Based on scientific findings, the HEAD Wheel (short for Higher Education Awareness for Diversity) was designed to serve as a frame of reference for a holistic diversity management that embraces five interconnected diversity segments (demographic, cognitive, disciplinary, functional and institutional diversity). In framing this complex matter along the lines of a wheel, it is sought to visualise all diversity aspects that are relevant for higher education institutions (HEI) and, in doing so, shed a holistic light on diversity management and its incorporated measures at the tertiary level.
Based on scientific findings the HEAD Wheel was designed to serve as a frame of reference for a holistic diversity management that embraces five interconnected diversity segments:
- DEMOGRAPHIC diversity refers to mostly stable and group-forming categories such as age, gender, sexual orientation, physical and psychological disabilities, ethnicity and race and religion and belief. This segment is increasingly regarded as a normative goal for higher education institutions (HEI) and requires support structures that promote educational equity and accountability. In the spirit of a permeable university policy, one additional aspect, namely social mobility with an eye on a non-traditional student body, was taken into account.
- COGNITIVE diversity is a diversity lens that looks at differences as a resource upon which to develop a competence-focused mind-set. Differing knowledge and value structures shall be exploited to achieve more creative and innovative solutions. When looking at cognitive diversity from a tertiary level, it is to be enriched by educational and ethical aspects where skills development and competence orientation take centre stage.
- DISCIPLINARY diversity refers to both targeted cooperation between different professional groups and to transdisciplinary border crossing. The exchange of disciplinary expertise and perspective may result in increased creativity and a higher degree of innovation.
- FUNCTIONAL diversity places an institutional focus on internal processes of organisational learning, team cohesion and team performance. Working in functional groups may help to detect blind spots that typically impair an agent’s capacity to see beyond one’s department or discipline.
- INSTITUTIONAL diversity points to the advantage of inter-organisational diversity. It refers to the collaboration with external stakeholders (in our project predominantly with different HEIs). While companies are predominantly driven by an economic strategic approach when interacting with each other, universities also promote mutual exchanges of experience for the sake of a societal contribution.