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US: Target minorities in study abroad goals, says Diversity Abroad

If the United States is going to achieve its goal of doubling outbound student numbers by 2020, then strategies need to be put in place to increase diversity in study abroad student populations, the Diversity Abroad Network has said.

Photo: Diversity Abroad Network

"Scholarships or more funding is not a diverse strategy"

The organisation has recently launched the first version of its Access, Inclusion and Diversity International Education Roadmap that aims to serve as guidelines for diversity and inclusion in the US study abroad field.

The roadmap also aims to collect robust data on student profiles and university programming.

IIE Open Doors data shows that out of the some 300,000 outbound US students in 2013, over three quarters were ethnically white and 65% were female. However, demographic shifts show that ethnically minority groups will soon outnumber white students in higher education enrolments.

“We need to make sure that as we’re expanding the number of students going abroad we need to look at the inclusive nature of that as well”

The Diversity Abroad network is looking to increase numbers as well as services not just for ethnically and racially diverse student groups but also those with higher economic need, students with disabilities, first generation college students, and those who identify with the LGBTQI community.

“As we talk as a country about doubling the number of students going abroad, between now and 2020, it is something that is going to require a diverse population of students to do so,” Andrew Gordon, CEO of Diversity Abroad, told The PIE News.

“We know this is important and this roadmap is how we’re going to get there.”

Normally, conversations around diversity lead to funding, said Gordon. However, “scholarships or more funding is not a diverse strategy,” he commented.

“We need to make sure that as we’re expanding the number of students going abroad we need to look at the inclusive nature of that as well. How are we preparing the students? Are we developing programmes that will appeal to a variety of students?”

Based on the the Access, Inclusion and Diversity in International Education Evaluation created by Diversity Abroad in 2011, the roadmap works as a voluntary scorecard for education institutions and organisations to gauge their diversity strategies.

Health and safety, marketing and recruitment, financial aid, hiring practices and programme offerings are some of the areas the scheme covers. Working the best practices into everyday operations of the university is part of its approach, said Gordon.

“Instead of saying diversity is a separate initiative that you should do, what the AID roadmap does is it integrates diversity and inclusive good practices into what you’re already doing,” he commented.

Institutions and providers sign up to the scheme and pay a registration and submission fee. They then undergo a self assessment to rate their efforts in specific areas.

“The AID road map does is it integrates diversity and inclusive good practices into what you’re already doing”

The responses will be added to a larger database allowing them to set their own benchmark for future reference and compare their strategies with those of their peers.

The first-of-its-kind data will give more in-depth insight into diversity issues such as what types of students choose specific programmes or which office is responsible for which duties on each campus.

“There’s so much that we’re doing on the blind and I wouldn’t say the road map is a solve-all by any means, but it will give us some data that we don’t have so that we can use it as a field as we move forward in this area,” said Gordon.

The AID Roadmap Version 1.0 was launched at the Diversity Abroad conference last month and is intended for use by institutions. Another version will be released soon for private providers.

As many traditional study destinations put increasing outbound mobility higher on their agendas, Gordon said an international version of the guidelines could appear soon.

“When you look at the principles that are outlined in the roadmap they really are applicable to institutions regardless of country origin.”

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