Since 2001 the Swedish Higher Education institutions have been required by the government to produce action plans for widened recruitment and widened participation. The current action plan for the University of Borås covers the years 2009-2012. In 2010 the University of Borås appointed a committee to prepare a new action plan for widened recruitment and widened participation. This committee was complemented by an Advisory Board. Both the Committee and the Advisory Board have taken a proactive and strategic role in helping to build capacity across the university to widen participation. The Committee and the Advisory Board have been mentored and advised by Professor John Storan, University of East London, who has worked extensively in Sweden and is recognised as a leading expert in widening participation in the UK. In 2011 the Board commissioned an internal data report to broaden its understanding of the profile of students. The report will feed into the new action plan. The Student Union delegate in the Advisory Board, Frida Edberg, was employed to undertake field work on diversity among the students for the report and also explore how these matters were dealt with at the different schools of the university. This work was supervised by Annika Malm, coordinator of the Committee and the Advisory Board, and Rolf Appelkvist. Joint editing with contributions from the Board was a vital part of the process with the final version which has been edited by Rolf Appelkvist.
The report covers the following issues:
• Students geographical descent
• Students ethnical origin/background
• Student exchange with other countries
• Students social background
• Student with disabilities
• Gender distributions within the university
• Induction activities for new students
• Results from the first course/courses
• How is the work done at different schools and what can be done – recommendations
Most of the students come from the Västra Götalands-region where Borås is situated (figure 1, p. 3). A substantial proportion of the students come from Göteborg, the largest city in the region. There has been a conception at the university that the students from Göteborg mostly come from the suburbs with lower socio-economic status. This seems to be contradicted by the findings (figure 2, p. 4). However the data only tells us from where the students come, not the socio-economic level of each student.
STUDENTS ETHNICAL BACKGROUND
Twenty-one percent of the students at the University are either born abroad or have one or two parents with non-Swedish origin (figure 3, p. 5). This is in line with the corresponding proportion in the Swedish population.
STUDENT EXCHANGE WITH OTHER COUNTRIES
One important part of ethnical diversity is the amount of incoming exchange students and free-movers. One condition for this is that many Swedish students enough chooses to study abroad for a period. However the imbalance in favor of incoming students is quite large (figure 4, p. 6). This means that because of recent regulations from the government the amount of out-going students needs to be increased to make it possible to maintain a high proportion of incoming students.
SOCIAL BACKGROUND – PARENTS´ EDUCATIONAL LEVEL
There has been a widely shared conception at the University that the students’ socio-economic distribution has been similar to the distribution in the Swedish population. This is changing. Obviously the proportion of students of parents with lower educational background is decreasing while students with parents of higher educational background are increasing in proportion (figure 5, p. 7). Even though the University of Borås still reach a fairly good proportion of students from families with lower educational background, there seems to be a slight tendency that this proportion is getting lower than the national proportion.
No investigations on the reasons for non-completion have been made at the university as a whole. There are data on this at the national level which indicate gender differences and some schools at the university try to investigate in the matter.
STUDENTS WITH FUNCTIONAL DISABILITIES
The University works actively to support students with functional disabilities. Student Service at Library and Learning Resources is mainly responsible for this work. Their main task is to support students in order to make them continue and complete their studies. They are thereby especially working with widened participation. Higher Education institutions can get additional funding for pedagogical support to students with functional disabilities, which are confirmed by a medical certification. The number of students that applied for and got extra support is increasing while the number of students who do not apply is decreasing. However support to students with temporary functional disabilities is not covered by this support, each institution has to finance such support within its own budget.
GENDER DISTRIBUTION WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY OF BORÅS
There is a large imbalance in gender distribution within the university compared to the total Higher Education sector in Sweden. This is largely due to the mix of educational programmes offered at the university. The gender distribution of the specific educational programmes reflects the imbalances within the intended professions in the Swedish society. Gender imbalances are a complex issue at many levels but a Higher Education Institution still has to contribute to influence these in a direction toward less imbalances.
In the report the situation at the dominant educational programmes at each school is described. At the School of Health, the School of Textile, the School of Education and Behavioural Science and the School of Library and Information Science female students are dominating while there is a better balance at the School of Business and IT and at the School of Engineering male students are dominating. All schools use students of both sexes in marketing their educational programmes. Small changes in a favoured direction can be noted but the imbalances are still very large.
Before the students begin at the university they get written information about the university and 2011 they also got information about the services offered by Student Service. During the first three weeks of introduction this is supplemented by oral information at several occasions. The first two days at the university and all afternoons during these three weeks are filled with activities whose purpose is to make the students informed about the university, their school and their educational programme but also to further fellowship among the students and with the staff. These activities are managed by the student union. Most educational programmes offer a first course that not only give an introduction to the entire programme but also gives a fair picture of different academic activities that can be expected during the coming studies. Academic writing, study techniques are introduced in many of these courses. The retention rate during these first courses is fairly high except at programmes given as distance studies.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The introductory activities should be considered further as there are students who find some of them not very interesting. A lot of students do not participate, partly because they are commuting, to a large extent from Göteborg. The activities could be broadened to meet the demands of different student groups, not only the traditional young single students. Also the university must continuously evaluate the information given during this period as there always are students not reached by it. Maybe the university and its schools should participate more in the introductory activities. Most students seems to be content with the introductory courses but more emphasis could be put on informing them about how to do when you fail with an assignment, with an exam etc. Maybe a mobile application could be built to make it easier for the newcomer to navigate in their studies.
The university could consider following up all non-completions on the first course/courses. A closer co-operation between the schools and Student Service is recommended.
The proportion of students from lower educated homes is fairly high at the university but a slight tendency to getting closer to the imbalance in recruiting such students that is common at the large universities can be seen. This needs to be considered continuously.
There is a fairly good representation of students with other ethnical backgrounds at the university but this has to be kept up actively, e.g. by language support. Also the university needs to continue its efforts to convince Swedish students to study abroad in countries outside the European Higher Education area to give room for more incoming exchange students.
The university could give more education to its staff on functional disabilities in order to prevent prejudice regarding these students´ capabilities. Student Service should keep on sending information in advance about their services offered. Also students with functional disabilities could be offered a possibility to meet with the staff at the centre in advance, even before they know if they have been accepted to their applied for programme or not, all to avoid queuing during the first weeks of the academic year. Alternatively resources of the coordinator for students with functional disabilities could be increased.
Högskolan i Borås , 2012.