22 SES 07 D, Accessibility and Participation
Accessibility to higher education (HE) is the necessary condition while striving not only for the knowledge economy, but also knowledge society (Drucker, 2001). It is emphasized in the documents of the international organizations as well (OECD, 2006; UNESCO, 1960, 2015), and is primarily underlined by the European Commission (Eurodyce, 2015).
UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960) was the essential world level document, which specified all human rights to education, while seeking to ensure ‘full and equal opportunities for education for all’ (Article 1(a)). The decision of the EU to create the common European HE area (1999) and based on it the realization of the Bologna process provided necessary opportunities for under-represented groups to have an access to HE.
The scholars who have researched accessibility to HE (Peters, 2007; Sachs & Schreuer, 2011, etc.) have detected that although the more general understanding of this question exists at the international level, specific countries implement accessibility to HE in rather different ways. It has been agreed, that this uneven aspect, first of all depends on the different contexts of the countries (Seale, 2013). It is especially visible when analyzing the accessibility of the disadvantaged groups (people with disabilities, women, ethnic minorities).
Thus far, the researchers have not responded to the question what factors condition differences of the accessibility to HE situation in various countries. This problem requires the attention of researchers. First of all it relates to the disadvantaged groups, which is the priority of the EU.
Therefore, this presentation for the ECER2018 seeks to solve the aforementioned problem, while responding to the highly important research question: what factors condition accessibility differences of the disadvantaged groups to HE in various countries?
Presentation aim – to detect factors conditioning accessibility differences of the disadvantaged groups to HE in various countries.
- To substantiate the factors conditioning the accessibility to HE of the disadvantaged groups.
- To reveal the factors, which are the reason for the differences of the accessibility to HE of the disadvantaged groups among countries.
Since the initiative of countries for the accessibility to HE is impacted by the position of international organizations, in this presentation the meaning of accessibility and its relative terms is primarily seen from the positions of the policies of international structures, which are officially supported by many countries. First of all, it is the EU and the institutions representing it. Attention should be given to the report by the European Commission displayed in Eurodyce Brief: Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe (2015). In it the access is defined as ‘widening participation in higher education by ensuring equal opportunities to all sections of society, irrespective of socio-economic background and other factors which may lead to educational disadvantage’ (ibid: 4). It is quite broad and abstract description. Thus, we agree with those researchers (Jaeger, Wentz, Bertot, 2015; De Anna, 2016), who use this meaning together with the ‘inclusion’ concept, despite of some differences.
It has been detected that human factors have a significant impact on the institutional decisions (Staniškienė, 2005). Due to this the factors are analyzed as on different levels of the social environment. We apply Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) and its derivative Bioecological theory (Bronfenbrenner & Evans, 2000).
Factors conditioning accessibility to HE were analyzed based on several aspects: a) the people with disabilities (Brandt, 2011; Liasidou, 2014); b) women (Sifuna, 2006; Viefers, Christie, Ferdos, 2006; Tavares, Tavares, Justino, Amaral, 2008); c) ethnic minorities (Smith, 2007; Oplatka, Lapidot, 2012). We also used sources (Wallis,2005; Kim, Kwon, Cho, 2011), that allows detecting factors conditioning sustainability of the accessibility from the perspective of inclusion.
First of all, based on literature analysis the factors conditioning the accessibility to HE of the disadvantaged groups are grounded. Three disadvantaged groups are emphasized: 1) people with disabilities, 2) women , 3) ethnic minorities. Further the empirical research is applied to detect factors conditioning differences of the accessibility to HE of the disadvantaged groups in various countries. Case study strategy based on the qualitative research is chosen. It happens when an important behavior of people or organizations needs to be analyzed and which cannot be manipulated (Yin, 2013). The data is produced by using the triangulation based on the methods: document analysis, Focus group and expert interview. The participation of the authors of this presentation in the ERASMUS+ project ‘Developing programs for Access of Disadvantaged groups of people and Regions to Higher Education‘ (DARE) provided this research with exceptional opportunities. This project was implemented by the EU countries (Spain, the Great Britain, Romania, Czech Republic, Lithuania), Israel (University of Haifa was DARE project’s coordinator), Georgia, as well as the European Access Network. DARE project aimed at promoting inclusive and responsive education in Georgia and Israel by widening access to higher education for potential and existing students from three vulnerable groups: women, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities (http://www.erasmusplus.org.il/dare). Five countries and their HE institutions, of very different contexts, that are seeking to increase the accessibility to HE are analyzed. They were chosen based on the following criteria: a) all of them are either an associated country with EU (Israel, Georgia), either EU member states(Lithuania, Czech Republic and Romania); b) all of them are involved into DARE project; c) all of them officially accept the accessibility to HE goal as it has been defined by the EU and UNESCO; d) have different economic development levels and sociocultural context. The unit of the case study is the concrete HE institution striving for the accessibility for target groups. The chosen 4 HE institutions from the DARE project countries-beneficiaries (2 institutions from Israel and 2 from Georgia) and 4 HE institutions from this project countries which shared their experiences with beneficiaries (from Lithuania – 2; Romania -1; Czech Republic – 1 HE institution). The experts for interviewing were chosen from each country participating in the case study, in total – 5 experts who have research, practical and international project experience on the subject.
