Transforming Lives

Transforming Lives at the Institutional Level: Equity Promotion Initiatives Across the World

Edited by Jamil Salmi

Transforming Lives at the Institutional Level explores innovative higher education initiatives from around the world aimed at enhancing access and success for underrepresented and marginalized groups. Through 31 case studies spanning seven global regions, this volume offers invaluable insights and lessons learned to inform equity promotion policies and practices.

1 Description
2 Table of Contents
3 Contributors
4 Details


Transforming Lives at the Institutional Level: Equity Promotion Initiatives Across the World, edited by Jamil Salmi, provides an invaluable exploration of innovative initiatives aimed at improving access and success in higher education. This seminal volume presents a collection of case studies from various regions, offering comprehensive insights into successful equity promotion interventions. By documenting both effective practices and failed approaches, this book serves as a valuable resource for institutions, policymakers, and practitioners striving to create inclusive learning environments and bridge the equity gap. Drawing on extensive research and expertise, the contributors to this volume have carefully examined equity promotion policies in different countries and contexts. The book encompasses case studies from East Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America, North America, Oceania, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Western Europe. Each chapter provides a detailed analysis of innovative policies and measures implemented at the institutional level, highlighting their impact, challenges faced, and potential for replication and scalability.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Introduction
Chapter 2 - East-Asia Case Studies
Chapter 3 - Eastern Europe and Central Asia Case Studies
Chapter 4 - Latin America Case Studies
Chapter 5 - North America Case Studies
Chapter 6 - Oceania Case Studies
Chapter 7 - South-Asia Case Studies
Chapter 8 - Sub-Saharan Africa Case Studies
Chapter 9 - Western Europe Case Studies
Chapter 10 - Synthesis: Innovative Initiatives to Improve Access and Success


List of Principal Contributors

  • Nasima Badsha, Higher Education Specialist, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Kata Orosz, Assistant Professor of Higher Education Policy, Central European University, Hungary/Austria.
  • Nidhi S. Sabharwal, Associate Professor, Centre for Policy Research in Higher Education, New Delhi, India.
  • Renato H. L. Pedrosa, Associate Researcher, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of São Paulo.
  • Gerry Postiglione, Professor of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
  • Jamil Salmi, Global Tertiary Education Expert, Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Policy, Diego Portales University, Chile.
  • Andrée Sursock, Senior Advisor to the European University Association.
  • N.V. Varghese, Vice-Chancellor, National Institute of Educational Planning, India.
  • Nadine Zacharias, Director and Owner, Equity by Design, Adjunct Associate Professor of Higher Education Research, Swinburne University
    of Technology, Australia.


Publisher: STAR Scholars Network (2023)
Language: ‎English
Length: ‎ 386 pages
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-195748027-5
Dimensions: ‎ 6 x 9 inches

Discover research-backed strategies to drive meaningful change towards equity and inclusion. Download your free copy of Transforming Lives at the Institutional Level today and get equipped with the knowledge needed to narrow equity gaps in higher education.

Join us for the Book Launch!
October 2, 2023 at 10 am (Eastern Time)

Join us for an insightful discussion led by renowned higher education expert Jamil Salmi, editor of the new book Transforming Lives at the Institutional Level: Equity Promotion Initiatives Across the World. Discover powerful strategies from 31 case studies spanning 7 world regions expanding opportunity for underserved communities. Highlights include:

  • Meet the Editors & Authors: Engage in a live Q&A session with Jamil Salmi and other contributors. Gain insights directly from the authors behind the case studies.

  • Complimentary Book Offer: Select attendees will receive a complimentary print copy of the book.

  • Upcoming Publications & Research: Be the first to learn about forthcoming publications and potential joint research opportunities.

  • Lumina Foundation Spotlight: Hear about exciting programs and initiatives spearheaded by Lumina Foundation, a leading advocate in creating access to quality higher education.

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Join me at the book launch of Jamil Salmi’s new book, Transforming Lives.🌍 Discover powerful strategies to expand opportunity from 31 case studies, spanning 7 world regions. 🗓 October 2nd, 10 AM ET. Reserve your spot: #EquityInHigherEd

Book Summaries

This book was supported with funding from the Lumina Foundation.

Case Study Summaries

Click on the numbers on the right to read summaries of the case studies highlighted in each chapter with case studies from East Asia (Chapter 2), Eastern Europe and Central Asia (Chapter 3), Latin America (Chapter 4), North America (Chapter 5), Oceania (Chapter 6), South Asia (Chapter 7), Sub-Saharan Africa (Chapter 8), Western Europe (Chapter 9), and a synthesis of the initiatives (Chapter 10).

1 Introduction
2 East Asia
3 Eastern Europe and Central Asia
4 Latin America
5 North America
6 Oceania
7 South Asia
8 Sub-Saharan Africa
9 Western Europe
10 Synthesis: Innovative Initiatives to Improve Access and Success

Chapter 1 - Introduction

This book presents case studies of equity promotion initiatives at higher education institutions across the globe. The case studies showcase both successful approaches and failed interventions, providing relevant lessons to inform equity promotion policies and programs.

