|Photo: Patrick Blessinger|
The increasing emphasis on inclusion and diversity in higher education around the world is due partly to the globalisation-internationalisation cycle (for instance, increased international immigration flows and increased global interdependencies), partly to the ongoing democratisation of higher education (for instance, increased pressure for equality-equity in all aspects of education) and partly to the emergence of lifelong learning as a human right.
Within this context of intertwined factors, higher education systems around the world have now started to move beyond widening participation agendas (even though these are very important) and towards total inclusion agendas that are focused on the transformation of institutional cultures.
In the forthcoming book, Inclusive Leadership in Higher Education, Lorraine Stefani and I, along with several educational scholars from around the world, examine and explain this emerging phenomenon.
A paradigm shift towards inclusivity
In addition to globalisation, democratisation and lifelong learning, inclusion and diversity in higher education has been greatly influenced by mass social movements (for instance, civil rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights) as well as legal reforms and human rights declarations (for example, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
The universal human rights movement has been part of an ongoing global movement (primarily since World War II) aimed at improving the human rights of all people irrespective of their political, social, cultural or economic contexts.
As a result, higher education has gradually moved away from an elitist and exclusive mindset (based on power and privilege claims) and towards a more democratic and inclusive mindset (based on justice and human rights claims). The growing equality-equity requirements brought about by human and civil rights reforms, together with the unprecedented demand for higher education, continue to drive educational institutions to create more inclusive learning environments.
The new mindset of inclusivity holds that every citizen has a basic human right to lifelong learning and, since tertiary education (of all types) is a natural vehicle to deliver lifelong learning, arbitrary and discriminatory barriers that deny access are increasingly viewed with scepticism. As such, and given the great importance of education in the modern era, lifelong learning has emerged as one of the chief human rights aims of the 21st century.
The calls for more inclusive educational environments are not only concerned about widening participation but the calls are equally concerned about reorienting the mission, vision and values of educational institutions to better align them with core democratic principles. In this relationship, educational institutions have a valuable role to play in helping strengthen democracy.
Source: University World News