Anti-Racism Case Studies

This page is part of the Inclusion Case Studies from the Inclusion Framework.
These case studies illustrate some of the ways in which EUTOPIA partners are combatting racism, decolonising their curricula, and improving the experience of international students.

Please note that the following information is correct at the time of writing (November 2022), but is subject to change.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel


WeDecolonizeVUB is a student-led project that seeks to decolonise the university through a range of different initiatives. WeDecolonizeVUB operates under the banner of the University Centre for Development Cooperation (UCOS), a Belgian NGO affiliated with VUB that works with all Flemish universities.

The project is run by student volunteers, including members of student organisations that represent ethnic minorities. Activities aim to offer students of colour safe spaces in which to reflect on and discuss issues that affect their everyday lives. The project also provides all VUB students with the tools to learn more about the white, male, heteronormative, and colonialist foundations on which European universities are built, and to begin deconstructing their Eurocentric and Western-biased perspective.

The WeDecolonize Library was the first endeavour of the project, providing a range of fiction and non-fiction books by non-Western authors, to provide educational materials about decolonisation and anti-racism. As well as the physical library on the VUB campus, there is also a searchable Online Library which gives access to a large number of articles on various topics.

Numerous events are hosted in the library and elsewhere, including:

  • Open Days to raise awareness about the project
  • Expert talks by activists and artists, such as the ‘Racial Bias in Tech’ event in March 2022
  • Table Talks (speed-networking events)
  • Educational programmes such as the five-day Braver Spaces Summer School (organised in collaboration with Braver Spaces Antwerp and WITS University Fine Arts Department, Johannesburg)
  • Musical performances

The project aims to develop more activities and support structures to benefit racialised students, and to further the goals of decolonisation throughout the university. WeDecolonizeVUB partners from time to time with the university’s Equality Team, and with institutional decolonisation projects such as such as the recent (ongoing) Curriculum Scan.

Fatima Mernissi Chair

The Fatima Mernissi Chair was founded in 2017, as an initiative of RHEA (see the case study in Gender Equality[link]), in collaboration with Crosstalks. The Chair is part of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Solvay Business School, and is currently held by Professor Dr. Iman Lechkar.

Fatima Mernissi was a prominent Moroccan sociologist who was of great importance in the development of feminism in the Muslim world. The Chair honours her legacy by promoting academic and social engagement, interdisciplinary research, and a socially binding programme of public lectures and workshops on power, gender, and Islam.

Overall, the Fatima Mernissi Chair challenges the dominance of Western knowledge, and aims to transform the structure of the university so that it can become a pluriversity, where underprivileged groups are not only a subject of study but can also act as producers of knowledge and theory, and as co-creators of academic spaces.

The Fatima Mernissi Chair has both an academic and socially oriented pillar:

Academic pillar:
The Chair aims to foster research that focus on the following four topics:

  • The so-called ‘Muslim issue’, more specifically the framing of power, gender and Islam in contemporary scientific and social debates. The main focus lies on innovative and critical voices.
  • Identity (and perceptions about identity) among the Muslim populations in Europe, with special attention to young people. Here the focus is on new ideas and practices that are growing within the Muslim populations themselves, such as identity formation and the interpretation of ‘masculinity’ and 'femininity', or of ‘feminism’ and ‘Islam’.
  • Explore the possibilities and limitations of the current political structures and cultures of today’s liberal democracies in light of the integration of Islam in Europe.
  • Brussels and its diverse dynamics and communities.

Socially oriented pillar:
Too often, research is limited to the confines of a university campus, and is not disclosed to the broader public. As well as supporting research in the above topics, the Chair aims to make this research accessible, enabling it have an impact on the surrounding society.

The second pillar therefore involves a dialogue between science and society (opinion-makers, socio-cultural organisations, artists, activists and other stakeholders) on the broad topics of power, gender and Islam.

With a programme of regular events, the Chair aims to create spaces where marginalised groups of the European metropolitan capital are able to express their aspirations and frustrations, and where they can compare their experiences to other struggles against dominant, colonial and imperial structures.

There are numerous initiatives from the social and cultural sectors that critically rethink Islam and that look for ways to positively shape how we coexist. By creating a platform for public debate, VUB plays an important and constructive role in the mutual exchange of knowledge. An important catalyst for this is the annual ‘Academia Meets Society’ event, a forum for innovative, critical voices to create activist, policy-oriented or artistic activities.

University of Gothenburg

Anti-racism courses

There are several curriculum-based opportunities to explore cultural differences, intercultural communication, and methods for combatting racism.

As well as a master’s programme in Language and Intercultural Communication, individual modules on intercultural communication are also available to students in various faculties. The aim of these interdisciplinary courses is primarily focused on equipping students to engage with a diverse and international labour market. Participants develop the skills needed to explore, interpret, and understand a range of linguistic and cultural expressions, and to draw conclusions about how discourses on culture and cultural difference can influence communication.

The Segerstedt Institute is a national resource centre whose mission is to contribute to increased knowledge about preventive work against violent ideologies, violent structures, antisemitism, and racist organisations. Among its many research- and education-related activities, the institute runs a 15-credit module on Tolerance, Identity, and Extremism, in collaboration with the Department of Pedagogy, Communication, and Learning. The module, rooted in a narrative history of racism and right-wing extremism, aims to help children and young people develop awareness of these issues, and to help teachers, youth workers, and social workers develop didactic competence to address racism in their pedagogical work. Parts of the course involve excursions to Poland.

