Álvarez-Castillo, J. L., & García-Cano, M. (Eds.) (2022). Diversidad e inclusión en la universidad. La vía de la institucionalización [Diversity and inclusion in the university: The route of insti- tutionalisation]. (Anabel Moriña Díez)
Álvarez-Castillo, J. L., & García-Cano, M. (Eds.) (2022).
Diversidad e inclusión en la universidad. La vía de la institucionalización
[Diversity and inclusion in the university: The route of institutionalisation].
Narcea. 253 pp.
Progressing towards inclusive universities is a challenge for higher-education institutions. The path towards achieving this involves adopting the principles of inclusive education, recognising and valuing diversity, consolidating inclusion policies, mobilising cultures to transform concepts and practices, and promoting actions that ensure the presence, participation, and success of all students.
Studying at university and obtaining a university qualification is no small matter, since, as previous studies have shown, it is an opportunity to improve people’s training, social, employment, and life opportunities. This is fundamental for any student, but especially so for those who have not traditionally accessed higher education and are more vulnerable. Nonetheless, the opportunities that university settings can offer are not guaranteed just by accessing the institution or “being there”. On the contrary, access without the appropriate support can result in students dropping out, and so, it is not regarded as an opportunity.
Therefore, the inclusion, equity, and diversity policies of higher-education institutions have a key role to play in accessing, continuing, and successfully completing any university qualification.
In this sense, Diversidad e inclusión en la universidad, edited by José Luis Álvarez-Castillo and María García-Cano Ernesto, is a contribution that helps rethink, design, and build more inclusive university spaces.
This work conceptually and empirically explores the inclusion policies in relation to diversity of different universities with a practical approach. One of the strengths of this book is that it is the result of an R&D&I project and involves eight Spanish universities.
To tackle something as complex as inclusion in the university, the work is structured in 15 self-contained chapters, spread over four sections, starting with an initial conceptual approach to inclusion policies and practices and ending with approaches for institutionalising these policies in universities. This is followed by section two, which tackles diversity and inclusion from the perspectives of different university actors and a third section that includes actions and good practices linked to inclusive education at university.
The book starts with a first section containing a single chapter that provides a general conceptualisation of the content that the different sections will cover. It conceptualises the policies and practices of university systems regarding diversity, emphasising the concepts of inclusion, equity, and justice.
The second section comprises seven chapters, which analyse the different institutional documents that reflect universities’ diversity and inclusive education policies. These chapters also give voice to the different actors from the university context about their perception of diversity and inclusion in the university (leaders, teachers, administration and services staff, and students). These contributions reveal light and shadows in the university panorama, as while there has been progress in inclusive policies and practices, there is still a long way to go, since there are still barriers that hinder the retention of particular students. A university that recognises and values diversity requires profound changes in the system as a whole, including teaching practices.
The book continues with a third section that contains five chapters. They present a variety of different actions in favour of inclusion that have been explored and evaluated in the research project, as well as proposals for institutionalising it in various areas (teaching innovation, curriculum, combining curriculum with innovation, teacher training, and training of institutional leadership). These chapters approach areas as vital as teaching innovation for attention to diversity from equality, proposals to encourage teaching innovation in the field of training in inclusive global citizenship, the application of universal design for learning (UDL) to content, the methodology and evaluation of a subject, and, at the same time, the design, development, and evaluation of a training activity for teachers in UDL. The section ends with a chapter on the implementation and evaluation of an action centred on the training of student representatives.
This third section therefore offers guidelines, experiences, and examples that can inspire other universities committed to inclusion. UDL, which is so recognised in higher education, but so unknown in university practice, deserves special mention. Through UDL, multiple forms of representation, expression, and involvement are provided, recognising different forms of learning and needs, and offering flexibility and diversity of resources, methodologies, and evaluations. This teaching focus invites us to act proactively and the diversity of options is contemplated when planning teaching projects. These approaches centred on learning and UDL have proven to be effective in inclusive contexts.
The book concludes with a fourth section comprising two chapters, which sets out a proposal for institutionalising attention to diversity in higher education. These two chapters both consider the institutionalisation of inclusion to incorporate inclusive principles to all of the dimensions of institutional operation (philosophical, political, and practical). Specifically, the first one provides a guide to the process of institutionalisation, a proposal comprising five phases: diagnosis, emergence, development, institutionalisation, and evaluation. The second chapter offers precise guidelines so that the institutionalisation of attention to diversity can become a reality in higher education.
One cross-cutting idea that is repeated all though the work is the need for training in diversity and inclusion for the university community, and especially, teachers. Indeed, most of the research done so far has concluded that the teacher is a key element in the success and sustainability of the inclusive focus. These studies might lead us to think that without training or guidance for teachers about how to respond to the needs of the students or plan inclusive practices based on UDL, it will be hard to go from theory to action. With training and awareness raising for teachers, it is possible to initiate processes of change and transformation that promote inclusive university contexts. Nonetheless, we know that the path is not simple because teachers are immersed in a bureaucratised university with high research demands that are accompanied with uncertainties and pressures. However, we are also aware of the responsibility and commitment of the university in a society with high expectations about it and with students who are seeking an opportunity to progress personally, educationally, socially, and professionally.
Ultimately, this book provides an exhaustive analysis from different perspectives on inclusion in the university and provides theoretical, empirical, and practical evidence that consolidates the value of inclusion in the university. In conclusion, this book is of use to any member of the university community concerned with making the university a welcoming space for all, and with transforming policies, cultures, and practices in favour of diversity. This useful and practical book is easy to read, and invites us to reflect, imagine, and build a university that is committed to people and society.
Anabel Moriña Díez ■