International research collaboration on diversity

In early February, the University of the Free State (South Africa), Vrije Universiteit (The Netherlands) and UCLA held their fourth symposium on diversity and equity in higher education.

UCLA International Institute, February 24, 2017 — A tripartite collaboration between the University of the Free State (South Africa), Vrije Universiteit (The Netherlands) and UCLA was established in 2014 in Bloemfontein, South Africa, to conduct research on issues of equity and diversity in higher education. Since that time, the three partners have held several colloquia to study the diversification of university spaces and to explore innovative and productive practices that can contribute to a socially just higher education environment.

The collaborating universities retuned to Bloemfontein in early February 2017 for their fourth colloquium, “‘Decolonizing’ Higher Education Transformation,” which explored how scholars from various disciplines engage with diversity and difference — social realities that have a foundational impact on higher education.

A delegation of UCLA university leaders attended the conference, including Cindy Fan, vice provost for international studies and global engagement; Patricia Turner, senior dean, UCLA College, and vice provost of undergraduate education; Charles Alexander, associate vice provost for student diversity and director, academic advancement program; and Abel Valenzuela, director, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and professor of Chicana/o Studies and urban planning.

Individual panels at the conference addressed issues of engagement, institutional politics, activism, diversity perspectives, global convergence, decolonization, gender, governance and positioning Africa in higher education.

Vice Provost Fan, who delivered a keynote address at the annual meeting, noted, “This tripartite partnership brings together three universities from three continents to exchange ideas about diversity in their respective and different contexts. We share a vision that research on and teaching about diversity and inclusion is key to policies and practices that effectively address social injustice and inequity.

“Such collaboration benefits all three universities by placing cutting-edge diversity research in global and comparative perspectives,” she continued. “We learn about how the challenges we face are so similar and yet also different across the three countries.

“I can attest that this annual colloquium has grown by deepening diversity research and by attracting researchers from other universities to present their work,” remarked Fan. “We look forward to bringing it to Los Angeles in 2019 — the second time UCLA will host it.”


Photos by Charles Alexander (UCLA), Wim Haan (Vrije Universiteit), Cindy Fan (UCLA) and Johari Photography (South Africa).