This chapter provides the context and rationale behind this research. Despite progress, many groups continue to face barriers to quality higher education, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Equity promotion requires comprehensive policies sustained over time, based on data to identify gaps and assess progress.

This study documents institutional practices worldwide to explore which interventions are most effective in expanding higher education access and success for underserved groups. It is based on virtual meetings with experts from diverse regions and background papers analyzing mini case studies in each region using a common framework.

East Asia

Chapter 2 - East Asia

East Asia has seen rapid expansion in higher education participation, but gaps persist between urban and rural areas and among different ethnic and income groups. Institutions have explored various approaches to promote equity.

  • Integration of Low-Income Students at Fudan University, China - Fudan University established an outreach project to promote social integration and peer support for low-income students at the elite institution.
  • Student Aid at the Chinese University of Mining and Technology, China - The university developed innovative student aid instruments including loan forgiveness to assist rural students in financial need.
  • Balanced Regional Selection at Seoul National University, South Korea - SNU's initiative aimed to diversify the student body by balancing admissions across geographic regions and high schools.
  • Equity-Focused Endowment Fund at the Technology University of Malaysia - TUM's access-driven fund provides scholarships and financial assistance for underprivileged students to pursue higher education.
  • First-in-the-Family Fund at the University of Hong Kong - This fund supports first-generation college students at HKU in pursuing experiential learning activities outside the classroom.
Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Chapter 3 - Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Higher education institutions in this region have implemented various initiatives to promote equity, such as supporting students with disabilities, addressing differences in academic preparedness, and facilitating success for marginalized groups.

  • Supporting Roma Students in Hungary: The Case of Romaversitas - This Roma-founded program provides academic services and community support to establish a Roma intellectual middle class and increase graduation rates.
  • Diagnostic Testing and Differentiated First-Year Curriculum at Satbayev University, Kazakhstan - Satbayev University introduced diagnostic testing and tailored first-year courses to address differences in academic preparation and promote student success.
  • Office for Students with Disabilities at Babes-Bolyai University, Romania - Babes-Bolyai established a dedicated office to facilitate inclusion and provide support services for students with disabilities.
  • Mentor Program at Budapest Business School, Hungary - This student-led, faculty-facilitated program matches incoming first-year students with senior student mentors to aid their academic and social transition.
Latin America

Chapter 4 - Latin America

Higher education institutions in this region have implemented various initiatives to promote equity, such as affirmative action policies, indigenous inclusion programs, and community engagement models.

  • Affirmative Action at Unicamp, Brazil - Unicamp adopted bonus points and quotas based on school system origin and race/ethnicity to increase participation of disadvantaged groups like rural, low-income, black and indigenous students.
  • PACE Access Program at University of Santiago, Chile - The PACE program provides an alternative pathway for vulnerable high school students to gain admission to Chile’s most elite universities.
  • Indigenous Inclusion at Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, Mexico - Chapingo redesigned its admissions process to increase indigenous student enrollment and support, making it Mexico’s university with the highest indigenous participation.
  • Universidades Populares at National University of Córdoba, Argentina - Through its Popular Universities initiative, Córdoba partners with local communities to provide adult education and facilitate university access.
North America

Chapter 5 - North America

Institutions in North America have implemented programs to increase representation and success for marginalized groups like Indigenous, Black, and low-income students.

  • Aboriginal Access Studies at University of British Columbia, Canada - UBC Okanagan's program prepares Indigenous students for degree programs through a customized curriculum and holistic supports.
  • Serving Native Students with Holistic Student Supports, USA - A consortium of Western US colleges collaborated to provide academic, financial, and cultural aid to boost access and completion rates for Native American students.
  • Coaching North Carolina Community College Students, USA - North Carolina colleges utilized technology-based coaching to provide personalized guidance addressing academic and non-academic challenges faced by first-generation students.
  • Culture of Caring at Amarillo Community College, USA - Amarillo College shifted its culture to address basic student needs like food, housing, and healthcare as a prerequisite for academic success among disadvantaged groups.

Chapter 6 - Oceania

Higher education institutions in Oceania have implemented various initiatives to promote equity, such as supporting indigenous students, addressing socioeconomic disadvantages, and improving access and success for underrepresented groups.

  • Indigenous Student Services at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia - provides specialized support services and culturally enriched spaces to create a welcoming environment for indigenous students.
  • Queensland Widening Tertiary Participation Consortium, Australia - This consortium of universities coordinates outreach programs to improve access for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Embedded Equity Program at University of Western Australia - UWA embedded equity initiatives into the core business of the university to systematically address barriers faced by underrepresented students.
  • Indigenizing an elite university in New Zealand: Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland - This program aims to create an inclusive environment and transform institutional culture to better serve Māori students and staff.
South Asia

Chapter 7 - South Asia

Higher education institutions in South Asia have implemented various initiatives to promote equity and inclusion, such as providing academic and social support for disadvantaged students, enhancing access through targeted admissions policies, and promoting gender equality.

