Third UNIC Superdiversity School “Accessibility in Higher Education”

The aim of the Superdiversity School was to discuss questions around accessibility, barriers, and gatekeeping in higher education. The idea was to meet with international participants, learn about the state of research, develop new ideas and share good practice.

Virtual Place


Start: 16.11.2022
End: 18.11.2022


University of Oulu , Ruhr University Bochum

Each day of the Superdiversity School focused on one of three core themes: Inclusion and gatekeeping in Higher Education; Inclusive teaching and learning; equal career opportunities in academia. The focus on these three separate but interconnected domains highlighted the range of ways in which superdiversity bears relevance to the university space – in our teaching, in students’ access to education, in the university’s equality, diversity and inclusion polices and in research careers. Daily sessions were led by different experts from across the UNIC universities, underlining the interdisciplinary focus of the School, which was open to students, teachers and staff from all UNIC partner institutions and other universities.

Day 1, Opening and Welcoming Keynote, 16 November 2022 Wednesday 14:00-16:00 CET

The first day of the School focused on the status quo in Europe regarding the accessibility and inclusion in higher education institutions and was opened with a welcoming talk by Isolde Karle, the Vice-Rector for Diversity, Inclusion and Talent Development from Ruhr University Bochum The welcoming event was moderated by two student representatives of UNIC, Yazgi Yilmaz from Ruhr University and Eetu Leinonen from the University of Oulu.

The Opening session was accompanied by a keynote speech from Sheila Riddell, Director of the Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity at the University of Edinburgh, who explored the subject of access to and retainment in higher education for diverse groups of students and early career research staff. Focusing on undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities, underrepresented and underprivileged groups in academia across several European countries were discussed here. After the theoretical input from Sheila Riddell the participants had the chance to talk together in small groups and exchange thoughts.

Day 2, Panel discussion and Workshops, 17 November 2022 Thursday, 09:00-15:00 CET

Panel discussion on Implementing Inclusion in Studies and Teaching - Ways, Means, Challenges

Kornelia Freitag, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs of Ruhr University Bochum; Tapio Koivu, Vice Rector for Education of the University of Oulu; Magda Karjalainen, a member from the teaching staff of the University of Oulu; Michaela Kusal, the Representative for Students with Disabilities of Ruhr University Bochum

The discussion group shared good practices and common concerns as well as controversial points of views and ideas for improvement. The panel discussion was moderated by Professor Sandra Aßmann, Chair of Informal and Non-formal Learning at Ruhr University. Institutional structures of universities were identified as the most important enabler of actions for more inclusion but also defined as requiring improvements. Official strategy documents and plans of action - like the university-wide inclusion plan which is currently developed in Bochum - have a strong impact on the policy level, with the potential to guide future actions and decision making. The University of Oulu already has a guidance document for this, yet also in Oulu, there is still a need to provide securely established services to support efforts towards more inclusivity of teaching and studying. Many measures and initiatives are still lying in the hands of individuals and personnel as well as material resources are very limited.
The discussion ended with the united view of all participants that a positive change towards more inclusivity is happening at both universities. Yet, there is still a long way to go until shared values and ideas will be put into practice. All involved participants showed themselves as very willing to work towards this goal and to contribute to taking the next steps. The international networking and sharing of experiences were seen as a useful source for further development and new ideas. Detailed information on the paneldiscussion

Workshop Inclusion and accessibility in higher education and teaching: University teacher’s perspective

Vasiliki Mylonopoulou, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Gothenburg University

Higher education prepares professional practitioners and researchers to accommodate the needs of society and equips them with a mindset that shapes our society. Those specialists will not only apply knowledge, but for example will also influence how our children are educated, how buildings are built, how justice is delivered, and if they work in fashion, they will influence how our bodies are seen. Dr. Vasiliki Mylonopoulou reflected together with their participants on our concepts of normal and how our perceptions of normal influence teaching. During the workshop the differences between equality, equity and justice within the educational system were executed. With those concepts in mind the workshop made gender-inclusive language as well as assistive technology subjects of the discussion. Also models of disability were discussed and moreover the participants worked on questions of practical implementation into the university daily routine.

Workshop Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education - A practical approach to making teaching more inclusive

Laura Lee, Research manager, and Brian Butler, Advisor for inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and Teaching Fellow, at the Centre of the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) at University College Cork (UCC).

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn, including Students with Disabilities. This growing movement aims to improve the educational experience of all students by introducing more flexible methods of teaching, assessment, and service provision to cater for different learners. Laura Lee and Brian Butler, focused in their workshop on the basic principles of UDL, designated different options for designing teaching in Higher Education and applied the principles and different options to the participants own teaching practices.

Workshop Learn how to reach more people in social media by making digitally accessible posts

Anna-Liisa Mattila, IT designer, University of Oulu

In this workshop, Anna-Liisa Mattila introduced the concept of digital accessibility. Then, the steps everyone can take to be mindful online were discussed, so that diverse people can access input in social media. The examples were given from Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. After the explanation of the basic concept the participants came into practice by analysing a digital post from one favoured social media platform regarding the accessibility principles.

Day 3, Peer exchange and lecture, 18 November 2022 Friday, 10:00-15:30 CET

Peer exchange inclusion and diversity-sensitive administrative practice

Iris Wangermann, psychologist, and trainer for intercultural competence

From welcoming international guests to accommodating mobility issues or using gender-sensitive language: Science support and administration staff often work for highly diverse teams, target groups, and expectations. This is enriching, but also challenging as it demands knowledge and sensitivity regarding diversity. In this workshop, administrative staff from Bochum, Oulu and other UNIC universities got the opportunity to exchange their experience of challenges and pleasures of working with and for university staff.

Lecture Gatekeeping in research careers: understanding and confronting selection and advancement

Leah Hakkola, Assistant Professor of Higher Education, Section Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University of Maine

The lecture invited all participants to gain a better understanding of the distinct challenges diverse researchers face in career advancement in academia. In their research on bias in the academic hierarchy, Posselt and colleagues (2020) argue that senior faculty act as the “gatekeepers and brokers of status” in career advancement. Building upon this scholarship, Leah Hakkola’s research demonstrated that senior faculty members’ perspectives on diversity and equity play a role in either hindering or advancing diverse junior faculty in their careers. The lecture thematized the unique barriers that underrepresented junior faculty face when working toward career advancement. The concluding discussion focused on strategies to support equitable career building - both for early career researchers facing selection processes, and for senior faculty who are enabling others in their academic career building.


  • students
  • researchers
  • academic teaching staff
  • administrative staff


The Superdiversity School was received very well. The discussions were vivid and fruitful. Participants learned amongst others about implementing inclusion in studies and teaching, the concept of Universal Design for Learning, digital accessibility, gatekeeping in research careers and had also space for some peer exchange. The School welcomed people from different academic backgrounds which brought variety of perspectives into the workshops. Not only UNIC universities but universities beyond the network participated. As a conclusion it can be said that there is still a long way to go regarding the complex field of inclusion within the sometimes-rigid structures and legal limitations of universities but that prioritizing this topic is also a big opportunity for universities as agents to societal changes.


UNIC Superdiversity Academy | Superdiversity Schools


Diversity and Inclusion | Higher Education | Multilingualism

Type of Case

event | school



Organizing unic universities

university logo university logo

Cookie Settings