Panel G.17 — The Diversity Challenge for Higher Education. Barriers and opportunities in updating educational settings to deal with international students and guarantee equal and inclusive multicultural environments
Convenors Isabella Pescarmona (University of Turin, Italy); Roberta Ricucci (University of Turin, Italy); Anna Miglietta (University of Turin, Italy)
Keywords staff training policy; Higher Education; intercultural professionalism; reflexivity; international students
Educational systems and pedagogical models today are challenged by confronting an increasingly heterogeneous and multicultural student population. To promote the right to education for all and equal opportunities for access and learning, it is more necessary than ever to learn how to make the most of the human capital that students carry and to address the various forms of inequality that still exist. Diversity among students (in terms of culture, age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, social status) is an increasingly important issue and requires complex and intersectional readings of reality, able to take into account intra- and intergenerational differences in order to approach and live with others in an open, inclusive and fair way (Lipura, Collins 2020; Besley, Peters, 2012; Grant, 1999).
This change of perspective also concerns Higher Education contexts, which see a growing presence of international students (Erasmus students, students with a migratory background and ‘still’ a foreigner passport, students arriving under specific conditions, i.e. students refugee like, students at risk like Afghani, Ukrainians etc.). Higher Education contexts, indeed, are challenged both to question certain stereotypical and traditional notions of working methods and relationships with the Other, and to train and update the professional competencies of teaching staff in an intercultural, democratic and non-discriminatory way, as well as those of administrative staff who must interact with this diversity (Beech 2018; Smith, Conover-Williams, 2017; Unesco, 2022).
It is a matter of updating and improving reflections and practices on educational policies at the system level, involving both those who educate and those who manage the organizational and administrative aspects. Thus, the education and training of tertiary personnel becomes a key to interpreting social and cultural changes and to developing innovative perspectives and practices that can be reflected and impacted also in school and socio-educational contexts on the ground, acting on the intergenerational reproduction of inequalities and promoting the agency of different actors as vectors for greater social justice.
The panel aims to promote interdisciplinary discussion on this topic and welcomes results of empirical research, as well as theoretical and methodological analyzes that can help to enhance processes of teaching and managing cultural diversity from an equal opportunity perspective. Possible topics include: intercultural professionalism of teachers; personnel policies; participatory education and field research methods; social justice in education in Higher Education institutions and combating institutional discrimination.