Welcoming Universities

Overview

Welcoming Universities is a network to inspire and support Australian universities to develop a culture and practice of welcome, inclusion and belonging within their institutions, in the community, and across the higher education sector.

Numerous Australian Universities are at the leading edge of research, debate and thought leadership in areas such as population, migration, social cohesion, economic participation, diversity, and inclusion.

However, as with any large and complex institution, Universities can lack the frameworks and resources to apply such knowledge and academic rigour to internal practice.

Welcoming Universities supports higher education institutions to create a sense of belonging for all their stakeholders (including staff, students, and communities of practice).

The initiative builds on the success and learnings of Welcoming Cities and enables Universities to benchmark their cultural diversity and inclusion practices across their entire operations. Welcoming Universities will become providers of choice to both domestic and international students. This model brings rigour to cultural diversity and inclusion, like existing accreditations for areas of diversity, such as gender[1].

Many Universities are required, or encouraged, by State Governments[2] to embed essential cultural diversity and inclusion principles into their core business. Welcoming Universities will assist in planning, benchmarking, and improving these principles and practices by developing and implementing the Welcoming Universities Standard.

[1] Athena Swan Charter
[2] Multicultural NSW and Multicultural Qld Charter 

Fellowship Applications

Student Advisory Committee Fellowships

Welcoming Universities is pleased to launch its inaugural 2024 Student Advisory Committee Fellowships. This program is a reciprocal approach to including and supporting the student voice in the Welcoming Universities initiative of Welcoming Australia and providing students with comprehensive recognition of their time and contribution.

The program is offered to 8-10 student participants each year, who have lived, living or relevant work and/or study experience in cultural diversity, migration, diversity, equity, and inclusion, to contribute to the Welcoming Universities Student Advisory Committee.

Fellowships are open to current students who are studying at Welcoming Universities member institutions:

  • Bond University 
  • Charles Darwin University 
  • Flinders University  
  • La Trobe University 
  • University of Melbourne 
  • University of New South Wales 
  • University of Wollongong  
  • UTS 
  • Victoria University  
  • Western Sydney University 

Applications close 15 July 2024. Applications can be sent to Welcoming Universities Coordinator, Cate Gilpin, cate@welcoming.org.au.

Application Form

Overview

Members

University of Melbourne

Western Sydney University

La Trobe University

Victoria University

University of New South Wales

Charles Darwin University

Join Us

Membership of the Welcoming Universities network is a measurable way universities can demonstrate their commitment to embedding and advancing cultural diversity and inclusion practices across the entire institution and create belonging for all stakeholders (including staff, students, and communities of practice).

For further information, or to join Welcoming Universities, please contact:
Cate Gilpin
Coordinator, Welcoming Universities
cate@welcoming.org.au

Universities Standard

The Welcoming Universities Standard was launched on 1 May at the 2024 Welcoming Australia Symposium. This document is the culmination of almost two years of work by the Welcoming Universities team, with extensive support from the Welcoming Universities Advisory Committee, feedback from the members of the Welcoming Universities network, and from the higher education and associated sectors.

The Standard provides a clear framework for universities to benchmark their work and understand leading practices in welcoming, inclusion, and belonging within universities.

The Standard has four categories:

  1. Leadership
  2. Social and cultural inclusion
  3. Teaching, learning and research
  4. Places and spaces

Under each category are several criteria, followed by indicators outlining how these criteria can be met.

As the Australian university sector grapples with a changing higher education landscape, and the Australian Universities Accord released in early 2024 highlighted the need to put equity at the centre of higher education, the Welcoming Universities Standard exemplifies an innovative and rigorous way for universities to embed inclusion across all operations, and move towards a brighter future in which students and staff from all backgrounds feel welcomed, included, and as though they belong.

Supporting Australian universities to develop and benchmark leading policy and practice the Welcoming Universities Standard is a central element of the Welcoming Universities network. The Standard establishes the framework for universities to:

  • benchmark their cultural diversity and inclusion policies and practices across the organisation;
  • identify where and how further efforts could be directed; and,
  • assess progress over time.

The Standard aims to foster a culture of welcome and belonging in participating Australian universities that benefits all students, staff, and visitors.

It provides a framework for member institutions to:

  • Improve existing cultural diversity and inclusion initiatives and strengthen their impact and relevance for the university community.
  • Recognise the importance of embedding cultural safety and humility within university policy and practice.
  • Create mechanisms for benchmarking and assessing impact.
  • Lead research and praxis in the social inclusion space.
  • Enhance the profile of desirable higher education destinations for prospective students and sought-after employers for professionals.
  • Foster an enhanced public reputation in the community.
  • Identify opportunities for shared learning and positive connections across university divisions.
  • Encourage conversations about how universities can foster and build networks to improve inclusion and belonging.

