The semantics of diversity in higher education: differences between the Global North and Global South

Pedro Pineda, Shweta Mishra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (SciVal)


Inspired by neo-institutional theory, we explore whether the semantics of diversity appears to be global and universal through computer-assisted content analysis of 2378 publications. Diversity discourses are dominant, but only in the USA and Canada, UK and Ireland and Europe, not being present in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Diversity is interpreted differently across regions influenced by the local socio-political settings. Academic literature on diversity first appeared in the USA and Canada in the mid-1970s in relation to race and gender. In other English-speaking countries, diversity gained momentum only in the mid-2000s, with inclusion, gender, ethnicity and cultural diversity being the dominant terminologies. Later in that decade, diversity appeared in the academic literature in Europe, often framed as inclusion and gender. We did not find any evidence that the semantics of diversity has become global or universal and, therefore, question the cultural globalisation and the worldwide standardisation of academic knowledge around the valorisation of individual and collective differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)865-886
Number of pages22
JournalHigher Education
Issue number4
Early online date12 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank John W. Meyer, Bernd Kleimann, Anna Gerchen and Eva Vögtle for comments that help us in preparing the final version of this article. We also would like to express gratitude to Katherine Bird and Maxwell Harris for editing and proofreading this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Academic discourse
  • Bibliometric review
  • Diversity
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Globalisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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