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Anti-discrimination policies in higher education institutions: an interdisciplinary scoping review


Objective. Over the last decades, academic institutions have increasingly introduced initiatives aimed at reducing a wide range of discriminations (based on characteristics such as gender, race, class, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and so on) hindering studies or career advancement. However, little is known about their intended effects. This interdisciplinary scoping review seeks to map the literature on the evaluation of policies tackling discriminations in higher education institutions (HEIs). The review includes research evidence assessing implemented policies across every geographical location and across time. Methods. Academic and non-academic databases (WorldCat, ProQuest, Cairn, GenPORT) and journals were searched, in French and in English, for studies conducting ex-post evaluation of anti-discrimination policies in higher education organizations between September and November 2021. Data collection, extraction and presentation followed the JBI's methodology for scoping review (Peters et al. 2017, 2020). Results. Out of the 13111 sources reviewed, 18 literature reviews and 98 articles were selected for this review. The primary observation from the literature search is the paucity of evidence on a vast and heterogeneous ensemble of policy interventions whose implementation is on the rise. The evidence found in this scoping review is predominantly Western and primarily produced within the US. Studies tend to adopt small-scale approaches: they evaluate a single type of policy or intervention (e.g. a training course or a leadership programme) often implemented in one higher education institution or one department, and geared towards a single population category (students, academics, or non-academic staff). An exception to this are evaluations assessing gender equality policies as a whole and across institutions, the third category of policies most found in this review, after sexual violence education programs and mentoring. Findings highlight the implementation of a broad range of initiatives in HEIs. Overall, they mainly target research careers development and tackle gender issues (gender accounts for half of the evidence), both at the individual (e.g. mentoring, networking) and organizational level (e.g. quotas, work-life balance policies). Moreover, the results of this study reveal large variations in the evaluations methods, with multiple outcomes measures and theoretical frameworks, focusing predominantly on short-term effects at the individual level (beneficiaries). Conclusion. The evidence found is relatively limited but the results indicate that this literature is expanding and geographically diversifying. Increasing attention is paid to evaluating what is now commonly referred to as “equality, diversity and inclusion policies” in higher education institutions (Moody & Aldercotte 2019). There is a strong need for further evaluations on interventions addressing grounds of discrimination other than gender and the problem of sexual violence. Moreover, the lack of intersectional approaches in both the interventions and the evaluations conducted is a major gap that should be addressed by policy-makers and researchers to better understand the linkages between the issues at stake and to implement sustainable change. Another notable absence in the literature concerns non- academic staff. This review is also far from presenting the full extent of existing initiatives. Further research on other policies (e.g. gender mainstreaming actions, disability policies), with a peculiar attention to the disciplinary field context, is needed. Furthermore, assessing policies’ long-term impact, and particularly their effects on structural and cultural change, remains a key challenge and priority in this research field. The challenges of exploring this heterogeneous research are raised in this scoping review. The author recommends further investigation of grey literature (in particular institutional internal evaluation reports) and additional literature searches in other languages and with other search terms defining policies and discriminations, which may vary across national and institutional contexts.
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hal-03625791 , version 1 (31-03-2022)


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Chloé Mour. Anti-discrimination policies in higher education institutions: an interdisciplinary scoping review. 2022. ⟨hal-03625791⟩
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