Accreditation

Assessing and planning actions against the Standard puts universities in a solid position to uphold principles of access and equity and, as a result, strengthen inclusion for all.

Accreditation through Welcoming Universities has a range of benefits:

  • Increasing the impact of university equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives across the entire institution.
  • Providing a mechanism to plan for improvement and change.
  • A positive and welcoming reputation; and,
  • Opportunities for shared learning

Accreditation is an optional undertaking for members of the Welcoming Universities network who want to better understand how the university is fostering a culture of welcome and belonging for the wider university community, and how this can be expanded.

To ensure the programs and policies demonstrated in the assessment stay current, accreditation must be renewed every three years.

Assessment

To cater for the diversity of universities and their communities, The Welcoming Universities Standard has a range of entry and accreditation levels.

There is no obligation or requirement for universities to progress though the accreditation levels.

FAQs

Is application of The Standard a requirement of participating in the Welcoming Universities network?

No. Standard & Accreditation is a key element of the network; however, any Australian university can commit to the network without engaging The Standard.

How do I provide feedback?

All feedback can be emailed directly to info@welcominguniversities.org.au

What happens with the feedback?

All feedback that we receive is collated, carefully considered and tracked, including our application of the feedback and rationale. Much of the feedback we receive will be incorporated into the final Standard.

How does my university join the Welcoming Universities network?

It is a simple process, a university selects their preferred membership type, signs a commitment form, and pays the associated fees.

Background and Context

Belonging asks, ‘Does everyone on campus feel valued, connected and able to be their authen1c self?’. Belonging is more complex to measure than equity, inclusion, and diversity, but it is just as important.

As one of the world’s most ethnically, linguistically, and culturally diverse na1ons, Australian universities should be leading the way in welcoming and including students of all backgrounds –established residents, recently arrived migrants (including international students) or refugees. The message of ‘welcome’ needs to be supported and advanced through evidence, data, partnership, knowledge sharing, and benchmarking. More than an organisational value or a glossy campaign, welcoming, inclusion, and belonging should be a framework for building social and economic participation and success. Many universities have strong policies around equity, diversity, and inclusion but still fail to retain students from underrepresented groups because these students don’t feel they belong.

Many universities are focused on equity, inclusion, and diversity and seek to foster a sense of belonging, but they don’t know if they are successful. There needs to be more benchmarking of this work within universities to identify gaps and advance effectively. 

Our lifestyle, geography, institutional reputation, and quality of teaching have been an ongoing source of attraction. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia was the third largest recipient of international tertiary students worldwide 3. This came to a sudden halt in 2020, leaving the sector reeling, and three and a half years on, it still needs to adapt to the rapid change. The higher education sector has seen a return to international student pre-pandemic numbers, and by 2025 international student numbers are predicted to surpass the pre-covid numbers by more than 180,000 students.

Around the world, more people than at any other 1me in history are being forced to flee conflict and persecution to find safety and sanctuary. A significant way for humanitarian migrants to participate, and integrate successfully into mainstream Australian society, is by participating in the Higher Education system. Humanitarian migrants face unique challenges and barriers in accessing Higher Education. They should be recognised in policy and as a unique cohort to ensure that targeted resources and interventions are provided. It is also crucial to remember that specific sub-populations of humanitarian migrants may be more disadvantaged than others due to limited English language proficiency and pre-arrival educational credentials.

Many Higher Education Institutions in the UK are participating in a network to inspire and support universities to develop a culture and practice of welcome within their institutions and in their wider communities. A growing number of these universities are now recognised as Universities of Sanctuary. This model and the Australian-based work of Welcoming Cities and Welcoming Clubs provide a solid foundation for establishing Welcoming Universities.

Objectives 

  • Develop and pilot the Welcoming Universities initiative with a select group of Australian Universities
  • Develop, test and socialise the Welcoming Universities Standard
  • Assess the Universities participating in the pilot project against the Standard
  • Promote the initiative to other Universities, and grow the network

Each participating University is:

  • involved in the development of the Welcoming Universities Standard and associated training, assessment and certification tools
  • formally recognised as a founding partner of the Welcoming Universities Standard and initiative
  • assessed, certified, and promoted as one of the first Welcoming Universities in Australia and globally.

The Advisory Committee members provide subject matter expertise relevant to the development of Welcoming Universities, acting as a sounding board to provide feedback on key components of the initiative.

Thank you to our Advisory Committee members for their commitment and contribution to advancing the Welcoming Universities initiative: