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.
Many Universities are required, or encouraged, by State Governments 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.
University of Melbourne
Western Sydney University
La Trobe University
University of New South Wales
Charles Darwin University
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:
Coordinator, Welcoming Universities
Welcoming Australia is seeking feedback from Australian universities, students and associated bodies on the public draft of the Welcoming Universities Standard.
Click here to download the Standard.
Click here to download a Spreadsheet of the Categories, Criteria and Indicators. Comments can be entered directly into the document and returned via email.
All feedback can be emailed directly to email@example.com.
All comments and feedback are received in confidence, collated, considered, and de-identified.
Feedback can be submitted until 5 April 2024.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
- 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:
- Professor Jim Cavaye, Emeritus Professor, Regional Partnerships, Cradle Coast, University of Tasmania. Interim CEO, Burnie Works.
- Dr Belle Lim – Executive Director, Future Forte
- Lisa Bolton – Director, QILT Research and Strategy
- Sally Baker – Co-Chair Advocacy, Refugee Education Special Interest Group (RESIG)
- Anthea Hancocks – Chair, Welcoming Australia. CEO, Scanlon Foundation and Scanlon Foundation Research Institute.