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New index tells students- Who is the most diverse of them all? Or not?

A new tool now enables international students to further tailor their global study choice by assessing cultural diversity of the student body in a prospective institution. The recently launched
Diversity Index, by Hotcourses a course search site with global reach, draws on official government data to demonstrate the mix of nationalities present at university campuses. Currently, the index is available for universities across the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand.

At the top of ‘ the most diverse’ universities stands UK’s University of Westminster (169 nationalities), in the US Houston Community college ranks top (151) , followed by New York University, Australia’s University of Sydney places fourth (144) and finally University of Auckland in   New Zealand completes the table (53). Indeed the multicultural make-up of the student body for a fair share of international students may become an increasingly important factor when choosing an institution and destination - the reach of the tool though currently framing diversity insights into the Anglo-Saxon speaking realm of education.   

Accompanying the Diversity index is the, somewhat juxtaposing, ‘Feel at home index’ that allows students to evaluate the proportion of peers of their own nationality at a given university. Supporting students to search for those campuses where their cultural equals are strongly represented is intended to serve those who, in their study choice, seek ‘safety in numbers’.

Arguably thought needs to be paid, as to how such an index that facilitates students in pinpointing those environments most homogeneous to their own culture or with a particular national dominance/absence as a measure of their study choice, might affect the progress of multinational learning environments in the future, and may induce some precarity to the project of the globally open university where diverse cultures are empowered to feel at home.

With the level of mobility and internationalized profile that today’s contemporary student body enjoys, shaping their aspirations in terms of study experience and value placed on globalized university environments, such measures of diversity, offering a new dimension to traditional rankings, may indeed gain importance as a benchmarking tool for institutions to compare to their national and global peers.  

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