The aim of this research project is to generate scientifically valid evidence on the status quo of practices, perspectives, structures, actors, challenges and opportunities in the field of diversity management at private universities in comparison to public universities in order to prove the potential of diversity management at private universities, to evaluate the transferability potential of the generated findings for public universities, and to derive recommendations for actors in university management regarding the need for action at public and private universities. In this project, a preparation phase for the generation of units of analysis, an analysis of public profiles and student data with regard to diversity management, a qualitative-explorative study at the two partner universities, the derivation of critical incidents, a discussion of the results with focus groups and, based on this, the generation of recommendations for action and the utilization of the results are included.
The following milestones have been defined for the intended project.
The first milestone encompasses the exploration of the framework conditions, actors and measures of diversity management in order to generate units of analysis for the following milestones. For this purpose, a kick-off meeting will first be organized at each partner university with the management or diversity officers of networked universities in order to provide information, establish acceptance and ensure access to the data required. In preparation for this, discussions have already been held with the University of Europe for Applied Sciences Germany, the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences and the state universities of the UAS-7 (Association of Excellent German UASs, https://www.uas7.org/de), and Letters of Intent have been obtained from the University of Europe for Applied Sciences and the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences. Furthermore, additional Letters of Intent were requested from professors at various universities. Next, the status quo of diversity management (structures, profile, actors, measures, conditions) at the two partner universities as well as at least six other private and public universities will be analyzed based on secondary data (strategies, guidelines, paradigms, courses offered, number of students entering and dropping out) to create a category system for formal and substantive categories of strategic and operational factors of diversity management at universities and to present them as a codebook. These categories will serve as the basis for a quantitative content analysis.
The second milestone involves the analysis of the significance of diversity management for profile development on the basis of strategies, study programs and student data at private and public universities in Germany. The main focus of the study is on the questions of the extent to which diversity management already contributes to profile development, the extent to which this is reflected in the admission and dropout rates of students from vulnerable groups, the differences between private and public universities, and any potentials and risks that become evident in this context. Therefore, we will collect publicly communicated information as well as accessible data on students from up to 100 private and public universities according to the previously developed categories. The access is carried out via internet presences of the universities, the German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat), the Federal Statistical Office (Statistisches Bundesamt), the Centre for Higher Education (CHE; Centrum für Hochschulentwicklung gGmbH), the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW; Deutsches Zentrum für Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsforschung GmbH), the Society for Higher Education Research (GfHf; Gesellschaft für Hochschulforschung) as well as direct inquiry at the UASs. Evaluation is carried out by quantitative content analysis on the basis of the previously formed units of analysis and, if necessary, by inferential statistics in order to make comparisons between governmental and non-governmental as well as different forms of UASs (e.g., profit/non-profit forms of organization, UASs with university status and claims to excellence).
The third milestone addresses the perspective of the actors with regard to diversity at universities and analyzes related processes and structures. For this purpose, the specific life worlds of actors in the different organizational areas of the partner universities will be explored with regard to diversity management (perception of diversity, social norms and rules, barriers and challenges as well as implications for the change process) by means of qualitative, semi-structured interviews. Access to participants will be gained through the support of university administrators and diversity officers (e.g., call for participation), through university websites and internal portals, and through proactive outreach either in person or via email. Stakeholders from all fields of activity (research, teaching – diversity-related and subject-specific, administration and management, human resources development, students) at UASs will be surveyed, as well as people with various diversity characteristics. As it will only become clear in the course of the first work package which members of the university are crucial for diversity management, it is not possible to say in advance which or how many members of the UASs will be interviewed. The interviews will be analyzed using qualitative content analysis according to Mayring (2019).
Alongside the analysis of attitudes, knowledge and competencies, critical incidents will be developed for the fourth milestone, based on the status quo of diversity management and the qualitative interviews. These critical incidents serve as an illustration of the logic of action and the interdependencies of structural changes, to illustrate challenges and potentials, and to sensitize actors. Here, critical incidents refer to critical, positive and negative incisive events and situations as well as life items or process analyses that depict everyday or typical processes or events.
In order to validate the results of the previous work packages, to derive recommendations for action and to create multipliers of the previous project results, focus groups with relevant actors at the respective universities will be conducted for the fifth milestone. On the basis of previous experience with this research/transfer format, the aim is to hold five focus groups at each UAS, each with up to eight participants from research, teaching, administration, management and personnel development. Here, previous results, challenges and potentials will be presented and discussed. After each group, the results are first evaluated separately by the respective project group and compared in an iterative process. Individual concepts can be brought to the following focus groups at the respective other institution and put up for discussion. This way, the practical implications are successively perfected and the understanding of actually existing scope for action is intensified to ensure a reciprocal transfer process in the short and medium term. The results of the focus groups will be summarized as a catalog with indications of needs for action and approaches to solutions.
In the sixth milestone, the dissemination and utilization of the results takes place through the multiplication by the focus groups, the initiation of working groups at the partner UASs, the catalog with solution approaches, the cooperation with the different associations, public relations through web and social media appearances as well as scientific publications. Besides the focus groups, the transfer into practice takes place through constant communication on social media and the university websites, where information about the project itself and relevant results is provided in coordination with the diversity officers of the UASs. Subsequent to the evaluation of the focus groups, motivated individuals will be brought together to form a Diversity Working Group at each partner UAS. For the establishment of the working groups, the organization of a final workshop is planned, where the project results will be presented and discussed in an application-oriented manner. In participatory formats, a larger group of actors will be enabled to reflect on the results and their significance for their day-to-day work. At the same time, representatives of other public and private universities, especially diversity officers, will be invited to inform them about the innovative results of the project and the possibility of further cooperation with the newly established working groups. Scientific exploitation will take place continuously through publications (open access, if applicable), research data management, conference contributions, and a final project report.
Finally, in the seventh milestone, the cross-sectional tasks of project controlling, promotion of young researchers, and project coordination take place. Through the IT service and the library of the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, the systematic storage and archiving of research data (anonymized as a matter of principle) will be made possible for the long-term safeguarding of research results in addition to the DHW and GESIS databases. For this, the costs for a backup in the repository RADAR of the Leibniz Institute for Research Data Infrastructure are used as an example. The Ethics Committee's advisory service supports research applications and projects with regard to ethical and data protection aspects and provides advice to the applicants for the project proposal. The project participants involve employees and students in their research activities in order to promote young researchers.