Social diversity and the recognition of intercultural understanding at Mälardalen University
This work shows in general terms some ways on how university teachers entered in touch with the social diversity at Mälardalen University. The work is based on interviews with teachers from three institutions, representative of the students and a survey directed to the heads of all departments of the university. The interviews were commanded during the spring of 2006. The report shows some of the different types of projects that the university has put in execution to increase social diversity, how the teachers started implementing different pedagogies to handle this diversity, the problems that examination of this new social diversity among students generates and what teachers and students want to improve. The present rapport also realizes how the work to increase social diversity creates the bases for meetings where teachers and students could develop insights on intercultural understanding.
The report consists of six chapters. Chapter one treats a general sight on the general context wherefrom the work to increase social diversity at Swedish universities emerges. Institutional incentives, internationalization of the university and international immigration created the bases for major possibilities of meeting the social diversity locally. Teachers told that these meetings gave them the possibility of thinking about the topic in dept. The teachers told on routes to start using theoretical perspectives like intersectionality, used to understand problems of power tied to differences, as well as ethical perspectives like intercultural understanding, used for navigating in the multicultural society.
Chapter two shows some examples pertaining projects where university teachers worked to increase the social diversity at the University. The area of discussion took root in analyzing what this work generated when introducing students of the first university year to the university’s academic life. Thanks to this work the teachers had better knowledge of the difficulties of self-steam and of socialization that the students experience when having met the academic Swedish culture.
The third chapter discusses how teachers face social diversity in their educational tasks. Here they gave examples of the positive experiences of the program of academic international interchange. Special attention is paid to the way these experiences can contribute to a process of internal internationalization in the local society, where the population with experiences of migration is notable enough.
The fourth chapter pertains to some aspects of power that emerge between students and teachers in the examination of the courses. The students’ representative made echo of diverse types of complaints concerning sexual insinuations, discriminations, and fear of expressing opinions in front teachers. Other aspects were expressed by the teachers on socio-centric ways of referring to education, intervening against the creation of exclusionary groups among the students, differences of ages between teachers and students, as well as weak idiomatic development of some groups of students. In general all these aspects were seen as cardinals to explain misbalances of power that try to explain why many students are passive during the educational process. These aspects seem to prevent some teachers from emitting fair qualifications. At the same time these aspects ground the bases for conflicts between students and teachers.
The fifth chapter discusses three lines that the interviewees want to see to assure a good work to increase the social diversity at the University. The first line is to strengthen the pedagogic work in the long term. The interviewed thought it is important to rethink the concept of diversity. Besides that, they considered the possibility of developing the programs of international interchange from being bi-cultural (Swedish - English) into being more multicultural. Another aspect in discussion was to introduce the aspects of social diversity in the different plans of introduction directed to new students, to develop new forms of examination and to introduce all these in the ongoing Bologna process. The second line deal with regional collaboration. This collaboration can be stimulated designing practical applied courses. These courses are important to recruit more working class men with long labour experience to study at the university. Other initiatives that want support are to develop short courses for immigrants with high educational levels and developing distant courses for students who cannot live in the cities of Eskilstuna and Västerås, where the Mälardalen University main buildings are located. The third line pertains to efforts that the university must to take further in order to increase social diversity. Some examples are to enlarge the social diversity among investigators and teachers; to secure and increase the pedagogic help for the many students who use to need it; a better distribution of resources between the faculties and a mainstreaming of the work on social diversity at the University. Another important desire from the teachers is to continue evaluating how the work for increasing social diversity develops.
In general features the work shows recognition of the social diversity at the university. This diversity is observed as a positive quality that generates a constructive attitude to social differences. The different initiatives that the university threw to increase the diversity have been fundamental to advance this work. This kind of what internationally is called affirmative action plans have changed the university’s social landscape for ever.
The final chapter is dedicated to thinking about three important aspects in relation to these changes. The first aspect is the positive consequences on democracy thought to accept diversity and difference is cardinal to have a constructive attitude to the problems of power that come from a society characterized by social differences. The second aspect is that pedagogic innovations are basic to continue recognizing intercultural understanding. The third aspect is that these democratic and pedagogic aspects give the university own experiences about facing multicultural challenges. This work does that the university can play a more credibly role at the top of the work for a sustainable and democratic regional development congruent to the challenges that face the multicultural society.
Mälardalens högskola , 2006. , 60 p.
"intercultural communication", "intersectionality", "affirmative action", "university work"