"Diversity in Higher Education" Symposium

13/07/2018
Round table discussion in front of an audience FH Aachen/Arnd Gottschalk

“Diversity makes things a bit complicated sometimes – but a strong diversity management is decisive for the success of our universities and our societies,” said Dr. Britta Baron, Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President of the University of Alberta, a statement that captured the general tenor of the two-day symposium titled “Diversity in Higher Education.” 160 participants from about 70 higher education institutions accepted the joint invitation from FH Aachen and RWTH to convene and discuss the potential of diversity in teaching and learning as well as for staff development.

Diversity has long become a reality at universities, where individuals with different backgrounds study and work together. However, an open question is how the active management of diversity can become an integral component of the higher education system. The expert talks illustrated how equal opportunities aspects in higher education and the inclusion of underrepresented groups can be embedded in the culture of universities. Furthermore, the attendants had a lively discussion on how to develop strategies addressing the global challenges of our time.

Diversity is a success factor. Dr. Dirk Jakobs, head of Global Diversity at Daimler AG, invited the attendants to take a journey into the world of economy, where success is measured in terms of hard facts and figures. Apart from drawing attention to the fact that work in diverse teams is more efficient, he stressed that in strategic planning, his company seeks to take into account the interests of their increasingly diverse customers.

And as Professor Holger Burckhart, vice-president of the German Rectors‘ Conference and Rector of the University of Siegen, pointed out, “Are excellence and diversity conflicting goals? Not at all: successful diversity management discovers, promotes, and connects talent – and talent forms the basis for excellence.”

Professor Doris Klee, RWTH’s Vice-Rector for Human Resources Management and Development, Manuela Aye, head of the RWTH Integration Team (IGaD), and Professor Josef Rosenkranz, Vice-Rector for Teaching & Learning at FH Aachen, were responsible for the symposium program.

Both universities collaborate on various topics, and both place particular emphasis on fostering diversity and inclusivity: RWTH established a staff unit for gender and diversity management as early as 2017, and FH Aachen was one of the earliest universities to participate in the Stifterverband’s “Shaping Diversity” audit. RWTH Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg and Professor Rosenkranz agree: “Diversity is a long-term process. For this reason, we will continue to actively promote the cultural change towards more diversity at our institutions.”