The MEDIS research group from the Department of Pedagogy is leading a European Erasmus+ project to develop competencies to tackle and prevent violence motivated by sexual orientation, identity or expression of gender in European universities and higher education institutions. The project is called HEI4Diversity. Building Capacities to Prevent and Respond to any Form of Violence against the LGBTQI+ community in Higher Education Institutions in Europe and is being led by the researcher Oriol Rios. It began in October 2019, will last for two years and is a consortium of 7 organizations (4 universities and 3 organisations connected with the LGBTIQ+ community) from 4 countries: Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Poland.
Research has clearly shown the need to tackle this social and educational problem which affects thousands of young people throughout Europe each year. Despite the undeniable advances in protecting the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community, European education systems continue to face difficulties in their efforts to ensure equality, respect for rights and inclusion of all people at all levels, regardless of their sexual orientation, identity or gender expression. For example, according to the largest survey ever taken across Europe (involving 93,000 LGBTIQ+ people from the 28 EU states), 26% of the participants had received attacks or threats of violence (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights – FRA, 2014). The magnitude of this situation and a commitment to overcome it through training have been the key to bringing people together for this project.
HEI4Diversity is founded on the need to promote evidence-based training to respond to social problems. For this reason, the first task will be to identify the actions and resources that are being implemented in higher education institutions throughout Europe and which have been demonstrated to have had an impact on preventing violence against LGBTIQ+ people. This initial map will provide a network for support and the exchange of good practices relating to the inclusion of this group in European institutions.
One of the objectives of this network will be to identify those actions that have most impact on facilitating the inclusion of the LGBTIQ+ community in order to create a training programme aimed at the entire university community. Through this digital tool, the aim is to identify the most successful strategies for including the LGBTIQ+ community at an international level, for promoting the competencies needed to prevent violence against them and for protecting and supporting LGBTIQ+ people.
Finally, the project will promote the design, creation and implementation of protocols that promote more effective actions which in turn will help create higher education institutions that are more inclusive and have greater sexual and gender diversity.
One of the key aspects of this project is that all the activities planned also have the objective of promoting the participation of the entire university and not only the LGBTIQ+ community. This will be achieved through a specially appointed council and a panel of experts. The aim is therefore to find synergies between the university institutions and the communities that surround them by promoting educational spaces that are safe, respectful and inclusive and that have sexual and gender diversity.