"I don't see Rotterdam on campus", said Merel of Erasmus School of Colour.
Erasmus TV: ‘University isn’t doing enough to promote inclusion and diversity’
During a broadcast of Erasmus TV this Thursday, Assistant Professor of Urban Sociology…
The programme that is designed to make EUR’s student population more diverse is called ‘Connecting Our Future’ and will run until the end of 2024. On Monday, Chief Diversity Officer Semiha Denktaş, Rector Rutger Engels and the Chairman of the Executive Board, Hans Smits, presented the plan at the town hall, in the presence of Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb and Councillor Said Kasmi (who holds the Education portfolio).
As part of the programme, EUR will organise activities at schools, designed to reach students who might otherwise miss out on a university degree. The university is also establishing a coaching programme, in which students will provide pupils with long-term supervision. Furthermore, EUR lecturers and students will be given the opportunity to design and develop other programmes targeting future students.
Nearly 52 per cent of Rotterdam’s inhabitants hail from a migrant background, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at Erasmus University’s student population. “Many kids are advised to attend a vocational school rather than a school that gives direct access to a university degree”, says Denktaş. She considers this a serious problem, as well as something that EUR can and wishes to change. She wants the university’s student population to properly reflect Rotterdam society. However, in Denktaş’ experience, children growing up in multicultural Rotterdam-Zuid are much less likely to be advised to attend a HAVO or VWO-level secondary school (whose graduates have direct or indirect access to a university degree) than children growing up in other, whiter parts of Rotterdam. Pupils who do not graduate from a VWO-level school can only attend university following a lengthy journey through several school levels.
“Which is too bad”, says Denktaş. “As it is, we are leaving a lot of potential untapped. If we wish to arrive at new scientific insights, we will definitely need all talented adolescents. Having diverse perspectives and experiences is important and effective. We are currently a high-ranking university, but if we want to remain one, we should not miss out on all that talent.”
Inspired by an American project
Collaborative partnerships with primary and secondary schools are not entirely new to Erasmus University. For instance, the Wetenschapsknooppunt (‘Science Hub’) is already teaching pupils science lessons, with students or lecturers visiting school classes. The newly to be established programme was inspired by an American project set up by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Last March an EUR delegation visited UCLA to work on ‘Connecting Our Future’.
“Lessons learned: you have to make sure that outreach becomes an integral part of your institutional infrastructure”, says Denktaş. “It’s vital that you organise activities for underrepresented students. Relationships with secondary schools must be properly maintained. It’s essential that children of parents who are not highly educated themselves be given some continuity. We can give them that continuity by means of coaching. We spoke to people in the US who took part in that programme years ago and now have a PhD. That’s wonderful.”