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Making cultural differences matter? Diversity perspectives in higher education

Menno Vos (Faculty of Business, Media and Law, Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Zwolle, The Netherlands)
Gürkan Çelik (Business Research Centre, Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Sjiera de Vries (Lectoraat Sociale Innovatie, Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Zwolle, The Netherlands)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 16 May 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The higher education sector has become increasingly aware of how the increasing diversity in society affects their institutions. The student population has become more diverse and future employers increasingly require trained students who are able to meet the demands of dealing with a more diverse market/clientele. In this regard, education institutions need to align their strategic approach to diversity within their organization. The purpose of this paper is to examine strategical reasons to diversify in different education teams in relation to two different diversity practices: attraction and selection of culturally diverse lecturers and utilization of cultural differences in team interaction.

Design/methodology/approach

In a qualitative study the authors conducted 19 interviews with educational professionals in six different education teams in a university of applied sciences.

Findings

Interviews with 19 members of six educational teams revealed that some teams acknowledge they need more diversity and exchange of knowledge and skills in order to meet the requirements of the labor market. Especially teams that prepare students for international careers foster this “Integration and Learning” perspective. Other teams, e.g. the Law team, notice less changes in labor market requirements. Still, these teams were open for recruiting diverse lecturers and found it important, especially to meet the needs of the diversity in students (access perspective). They also found value in the interaction and mutual learning in their team, but saw no extra value of diversity (colorblind perspective). Labor market demands for diversity seem to have more influence on the diversity perspective of teams than the diversity in the student population.

Practical implications

Since earlier research has shown that the diversity practices of organizations are more effective when they are in line with their diversity perspective, the differences between teams suggest that when dealing with diversity issues, universities can best work toward a common understanding of the importance of diversity but leave room for team differences in diversity practices.

Originality/value

Most studies on diversity management assume or argue that organizations adopt one diversity perspective. The present study shows that intra-organizational differences may exist with regard to the specific needs or concern for diversity management practices.

Keywords

Citation

Vos, M., Çelik, G. and de Vries, S. (2016), "Making cultural differences matter? Diversity perspectives in higher education", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 254-266. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-11-2015-0092

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited