging or splitting of academic departments, as well as to the establishment of new providers. This process affects the diversity of each university with regard to specific knowledge profiles; teaching, learning and problem-solving styles; and, more generally, the institutional mission, governance and inner culture. The diversification of the student population is an important component at this level, as the success of education programmes offered in most of Higher Education is linked to the ability to provide teaching activities that address learners from diverse backgrounds. The chapter examines what are the consequences of the modernisation and change of the tertiary education sector for the implementation of programmes aimed to foster the inclusion of underprivileged students in Higher Education.
In the last twenty years, there has been growing interest internationally in the increase and diversification of the population of students attending Higher Education. Higher Education is one of the most important factors that can foster social mobility, by reducing disadvantages and poverty across generations and having a broad impact across all of society. Widening participation in Higher Education, usually referred to as the “social dimension” of the Bologna Process in Europe, aims to promote equality of opportunities concerning: access, retention, participation and successful completion of studies; living and studying conditions; student guidance and counselling; financial support; equal opportunities in mobility; and supporting student participation in Higher Education governance. These objectives are in line with the idea that the diversity of the population should be reflected by the student body, and that students’ participation in Higher Education should not be limited by their different backgrounds. The chapter will offer an analysis of the way the social dimension has been developed in the European context over the years, as well as an overview of the results achieved and the next challenges to be faced by the Higher Education institutions.
The positive advantages of diversity in the Higher Education environment have been largely documented by research. Nevertheless, face to the apparent benefits of diversity, current attempts to widen and reinforce HE participation still deal with a number of challenges. Even though European governments repeatedly committed to the goals of increasing graduation rates and fostering diversity in HE, the lack of financial support, combined with unfavourable demographic patterns, prevents them to reach such ambitious objectives. Consequently, universities still tend to be open to students that are likely to succeed from the outset more than those that are affected by economic, social or cultural drawbacks. To counter this trend, good practices concerning favouring the access, retention and success of underprivileged students to Higher Education have been brought about in many European countries. The chapter will provide an examination of the socioeconomic, organisational and educational factors that influence the development of good practices in Italy, as well as an evaluation of the advantages and limitations of the good practices approach applied to Higher Education.
This chapter presents inclusion practices and their state in a Finnish higher education institution. First, six good practices of inclusion that are used in the university are presented. These include, for example, practices that promote accessible education as well as the physical and mental health of all students. The goal of this section is to provide an overall picture and present different perspectives of the work that has been conducted at the HEI in collaboration with various internal and external stakeholders. Second, the inclusion self-assessment tool created by Access4All project is briefly introduced together with the results received by the university on their self-evaluation through the tool. The results suggest that there is a need for better integration of inclusion practices to the daily life of staff and students. Finally, the possible future actions to promote inclusion in Finnish HEIs, such as student involvement, are discussed.
Romanian universities are focusing more on the social aspects in tertiary education by implementing different support mechanisms in order to overcome considerable challenges, such as the high number and population diversity of disadvantaged groups (people from rural areas, individuals with a Roma background, people with low incomes, people coming from orphanages, etc.). Related to the support mechanism developed and implemented across Romania, we tried, in this chapter, to present several good practices available at national level when it comes to the equity and inclusion. Such examples are targeting, different aspects such as financial aids for students that may encounter problems during their studies. This aid has an impact on long term basis, because the students that benefited from this aid tend not to drop out their courses. Moreover, this chapter includes the results of University of Bucharest’s self-assessment tool. The results from this self-assessment tool suggests some possible actions to improve our university innovative and inclusion capacity, especially in the field of “Policies for inclusion” or “HEI organisational maturity”.
The implementation in Portugal of the Bologna process brought new challenges to Higher Education, namely in the necessary guarantee of access and success of students. By providing a greater spectrum of opportunities for young people and adults to raise their humanistic training, scientific knowledge and their academic qualifications, HEI have incorporated the heterogeneity and multiculturality of our societies. The academic community in its whole has suffered a radical change. The students, with their individual differences and specific needs, have acquired greater visibility and importance in the definition of institutional strategies and in the adoption of more flexible and adapted teaching/learning models and practices. Policies for inclusion have been the answer to this major shift. The Polytechnic of Leiria is one of the Portuguese HEI that has been deeply committed, to the principles of inclusion, actively seeking to contribute to the training and empowerment of its students, regardless of their specificities. Promoting educational success and building a more sustainable society is the guiding matrix for its action. To this end, it develops multiple actions and programs designed to facilitate the inclusion of students with some type of specific need and/or in a situation of social, psychological or economic vulnerability. The self-assessment process, triggered within the scope of the ACCESS4ALL Project, led by the Universidad Autònoma de Barcelona, allowed the identification of critical points and the potential for improvement resulting from the valorisation of diversity, as a teaching and learning resource
The achievement of inclusion and equity in higher education systems is understood as a process rather than a final situation: building inclusive education requires planning, implementation and evaluation of a wide range of strategies. In Spain, the Salamanca Declaration () has highlighted the role of universities not only as agents of transformation of the economic and social system but also regarding their critical contribution when it comes to achieving educational inclusion. This chapter is aimed to identify good practices that make a clear contribution to the inclusion in the Spanish higher education system. First, we present the main features of the Spanish higher education system and the theoretical model developed for this study, drawn into four axes of inequality in higher education. Next, we analyse eight selected good practices from six Spanish Universities related to four topics: Gender, Disability, Refugees and Sexual and Gender Diversity. For each topic and good practice, we provide information regarding the Spanish legal framework, general data from current research and information obtained from the university’s website. Finally, we indicate the importance of continuing to carry out research, actions and strategies in the field of higher education aimed at an increasingly inclusive university system in Spain.