Diversity at HU

Ethnic background and racism

Structural racism is deeply enshrined into German society. The term refers to discrimination on the basis of origin or perceived characteristics such as appearance or names that differ from those of the White social majority.


The university as a mirror of society

As any other university, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin mirrors society and as a result is not immune to racist discrimination. In the 2019 survey "Diversity at HU", 31 percent of respondents report having experienced or witnessed discrimination based on racist acriptions at least once at HU.

Discrimination based on ethnic or geographical origin takes many forms in academia. If children are disadvantaged on the basis of such characteristics already at school, this also hinders their access to higher education and academia later on. Teaching content and research interests frequently neglect non-White knowledge and as a result perpetuate a Eurocentrism in science. In addition, people of colour and migrant populations regularly experience stereotypical attributions, derogatory comments and racist harassment or may not be taken seriously in their capacity as experts.

In its sum, present-day university still does not sufficiently reflect the immigration society that is Germany today. People who experience racism at HU may contact the central women's representative or her decentral colleagues in confidence, as well as the anti-racism counselling offered by the student body, the officer for complaints in accordance with AGG and the university's conflict counselling (includes one counsellor of colour).


Historical obligations

Apart from its commitment to dismantle discrimination, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin also has a historical responsibility to critically reflect racist thought based on its history. Many disciplines at the Berlin Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, HU's precedessor, profited from the university's entanglement in German colonialism. Disciplines like anthrology or geography in particular produced a body of essentialising and racist knowledge on colonial subjects. Similarly, the legal studies debated questions of the so-called "native law".

Not least, scientists at Charité Berlin hospital conducted research on human remains that partly originated from the German colonial territories. The Charité Human Remains Project has been doing provenance research on these remains since 2010 and has since then repatriated part of the collection back to its areas of provenance.

Humboldt international

In its internationalisation policy, Humboldt-Universität has set for itself the goal of becoming an international work and study place. International students and scientists are an asset to the university by bringing diverse perspectives, experiences and idees into teaching and research. People from abroad who are interested in studying or doing research at HU may contact the international office as well as the inital counselling international applicants.

In addition, the initiative refugees welcome at HU offers counselling, language courses and workshops targeted at people who have experienced displacement. The international office also holds regular intercultural trainings open to all students. A further counselling service for international students is offered by the student body.


Dismantling structual barriers

In order to transform Humboldt-University into a diverse work and study place, more is needed than attracing students and researchers from abroad. The university also aims to dismantle structural barriers for people of colour and people with family migration background in Germany in order to prevent these groups from being underrepresented in higher education. This includes, for instance, awareness-raising measures amongst educators and staff to sensitise them to structural racism.

In addition, there is a range of mentoring programms targeting interested pupils or first-year students with a family migration background in order to facilitate their start at HU. These include Club Lise at campus Adlershof, the programme MigraMentor for pupils who have experienced displacement as well as firstgen, a mentoring programme directed at first generation students.


Migration and integration research

The Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research is affiliated to the faculty of humanities and social sciences and conducts interdisciplinary research on racism against people of colour, anti-Muslim racism and antisemitism. The institute focuses, apart from the more fundamental segregation mechanisms in the German immigration society, particularly on areas of life such as education, the labour market, the econonomy, sports and health.



RefRat (Student Body)
Anti-Racism Office
Ziegelstraße 4
10117 Berlin
Telephone: +49 30 2093 46662
Email: antira@refrat.hu-berlin.de


Further HU resources

International Office [English]

Initial counselling for international applicants [English]

Refugees Welcome at HU [English]

Certificate for intercultural competence [English]

firstgen [English]

Student body counselling international students // racism [German, English on reuqest]

Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research [English]

Internationalisation policy of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin [German]

MigraMentor [German]

Mentoring programme for female pupils interested in the natural sciences [German]


External resources

International affairs at studierendenWERK [English]

Discrimination counselling offered by the state of Berlin [German]