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Recognize structural racism – VARAVA helps!

At the beginning of November, Laurea launched a new project, The Host University of Applied Sciences – nationally against racism, or VARAVA, which is funded by the European Asylum, Immigration and Integration Fund. VARAVA is developing Finnish polytechnics towards a more receptive operating culture, so that equality is achieved regardless of a person’s ethnic background.

Projects Background and Reasons:

Polytechnics operate at the intersection of working life and public services. Students graduating from polytechnics are the makers and decision-makers of the future. Polytechnics thus play a key role in creating an equal working life and can have a wide-ranging impact on the social climate through their example, activities and stakeholder cooperation. However, we need policies, a new kind of community and an open culture to identify and raise awareness of structural racism, which is a barrier to receptivity. In addition, practical skills are needed e.g. adoption of anti-racist methods in teaching. By internalizing the anti-racist operating culture, the future polytechnic can strengthen the receptivity of Finnish society and support the ongoing sustainable growth program.

The Finnish government’s goal is to improve the accessibility of higher education institutions and the program of measures to prevent bullying, violence and harassment in educational institutions challenge higher education institutions to promote equality between students and staff. According to the OKM study, the internationalization of higher education institutions has increased diversity, which, however, does not automatically guarantee equality regardless of ethnic background. Equality issues can be related to different stages of the process, such as recruitment and application, study and training, or employment. For example, according to the University of Applied Sciences’ student association SAMOKs survey of the values and attitudes of polytechnic students, minority students face more harassment than students on average. Most often, harassment targets students who look different than the mainstream, or have different ethnical background or ideological beliefs.

Projects objectives

VARAVA develops (1) the ability of polytechnics to identify structural racism, (2) the student’s service path from recruitment to employment, and (3) anti-racist teaching methods. Project actors implement a service design process, developing the stages of a service path for a student from a third country, from applying for studies to employment. The process includes nationwide survey and background research, as well as co-development and development of teaching methods. Development work is documented and narrated.

Project actors

Students, staff and stakeholders from Laurea, Seinäjoki and Tampere Polytechnics are participating in the development of the service path for students from third countries. Lyfta Oy documents and narrates the change process. The partners are the student organizations of the three universities, the national student and employee organizations (SAMOK, Arene, Akava), experts on anti-racism and receptivity, such as the Migration Institute, the Ethnic Relations Advisory Board ETNO and other key partners, social actors, experts, employers.

How will the project look at Laurea during 2022?

We conduct a nationwide survey of students and staff. We gather information on the past activities of polytechnics as developers of receptivity: in which networks we operate and what actions have already been taken. We conduct co-development workshops with international students, staff and stakeholders. We draw up a national action plan, recommendations for action and compile anti-racist expertise into a usable format (information package, MOOC).

OKM 2021. Towards a more accessible university.
OKM 2021. Program of measures to prevent bullying, violence and harassment.
SAMOK 2019. Values and attitudes of polytechnic students.