A picture is worth a thousand words. A study that investigates what inclusive imagery practices contribute to the feeling of inclusivity for students in higher education
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Higher education institutions show fundamental difficulties in managing commitments related to diversity policies. Despite the growing attention and mandate for institutional diversity policies, the implications seem more symbolic than effective for those who represent diversity. Many scholars have expressed their criticism, but no practical recommendations are forthcoming. This study aims to narrow the gap between theory and practice by providing constructive implications that contribute to the experience of inclusivity for students in higher education. Considering the constructional function of the concept language (written or spoken language, as well as visual signs and images, gestures, facial expressions, etc.), the focus of this study is on inclusive imagery. Recommendations from current literature on inclusive imagery were collected and have led to the identification of five concepts: the preference for authenticity, the preference for groups over individuals, the active promotion of diversity, the use of counter stereotypes and the avoidance of stereotypes, and the preference for eye contact over no eye contact. Examples illustrating these concepts have been extracted from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) image database through a content analysis to serve as input for a survey. The results of the survey, distributed among students from AUAS, have confirmed four of these concepts and yielded a new concept: appropriate context. Despite the limitations of scale, these results suggest that authenticity, actively promoting diversity, displaying groups, representation of an appropriate context and avoidance of stereotypes in images contribute to the feeling of inclusivity for students in higher education.