Enhance IDM!

Enhanced Programme Leadership for Inclusion and Diversity Management in Higher Education

“Enhance IDM!” is working on training and development materials to promote more inclusive practices amongst Programme Leaders in Higher Education.

In line with the Austrian Strategy on the Social Dimension the objectives of the project are twofold. Firstly, the project aims to raise awareness among this key staff group in higher education institutions by enhancing their competences in relation to inclusion and diversity management (IDM). Secondly, the project aims to foster an enhanced learning and teaching experience for all students by helping to reduce drop-out rates and boosting student success.


Target group: Study Programme Leaders

Programme Leaders play a vital role in ensuring the quality of the student experience and are usually right at the heart of that experience. Programme Leaders supervise and regulate access to their programmes, they are responsible for the design and implementation of (inclusive) curricula, they retain personal contact with students and are aware of their problems in navigating the curriculum and in the classroom. Further, they act as supervisors to teaching and administrative staff. Programme leaders thus occupy a central position regarding access and retention of non-traditional students or underrepresented groups in tertiary education. Ultimately, this group of academic middle managers has far-reaching potential to create more inclusive study environments.


The raised diversity awareness of programme leaders, administrative and academic staff, higher education management and students is subsequently expected

  • to support the vertical and horizontal permeability duo to enhanced awareness and support for student’s needs,
  • to reduce student drop-out (especially related to non-traditional students) and enhance student success due to a customised and diversity-sensitive student support structure and
  • to enhance the social competences of all students and enhance graduate employability (due to a broader understanding and appreciation of diversity in a complex world).

Conceptual framing:

This project draws on a comprehensive governance frame called HEAD Wheel. 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.