  • Equity Policies of IIT Bombay, Maharashtra, India - IIT Bombay provides mentoring, counseling, academic rehabilitation, and English language support to aid disadvantaged students' transition and success.
  • Equity Policies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India - JNU uses "deprivation points" in admissions to enhance representation of disadvantaged regions, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Equity Policies Bharathiar University, Tamil Nadu, India - Bharathiar has established scholarships for women, a sexual harassment committee, and security measures to promote gender equality in higher education.
  • Equity Initiatives at Tribhuvan University, Nepal - Tribhuvan provides scholarships, fee waivers, and hostel access aimed at low-income students from marginalized groups.
Sub-Saharan Africa

Chapter 8 - Sub-Saharan Africa

Higher education institutions across Sub-Saharan Africa have implemented various initiatives to promote equity, such as supporting students with disabilities, improving access for disadvantaged groups, and facilitating student success.

  • Disability Inclusion: The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Gondar, Ethiopia - The university partners with the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program to provide scholarships, support services, and institutional capacity building for students with disabilities.
  • Improving Access to Postgraduate Education at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS – Rwanda) - The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences provides scholarships, mentoring, and research opportunities in STEM fields for talented students across Africa.
  • Promoting Access through the Creative Arts: University of the Western Cape and Youth from the Rural Community of Barrydale, South Africa - The University of the Western Cape collaborates with local partners to engage rural youth in the arts and support their transition to higher education.
  • Siyaphumelela Project to Promote Equitable Student Success at the University of the Free State, South Africa - The university employs data analytics, targeted interventions, and student engagement initiatives to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students.
  • Access for Refugees at Jesuit Worldwide Learning, Kenya - JWL offers online tertiary education to refugees and marginalized communities through a network of education partners worldwide.
Western Europe

Chapter 9 - Western Europe

Higher education institutions in this region have implemented various initiatives to promote equity, such as supporting refugees, facilitating labor market transitions, and decolonizing curricula.

  • Integrating Refugees into Higher Education and the Labor Market, Germany - Stendal University provided academic pathways and support services to integrate refugees into higher education and the labor market.
  • Boosting Finnish Engineering Innovation Competence, and Addressing the Needs of Unemployed Adults and Immigrants - A consortium of universities offered reskilling and upskilling courses in technology fields to improve innovation capacity and address unemployment.
  • Cooperative Education for all Undergraduate Students at the University of Limerick, Ireland - The university provides work-integrated learning opportunities through required internships to facilitate employability for all students.
  • Decolonizing the  Curriculum in Scotland - A consortium of Scottish universities is reviewing curricula across disciplines to challenge colonial legacies. Universities have undertaken initiatives to diversify staff, support students of color, and decolonize curricula to address racial inequity.
Synthesis: Innovative Initiatives to Improve Access and Success

Chapter 10 - Synthesis: Innovative Initiatives to Improve Access and Success

The final chapter synthesizes the cross-cutting lessons learned from the 29 institutional case studies presented in the book. The case studies cover 21 countries across 7 global regions and explore a diverse range of equity promotion initiatives targeting various underrepresented groups. Three key success factors emerge:

  • Holistic support combining financial and non-monetary interventions tailored to each student's situation.
  • Sustained funding to ensure long-term sustainability and scale-up potential. National authorities should provide public funding to match equity commitments. Institutions can also leverage corporate philanthropy.
  • Team-based implementation anchored in a shared vision and ethic of care. Working from common values and maintaining stable teams over time is crucial.

The study also revealed two areas needing more attention:

  • Support for labor market entry. Graduates from underrepresented groups often face obstacles entering the workforce that other graduates do not encounter. Equity initiatives should encompass outreach, retention and transition to employment.
  • Fostering a sense of belonging. First-generation students at elite universities can feel culturally isolated. Creating an inclusive institutional culture is vital for retention.

Praises for the Book

Campus Toolkit

This Campus Toolkit provides a set of resources as a starting point to guide higher education institutions in assessing, developing, and implementing academic excellence and equity initiatives.

Leaders can use the scorescard to identify gaps and develop strategic initiatives.

Review current policies with an equity lens and develop recommendations to advance inclusion.

Faculty can dialogue about how diverse voices and perspectives are integrated into teaching and learning.

 Ideas for collaborative forums and events to engage students in equity initiatives, gather input, and foster inclusion.

Sample indicators, dashboards, and data visualization tools to track progress and outcomes of equity initiatives over time.

Workshops, resources, and programs for leaders to gain knowledge and skills to advance equity.

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This book is about the role and contribution of universities and other types of higher education institutions to the reduction of social disparities.

Strong education systems do not only prepare qualified professionals to serve the local economy and their communities, but they can help lift deprived population groups out of poverty.

In attempting to socially support marginalized students, a precarious balance should be attained between gathering them into a supportive community and keeping the community free from stigmatization.