Background information



This HERE study visit will showcase how the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam) in the Netherlands adresses social inclusion and tackles the issues of access and retention.


The event will be centred around the questions:

  • What are the university’s main activities for social inclusion, in terms of target groups and their specific challenges? What are the successes, prevailing challenges and lessons learnt regarding access & retention, ensuring study success/integrating diverse students on campus and in the classroom and learning & teaching diverse classrooms?
  • How has the strategy for inclusion been developed? What was the process, who was involved? How does it respond to the environment/context of the university and of society, and how does it relate to the national framework?
  • What are the structures and instruments that support inclusion? How do data collection, QA etc. contribute?
  • What does this mean for staff (training and staffing policies/HR)?
  • What are the links to the institution’s research, and also to other strategic priority areas (internationalisation, outreach/third missions etc.?


The visit will be interactive, engaging different staff members and students from the institution and also provide the national perspective.

While higher education participation numbers have been increasing in Europe and in Partner countries, this has not implied that higher education has become more inclusive. Typically, the economic background, social situation, educational background, ethnic and religious affiliation and gender have an impact on participation, albeit to a different extent in different contexts. Political pressure for equal access, but also demographic pressures and migration are among the factors that require universities to address a more diverse student population and also to consider this in their staffing policies.


The topic is particularly relevant in view of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Goal 4, on Quality Education, and also in the context of the Bologna Process, which contributes to monitoring inclusion policies in 48 participating countries, and to setting common development goals. Many HERE have suggested that higher education inclusion needs more attention at their institutions and systems.


The event addresses all HERE, at all levels of knowledge and experience regarding the topic:  university leadership, teaching staff and students and, given that this event would address the policy and system perspective, also ministry representatives.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the process of defining and implementing university strategies for supporting access and retention and social inclusion
  • Understand better the concept of social inclusion, and the national policy context that shapes it in the higher education sector
  • Devise support for the development of innovative teaching practices that promote inclusive approaches
  • Examine systems for student progression and tracking, and the possible university programmes and services that can support this
  • Share interesting practices on engaging diverse students in international mobility

Background material

Higher education equity policies across the globe

The organization "World Access to Higher Education" has produced a World Map of Equity Policies in order to create an international database on national equity policies in higher education. 

Through the following link you can access the map, as well as the first report that examines these policies "Worldwide - Equity Policies in Higher Education Worldwide": 

World Inequality Database on Education 

Identifying effective approaches to enhancing the social dimension in Higher Education
Making inclusion in Europe a reality
Social Inclusion and Equity in Higher Education