I am Maurice Crul, Professor of Sociology of Education and the Diversity Officer for Research at the VU. Together with Dr. Ismintha Waldring and Dr. Marieke Slootman we constitute the research team that looks into diversity issues at the VU both among staff and students. Our approach to the topic is that we need to look at how the VU organization needs to become more inclusive to serve all students regardless of their ethnic or social economic background equally.
Our starting point for research is to see if students get equal access to our university or if some groups are underrepresented, whether or not some groups of students drop out or switch more and if groups of students take more time to get their diploma. Our first report on this topic showed that now 1 in 3 of the first year students at VU has a migration background. In some of the studies at the VU this goes up to half. The strong trend of increased access to University for students with a migration background that was visible in the nineties and the first decade of this millennium seemed to have flattened. The study loan system and the increased difficulties to transfer from HBO to university play a role here. Access to higher education again needs our attention.
In terms of drop out the picture is rather diverse. The main predictor for drop out seems to be having either another preparation than VWO (the academic track in high school in the Netherlands) or having a foreign high school diploma. It seems our organization and teaching methods are ill prepared for people who have not come through the regular route. Since more and more students did not follow the standard route, including international student who are increasing in numbers, this calls for a serious evaluation of our teaching methods. The good news is that those who survive the first years do equally well in getting a diploma. The caveat however is that students with a migration background take longer to finish their studies. This could be the result of them having to work more or possible having more family duties. We will explore the reasons further in the VU Belonging and Diversity survey.
In 2018 we also were able to ask a few additional questions in the Werkbeleving Onderzoek (VU Employee work satisfaction survey) for the VU staff to get a first impression of the diversity among VU staff members. This is the first time such a study has been undertaken in the Netherlands. A bit more than half of the staff filled in the survey. Although the findings do not give a total overview of all the staff they do give a good indication where we stand in terms of having an ethnically diverse staff. The VU staff is very international with people coming from all over the world. However, if it comes to representing our student population, we do a very poor job. While a quarter of our students come from immigrant families living in the Netherlands the staff hardly reflects this. This means we have an important task as VU staff members to change this for the future. Maybe we should all start hiring people that do not look like ourselves.