Programmes to supplement foreign qualifications

In Sweden, professions in healthcare, teaching, and social work are strictly regulated, and a Swedish professional licence is required to be able to practise them. The Swedish Council for Higher Education has an Ordinance on HE bridging programmes to supplement foreign qualifications, and since 2007 the University of Gothenburg has offered supplementary programmes for this purpose, supported by government funding.

Eight such programmes are currently offered at Gothenburg, with those focused on teaching attracting the largest numbers of students. The university is also the national coordinator for supplemental programmes for biomedical scientists and analysts.

These programmes are supported by strong relationships with relevant organisations in the surrounding regions: for example the Sahlgrenska Academy (the faculty for medicine and health sciences) has a close cooperation with regional healthcare and dental institutions.

The programmes emphasise the importance of good knowledge in the Swedish language, which is also a compulsory requirement to obtain a Swedish license. All the programmes are delivered in Swedish and some provide an extra semester in academic Swedish.

The University of Gothenburg has to submit annual reports to the government reporting data about student engagement, completion, and drop-outs, and about how programmes are evaluated internally. 

These programmes enable the inclusion of people with degrees from outside the EU and EEA in the Swedish labour market. They also promote widening access and participation, lifelong learning, and diversity and inclusion in the university context.

Make Your Own Passport (MYOP)

The University of Gothenburg’s Centre on Global Migration (CGM) aims to promote and support research, education and utilisation of knowledge in global migration and integration. Since 2018, Dr. Tintin Wulia (a postdoctoral fellow and artist at CGM) has been expanding the centre’s collaborative network through the participatory art project Make Your Own Passport (MYOP), a series of workshops conducted in public spaces to provide access to lifelong learning on citizenship.

The MYOP workshop focuses on the topic of migration and statelessness, and uses a material, participatory methodology. It actively engages participants, in public spaces, in an intimate discussion via a tangible process with an iconic object of the border: ‘the passport’. Participants from diverse backgrounds gather to engage in dialogue and create a material output to take home with them, using the artistic tools provided.

The MYOP workshop itself has been running since 2014, four years before it was introduced in Gothenburg. When the workshop was conducted in Southside Chicago, USA, in the wake of Trump’s election in 2016, one participant explained the unique learning opportunity: ‘Talking about our views of the world drew each of us, all very different people, together organically.’ The workshop is now conducted in public spaces in the Västra Götaland region and beyond, and participants’ feedback indicates that it is an excellent opportunity to learn about citizenship, statelessness, and privilege.

Since being initiated at Gothenburg, the MYOP workshops have reached over 500 active participants (taking into account that many events were cancelled due to the pandemic). This has been achieved through collaboration between CGM, colleagues and staff at the university, and a wide range of external collaborators. It has been delivered at a local Intercultural Centre, at the celebration of UN Arabic Day at the Gothenburg Museum of World Culture, and as an integrated part of the curriculum of a local high school.

International Student Experience Workshop

This online workshop was conducted in November 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, and was overseen by three different departments: Welcome Services, the International Centre, and the Section of Student & Educational Support. It was based on similar workshops that had been run in-person by the International Centre, before Covid.

The goal of the workshop was to bring together international students and enable them to share experiences and opportunities, and to discuss the challenges they were facing. During the pandemic, it became harder than ever for international students to find out what studying and living in Gothenburg entails, or for university staff to assess students’ satisfaction and wellbeing.

The workshop explored students’ reasons for choosing to study in Gothenburg, the support they received before and after their arrival, and the inclusiveness of the learning environment. Menti, Padlet, and Zoom breakout rooms were used to facilitate discussion.

Of the 63 students who signed up, only five were exchange students. This may indicate that international students taking a full degree are more in need of support and face more challenges.

Students appreciated the opportunity for dialogue. As one participant said: ‘Today's workshop made me understand that some of the other international students are also going through the same challenges as I am right now. It was great to have a chance to talk to them.’

University of Ljubljana

Support for foreign students

The University of Ljubljana provides extra-curricular tutoring to guide students through their studies, attending to both their personal and academic development as they transition from school to university, and from one year of study to another.

Students (as well as staff) can act as tutors, either as an elective during their programme of study, or as a paid role; in either case, the work is acknowledged on the student’s degree transcript. For staff, tutoring is recognised in calculating their work-load. Student tutors are trained by the Career Centre, have regular meetings with the tutorship coordinator, and participate in a reporting process every half-year. Those being tutored also provide feedback about their experience via regular surveys.

The tutoring system enables more prompt and effective identification of any special needs that students may have (see also the Ljubljana case studies in Disability [link]). The tutoring is especially designed to foster the inclusion of students from outside Slovenia, helping to orient them in an unfamiliar country and academic environment.

Because the University of Ljubljana often receives students from the former republics of Yugoslavia, texts are provided in Croatian, Bosnian, or English, and subtitles are used in video materials. The tutoring system enables ongoing dialogue with these students to review and adjust the support they are receiving.

The School of Economics and Business (SEB) has its own dedicated tutoring system, SEBuddies, in which local students help exchange students with documentation, accommodation, and other orientation issues on campus: see the online guide produced by student mentors. The SEBuddies also arrange regular social activities for exchange students to participate in throughout their time in Ljubljana. Every exchange student is offered a buddy, and is invited to attend an introductory virtual meeting two months before the start of the semester. A gala reception is held at the end of the academic year to recognise student tutors’ work, and to award them with certificates.

The SEB itself has support staff who inform and advise foreign students regarding any challenges they are facing, in collaboration with the International Office of the university’s student organisation, ŠOU v Ljubljani.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the above-mentioned support structures successfully transferred online, and a larger number of students began volunteering to work as tutors.