The factors of the accessibility to higher education are substantiated and discussed in the presentation: a) of the country level; b) of HE level, including institutional, study process and personal factors. The empirical research and cross-sectional analysis of the cases allowed to detect a list of the factors, that are the reason of the differences of the accessibility to HE of the disadvantaged groups between the analyzed countries and their HE institutions. The largest impact is detected from human factors, among which are the people who make decisions based on the institutional level, as well as the teachers, particularly, their competence and the positive attitude to the matter. An important place among the sociocultural factors is taken by understanding dominant in the society about the accessibility to HE, tolerance to disadvantaged people and possibility to receive advanced experience, when it is shared by the persons or institutions that are more competent in this area. Networking becomes highly important in this aspect. The data revealing specificity of the mentioned factors in the researched countries are also provided in this presentation. However our research is limited in the context of researched countries. In order to generalize the received data in the European or even world-wide area, broader research should be conducted. Our research results might be useful for the researchers analyzing how to increase accessibility to HE while stepping into countries having different contexts. The results are also useful for the HE practitioners while striving to increase accessibility to HE.
Brandt, S. (2011). From policy to practice in higher education: The experiences of disabled students in Norway. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 58(2), 107-120. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1997). The ecology of cognitive development: Research models and fugitive findings. College student development and academic life: psychological, intellectual, social and moral issues. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Evans, G. W. (2000). Developmental science in the 21st century: Emerging questions, theoretical models, research designs and empirical findings. Social development, 9(1), 115-125. De Anna, L. (2016). Teaching accessibility and inclusion. Carocci editore. Declaration, B. (1999). The European higher education area. Joint declaration of the European Ministers of Education, 19. Drucker, P. F. (2001). Knowledge work and knowledge society: the social transformations of this century. British Library. Jaeger, P. T., Wentz, B., & Bertot, J. C. (2015). Accessibility, Inclusion, and the Roles of Libraries. In Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities and the Inclusive Future of Libraries (pp. 1-8). Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Kim, J., Kwon, Y., & Cho, D. (2011). Investigating factors that influence social presence and learning outcomes in distance higher education. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1512-1520. Oplatka, I., & Lapidot, O. (2012). Muslim women in graduate studies: some insights into the accessibility of higher education for minority women students. Studies in Higher Education, 37(3), 327-344. Peters, S. J. (2007). “Education for all?” A historical analysis of international inclusive education policy and individuals with disabilities. Journal of disability policy studies, 18(2), 98-108. Sachs, D., & Schreuer, N. (2011). Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education: Performance and participation in student's experiences. Disability Studies Quarterly, 31(2). Seale, J. K. (2013). E-learning and disability in higher education: accessibility research and practice. Routledge. Smith, H. (2007). Playing a different game: the contextualised decision‐making processes of minority ethnic students in choosing a higher education institution. Race Ethnicity and Education, 10(4), 415-437. Staniškienė, E. (2005). Švietimo politikos įgyvendinimo problemų tyrimo metodologija (lietuvos švietimo reformos aspektas) (Doctoral dissertation, Kaunas University of Technology). Tavares, D., Tavares, O., Justino, E., & Amaral, A. (2008). Students' preferences and needs in Portuguese higher education. European Journal of Education, 43(1), 107-122. Wallis, J. (2005). The web, accessibility, and inclusion: networked democracy in the United Kingdom. Library Review, 54(8), 479-485. Yin, R. K. (2013). Validity and generalization in future case study evaluations. Evaluation, 19(3), 321-332.
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