The University of Birmingham (UoB) and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have joined together in a strategic partnership that aims to build upon our long-standing Universitas 21 connection, and enhance collaborative opportunities between our institutions, focused around Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

Drawing on the outstanding EDI related research at both universities, our partnership will see academic and professional services colleagues from across both institutions working together to share research and best practice, and to work collaboratively to embed EDI across institutional policy and governance, research, and education.

Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in everyday practice remains a central challenge for organisations. The aim of this collaboration is to bring together researchers, practitioners and students from both universities to share ideas and best practice around three core areas:

1)    EDI Policy and implementation (including Staff Experience)

2)    EDI and the Student Experience

3)    EDI and the City.

This website celebrates and tracks the many initiatives underway. The idea is to use this as a platform to promote the relationships and projects that are already developing, and thereby support the continued development of our EDI partnership.

Following the workshop hosted by UvA in Amsterdam last summer, (where UvA Rector Magnificus Karen Maex and UoB Provost Professor Tim Jones signed the partnership agreement between our two universities), the plan is to develop an overarching research institute which will enable the bringing together of research and practice on EDI. This would potentially include joint research projects, workshops on key inclusion subjects, staff exchanges, joint PhDs and an annual EDI conference alternating between Birmingham and Amsterdam. A few UvA and UoB colleagues have already been working together on exciting research projects and there are plans under way to share best practice between HR teams.

A follow-up conference was planned for this May 2020, but now we are forced to become even more creative in our communication. This collaboration is an exciting opportunity for both universities. The histories of the two universities complement each other. For example, UoB is further along in the process of making their EDI policy sustainable, and embedding it in the structure of the university; UvA has excellent examples of student voice and agency contributing to the cultural change. Both universities bring something to the table.

The health crisis we find ourselves in now provides an opportunity for including even more colleagues in this partnership. While we have had to make major changes in how we work (moving from office to home), and how we teach (from classrooms to online platforms), the relatively minor change of seeking ways to open our universities so they might become even more inclusive may no longer present such an unsurmountable challenge.

Many have pointed to the lack of global leadership and absence of a transnational plan for tackling the crisis. At a time when international institutes should be strengthened, states are shutting down into fortress mode. 

In their place, universities step into the gap, providing research and examples of cooperation that bridge political gaps and geopolitical polarization, rising above the nationalization that threatens to narrow our vision to a single, isolated perspective. Let this small step toward something much more fulfilling inspire the courage to create and co-create, as we move forward toward a more equitable place for people to realize their full potential. 

Written by:

Dr. Anne de Graaf
Chief Diversity Officer
University of Amsterdam
Senior Lecturer, International Relations 
Amsterdam University College 

Professor Jo Duberley
Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor, EDI
University of Birmingham