BOKU and EPICUR develop EDI strategy

BOKU’s Coordination Office collaborates with EPICUR – European University for the development of an EDI strategy. EDI stands for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and revolves around the questions of fair treatment and opportunity for all groups without discrimination. EPICUR, also known as the ‘European Partnership for an Innovative Campus Unifying Regions’, is one of the first-generation EU university alliances to pilot a modeling of a European University by new ways of increasing cooperation among higher education institutions.

In April 2021, EPICUR set out to apply EDI to its programmes and partnership, in order to support access to its partner universities, promote the expression of the diversity of talent throughout the training and research paths and ensure safe environments for learning and development for all. are key principles which should apply to all aspects of our existence. In the university context, as an environment for development learning and progress - we should even more so ensure that EDI is observed and employed as an enhancement to the lives of students and staff alike. 

A working group (WG) was established and met for the first time in April. Formed by all of the EPICUR , the concept is to channel existing equality, diversity and inclusion measures and activities from each university into one holistic approach to EDI in EPICUR and strengthen existing efforts and collectively forge new ones inspired by each other. BOKU is the chair of EPICUR’s working group, coordinated by Dr. Margarita Calderón-Peter, Head of BOKU’s International Relations.

What does it mean for BOKU to be part of this working group?

Firstly, the Coordination Office for Gender Equality, Diversity and Accessibility proudly shares its initiatives on EDI at BOKU through our dedicated staff, Ruth Scheiber, Ela Posch, and Helene Steiner. As a contact point for a wide range of topics relating to gender and diversity competence, inclusion and disability, the advancement of women and equality, the Coordination Office also deals with issues of discrimination and disadvantages. As a cooperation partner of various internal and external projects, we accompany processes, advise and inform, develop concepts and are involved in the initiation and implementation of topic-related measures.

Secondly, our experts have contributed directly to the strategy documents of the working group. In May 2021, the Coordination Office appointed EDI expert Tonica Hunter to coordinate between BOKU and the EPICUR WG. On behalf of BOKU Tonica attended the WG monthly meetings and has been integral to draw up both the structure and suggestions for first drafts of two key documents which guide the WG and which will inform and guide the content for the joint strategy for the EPICUR alliance: the “Principles document” setting out the guiding concepts and modus operandi for EPICUR and EDI related activities and the “Action plan” concretely measuring EDI actions and their impact through a set of key performance indicators to be checked and overviewed in the next milestones evaluation of the project.

In the EPICUR Steering Committee (SC) meeting in July of 2021, the SC approved the structure of these two documents proposed by the EDI WG. As presented in the meeting, both the “Principles document” and the “Action plan” are being prepared to get the official signature during the Networking Conference “Diversity of the Regions” at BOKU in May 2022.

Both, the EPICUR EDI “Principles document” and “Action plan” suggested, have been designed to have a strong impact on each EPICUR partner university, particularly on those who haven’t implemented an EDI strategy explicitly so far. The best practice examples collected will, however, also contribute to inspiring EPICUR members with more advanced EDI policies, and generally lead to an increased awareness for EDI aspects among all EPICUReans (students and staff). These suggestions will be included in the follow-up application for the next phase of the European University Initiative. This way, the EDI strategy is meant as an exchange and a support scheme between universities for the next few years.

Next step will be to present both documents at the EPICUR Networking Conference in Vienna  from May 18th - 20th, 2022. The mail address for the event can be contacted in case of interest.

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