In November 2022, the Equality Ombudsman released the report ‘Undersök, åtgärda och utbilda’ (‘Investigate, remedy and educate’) on higher education institutions’ efforts to counter discrimination of students and promote equal opportunities for them.

“It’s positive that the Equality Ombudsman is reviewing this, as it becomes a way of highlighting the efforts. This is something we should be constantly working on and discussing, and there are many recommendations and pieces of advice in the report that offer inspiration for change,” notes Cajander, Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor on Equal Opportunities.

Not a single higher education institution meets the requirements

The report can be summarised in brief here:

  • None of the 18 higher education institutions fulfils the requirements set by the Discrimination Act for active measures in four stages to counter discrimination of students.
  • The higher education institutions need to develop their efforts to investigate the risks of discrimination.
  • The higher education institutions need to produce clearer processes for their efforts.
  • Knowledge of the Discrimination Act’s requirements needs to improve at the higher education institutions.

“The major shortcoming at Uppsala University is not in the quality or amount of preventive efforts, but in how they are documented. My impression is that the management at Uppsala University is invested in the Discrimination Act. Issues are managed in a delegated and local manner at the organisation, but with central support. We feel this is working well given that the issues are often highly contextual and require local management.”

Cohesive process

The Equality Ombudsman notes in the report that work on active measures is to be managed as part of a cohesive process. The higher education institutions that have not fulfilled the first stage of investigating the risk of all types of discrimination have thus not been able to live up to any of the subsequent stages involving analysis, measures and evaluation either. This is the case regardless of what efforts they have made in the subsequent stages.

“Many initiatives are carried out at the University based on knowledge of the risks of discrimination, without the institution having carried out an investigative stage. In those instances, the Equality Ombudsman has disregarded all of the other initiatives as the first stage of the process was not correct as per their interpretation.”

One-year cycles

The four stages of investigation, analysis, measures and evaluation are to be carried out in one-year cycles and cover all grounds and forms of discrimination at the University.

“This is a challenge for an organisation as complex as Uppsala University. The Act is also problematic in that it prescribes a specific method of working rather than merely requiring the results to be achieved. This means, for example, that measures are to be taken centrally, when it may be more effective to conduct them in a decentralised manner. There should be a good work environment in every area and we should not have discrimination at Uppsala University, but different activities have different conditions and might need to work in different ways.”

Do you have any ideas at this point for measures based on the report?

“One way to improve even further in our work on active measures is to integrate it more clearly into already established processes for educational evaluations and improvement. Our quality and development efforts are working effectively, but work on active measures could be made even more clear as part of these efforts.”