Information about the partner

echo kleur

In 1994 the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (HBO-Raad) took the initiative in the establishment of ECHO, Center for Diversity Policy. Establishing ECHO was a political decision. Echo was established as a centre of knowledge, advice and innovation with the primary objective to increase the participation of ethnic minorities in higher education and to improve successful completion among ethnic minority students. In 1992 participation of non-western ethnic minorities in higher education was about 1% on a national level. In 2009 this share has increased to 26%.

ECHO developed a broader concept over the years to what diversity means. This broader concept was a result of its research, its project activities and learning of good practices of (inter) national partners. The productive reciprocity between research and practical experience gained from being involved in numerous implementation trajectories and projects with national and international partners. This has enabled ECHO to be one of the forbearers of a new vision in regard to diversity in the Netherlands. As an expertise centre for diversity policy ECHO aims to create an optimal educational and working climate for individuals to realize their full potential not regardless but with regard and appreciation of their background. The positive connotation to the term diversity is firmly rooted in the ‘pedagogy of excellence’ and the pedagogy of narratives’ refined and disseminated by Echo through all its activities.
ECHO started as a (government) fully funded organization, until 2003. 2013 will be the tenth year as an independent, not for profit foundation. In the past 10 years the ministry of Education Culture and Science continued to consult ECHO to work with universities across the country to improve access and successful completion of 1st generation migrant students. For this matter ECHO was and still is involved in major policy developments that were in place from 2002 – 2013. ECHO’s main roles are to advise on policy and implementation of strategic goals to the ministry, to advise to universities as well and collaborate with university representatives of different levels within institutions, to disseminate the developed practices and knowledge and more recently the development of a set of performance indicators on access and success for universities in the urban areas.


ECHO works on the development of approaches for policy and implementation of diversity in higher education and the labor market. From the acquired expertise around the participation of ethnic minorities in higher education, ECHO positions itself by focusing on new opportunities for developments. We provide (policy) advice and training to manage the end-to-end process in relation to diversity policy together with our clients. ECHO also organizes an annual conference, and annually 2 study tours for educators and government officials to the US and Canada to learn from good practice. The study tours have influenced the development of policy and practice at Dutch universities and even more awareness on sensitive issues related to diversity of professionals who were part of these study tours. ECHO’s international network can be seen as a unique selling point in comparison with other similar organizations in the Netherlands.
Furthermore ECHO challenges itself within a continuously changing society to direct itself to present a positive image of ethnic minorities by revealing their talent through the ECHO Foundation. From 2001 until now nominated ethnic minority students are awarded with an Echo Award. Every year between two and five awards are given to excelling ethnic minority students who not only excel on study performance but are also active within their institutions and even more important, in society. Large corporations are partner of the ECHO Foundation. For 12 years now every year universities nominate their very talented students who meet the criteria. More than 400 students have been nominated in the past twelve years. Apart from the ECHO Awards, there is a STEM Award, a Teaching for Excellence Award, a NOS Media Award and last year a new Award for Healthcare. The ECHO Award started in 2001 and the present Prime Minister Mark Rutte who was the State Secretary for higher education then initiated ECHO Foundation in 2005.

In recent years, ECHO has initiated several policy-oriented studies to better understand factors of widening participation and successful completion of migrant students compared to native Dutch students in higher education. ECHO has also initiated the quantitative collection of data on a national level on access, retention and graduation of students based on their ethnic origin. In the past years Echo also wrote several evaluation documents and we are now in the process of evaluating a process with all 10 universities. ECHO was successful in writing a tender for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in 2008 to focus on developing a sustainable infrastructure at universities in urban areas to improve access, retention and successful completion of all students at urban universities. In the course of this project ECHO supports the aim of the ministry to make agreements with these institutions based on performance indicators that are relevant to the aims of this project. For this reason we developed:

  • Trend analysis for all ten universities. Each university got a quantitative base line measurement based on national data of the ministry of education. ECHO was authorized by the ministry to use national data of all universities.
  • ECHO developed a qualitative base line measurement as well for all universities based on their developments and achievements in the past and based on their plans and strategies for the coming year.
  • In 2013 the ministry as well as the ten universities will receive a final evaluation of their achievements of the past years.
  • ECHO also participated in an urban study on access and success in higher education. This study was coordinated by the European Access Network and funded by the Lumina Foundation.
    Our role in the project

ECHO will have a role in:

the running of the project;
the validation of research as part of an independent panel;
the dissemination of practice examples and other deliverables of the project within our network of all universities in the Netherlands as well as through partner organizations and networks in Europe for instance the European Access Network (EAN). Executive Director of ECHO is founding member and current President of EAN.
Dissemination can be achieved through workshops at the annual ECHO Conference in the Netherlands, always in the beginning of November. At the annual EAN conference in June in a European city.
Good practices and developed tools can be implemented at Train the Trainer events in the Netherlands. These events are for professionals in higher education.

Our project team

Mary Tupan

More than 20 years of experience on the area of improving access and success of underrepresented groups in higher education, in particular ethnic minority students. Experience with policy development on government level and at Echo. Tupan with her team at Echo developed and implemented a vision, a strategy and interventions to successfully improve access and success of these groups in collaboration with universities. Tupan has served in national and international panels and committees for research, advising, auditing and identifying good practices of higher education institutions and the government.
Relevant publications where Tupan was involved as an author or commissioner:

  • Crul, M.R.J., Wolff, R.P., Talent gewonnen. Talent verspild, (A quantitative analysis of access, retention and graduation rates of migrant and Dutch students 1997 – 2000, conducted for ECHO by the Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies, University of Amsterdam), Utrecht (ECHO, 2002)
  • Wolff, R.P., Crul, M.R.J., Blijvers en uitvallers in het hoger onderwijs. (Stayers and leavers in higher education. A qualitative study to the reasons why students retain or drop out in higher education, conducted for ECHO by the Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies, University of Amsterdam) Utrecht (ECHO, 2003)
  • Tupan-Wenno, M.O., Van verandering tot verankering (From change to mainstreaming. A proposal for increasing access and successful completion of a diverse student student body through institutional change and implementation at 7 pilot institutions, Utrecht (ECHO, 2003)
  • Severiens, S., Wolff, R.P. , Rezai, S., Diversiteit in leergemeenschappen, ( A qualitative study to stimulating learning environments for a diverse student body, conducted for ECHO by RISBO Research Training Consultancy, Erasmus University Rotterdam), Utrecht in (ECHO, 2006).
  • Wolff, R. P., Met vallen en opstaan. (A quantitative analysis of access, retention and graduation rates of migrant and Dutch students 1997 – 2005, conducted for ECHO by the Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies, University of Amsterdam), Utrecht (ECHO, 2007).
  • ECHO was also interviewed for the OECD, Thematic review of tertiary education in The Netherlands, Paris 2007.
  • Van Schravendijk, C., Tupan-Wenno, M.O., Van beleid naar beleving, een kwestie van een lange adem. (From policy to awareness, a long-term development. The final report with results of 21 universities who got funding to improve access and successful completion of their diverse student population), Utrecht (ECHO, 2010)