Diversity Policy: How Can Students Learn About and In Diversity in Your Programme?

Study programmes that want to focus on diversity give students the opportunity to acquire or reinforce specific diversity competencies. On the one hand, students must learn about diversity as a social reality in relation to their field. On the other hand, learning to collaborate and deal with difference is an important part of their learning process. In other words, students learn about and in diversity. In order to develop a diversity policy at programme level, both dimensions should be taken into account when focusing on diversity competencies, learning paths, curricula, teaching and learning activities and assessment of diversity competencies. 

Summary, represented schematically: 


Learning about diversity
What should students know about diversity in relation to their field of study?

Learning in diversity
How does Ghent University prepare students for a diverse social, work or research context? 

Diversity competencies Determine the knowledge-related competencies about diversity as a social theme in relation to the field of study.

Determine the competencies which illustrate that students have insight in their own reference framework and that of others and which illustrate that they can deal with those differences in a constructive manner.

Learning paths and curricula Determine the learning content on the theme of diversity throughout the programme in a coherent framework.

Determine the course units in the programme in which students acquire competencies to deal with diversity, as well as the connections between them.

Teaching and learning activities Determine the teaching and learning activities which allow the study programme to offer students knowledge about the topic of diversity. 

Determine the teaching and learning activities which allow the study programme to teach students how to deal with diversity. 

Assessment Determine the method of assessment for knowledge-based competencies about diversity. Determine the method of assessment for competencies in dealing with diversity.



Diversity competencies

What do diversity competencies mean to Ghent University?  

  • The literature usually mentions intercultural (and international) competencies. Ghent University uses these models as a basis but deliberately adopts a broader approach, i.e. competencies that are vital when dealing with diversity in general and not only when dealing with cultural diversity. 
  • Ghent University distinguishes five diversity competencies. The first one covers learning about diversity. The other diversity competencies are related to the topic learning in diversity:
    • Diversity competence 1: acquiring knowledge about diversity as a social reality 
    • Diversity competence 2: reinforcing awareness about and sensitivity to diversity
    • Diversity competence 3: communication with an eye for diversity
    • Diversity competence  4: creating involvement, striving for connection and establishing relations in a diverse setting 
    • Diversity competence  5: dealing with insecurity and with new developments, situations and insights as a result of a diverse setting 
  • As a study programme, you need to determine which knowledge or skills students must possess about the topic of diversity in relation to their study field. For some study areas (e.g. in alpha and gamma sciences), this is more straightforward than for others. Nevertheless, this question can also be very relevant for e.g. programmes in the fields of applied and exact sciences. This way, students can be taught that science is achieved on the basis of different perspectives, world views, frames of reference and mental frameworks. 
  • In a next step, as a study programme, you should focus on learning in diversity. For this, it is crucial to teach students how to deal with diversity and prepare them for a diverse work or professional context. 

How to integrate diversity competencies into the competence model of your study programme? 

Diversity competencies have to a large extent already been included in the competence model of Ghent University. Ghent University’s illustrated model also marks potential competencies. As a study programme, you can complement the model with specific competencies, in function of your study programme. As a next step, use the competence matrix in order to verify the extent to which diversity competencies are already included in the final and programme competencies, after which further finetuning can be done.  

Learning paths and curricula

  • Have you determined the diversity competencies? If so, you can develop a diversity learning path. A learning path shows the cohesion in terms of study materials and structure for a series of competencies in the built-up of the study programme’s curriculum. A diversity learning path thus indicates in what way students can acquire diversity competencies throughout the programme and in which course unit the topic is covered in the learning materials throughout the programme. 
  • Although the lecturer determines the content of the course unit, the study programme can provide direction for these choices when it lays down the curriculum and the programme. As a study programme, you can use the questions below as a guideline: 
    • Are the proposed programme competencies (diversity competencies included) sufficiently covered in the programme? Where and how are they covered in the course units of the programme?  
    • Which relevant and meaningful knowledge and learning materials in relation to the study field and diversity should be covered in the curriculum? 
    • Is the programme aligned with the diverse profiles and backgrounds of students? Can students with diverse profiles relate to the programme? 

Teaching and learning activities 

How to work on diversity competencies in your programme in an integrated manner? 

In most cases, an integrated approach to diversity competencies is preferred. In that case, learning materials are included in and matched with regular learning content. This way, specific issues or cases can be related to the topic of diversity. 

How to work on diversity competencies in your programme in an explicit manner? 

Are diversity competencies essential to acquire other final or programme competencies? In that case, it is recommended to dedicate a number of classes, modules or complete course units to the topic of diversity. This way, students can first familiarise themselves with the diversity competencies before they apply them in an integrated manner. 

For example :

  • In study programme (X), it is important that students have prior knowledge about diversity in society in order to be able to apply that knowledge within other course units. The programme decides to organise a ‘diversity’ course unit. 
  • In study programme (Y), students are expected to make a group assignment within a specific course unit in collaboration with international students. Within the course unit, they first receive an introductory workshop in which they can practice a number of skills for collaboration and dealing with diversity. 


The assessment of diversity competencies demands attention, both at the level of the course unit and that of the programme. Whereas the study programme mainly focuses on the assessment of diversity competencies as a whole, the course units assess (aspects of) diversity competencies more specifically. 

Points of attention for the study programme are: 

  • Specify in the assessment vision of the programme how diversity competencies will be assessed.
  • Make sure that there are sufficient moments within the curriculum of the study programme that are used to assess programme competencies (incl. diversity competencies).
  • Every programme competence must be assessed at least two times within the programme. The competence matrix is a useful tool for this. It provides a clear overview of the teaching and learning activities and the aspects of specific programme competencies that occur in the teaching and learning activities. It also provides an assessment of the programme as a whole. After all, the programme competencies are translated more specifically into the learning outcomes of course units; the learning opportunities to acquire the programme competencies are offered in the teaching and learning activities of individual course units; and the assessment of the programme competencies is also done via the assessment of the learning outcomes of the course units. 
  • Throughout the study programme, use an appropriate mix of evaluation forms to assess the wide range of diversity competencies. 
    • The assessment of knowledge about diversity can be included in the regular assessment of subject knowledge. 
    • Skills related to diversity competencies (e.g. being able to collaborate in a heterogeneous group, communicating with an eye for diversity, being able to deal with new situations, etc.) can be assessed via observations, e.g. via peer discussion or peer feedback. 
    • Advice! Use a rubric to assess diversity competencies.
    • Whether the attitudes of students regarding diversity have changed can be measured via questionnaires that visualise attitudes before and after the teaching activity, e.g. the IRC-measure (‘Intercultural Readiness Check’). 
    • Knowledge, skills and attitudes regarding diversity can be assessed in an integrated manner via a portfolio in which students reflect critically on their learning process. 
  • Align the assessment of diversity competencies within the different components of the study programme. Programmes with a ‘learning about and in diversity’ learning path build those competencies gradually throughout the programme and align the evaluations automatically. Is there no learning path within a programme? In that case, the assessments can be aligned via a common set of evaluation criteria or a rubric in different course units. 

Last modified Oct. 22, 2021, 9:02 a.m.