04 SES 02 B, Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education
In this paper we will present findings from a small research project exploring disabled students’ experiences of higher education. The research was carried out in summer and autumn 2017 at the University of Bristol, UK, and sought to understand how experiences of interacting as a disabled student with the University impacted upon these students' wellbeing and academic success. The research highlighted examples of both where students were satisfied with the welcome and support they received at the University, and also shed light on what more a University can do to ensure disabled students feel welcome and adequately supported throughout their studies.
This research has been undertaken by Dave Bainton, researcher at the University of Bristol, and Artemi Sakellariadis, director at the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (www.csie.org.uk). It was commissioned by the University of Bristol, under the Widening Participation programme, and it is anticipated that outcomes will shape policy and practice across all disciplines and departments of this University, and beyond. Initial analysis reveals the additional complexity of the interactions between university staff and disabled students and the importance of taking into account individual needs and experiences.
The study set out to provide the University of Bristol with: a) feedback on current policies and practices which are effective in ensuring that disabled students are included in every aspect of University life; and b) practical recommendations for improving current procedures for welcoming and adequately supporting disabled students. As a result, it is anticipated that the University will be further enabled to operate in line with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and Article 24 (Education) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This paper will be of interest to representatives of Universities throughout Europe, inviting them to consider how their institutions are currently including disabled students, what more can be done to attract and support disabled students, and open up possibilities for further research across institutions from one or more countries.
The study has adopted the definition of disability as this appears in the Equality Act 2010: a person is considered to be disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-lasting negative effect on their ability to carry out ordinary daily activities. In the first phase of the study disabled students from the University of Bristol were invited to respond to an online survey which required them to share their experiences of: a) support from the University towards their academic study; b) support with regard to University accommodation, if relevant; c) communication with the University before and during the course of their studies; and d) their overall well-being during their time at the University. In the second phase of the project disabled students from the University of Bristol were interviewed and invited to share their University experiences in greater detail. Adopting a narrative research approach, the researchers invited participants to share stories of what has helped or hindered students' learning and participation at the University. Semi-structured interviews were carried out in person or over Skype, recorded with participants’ permission and fully transcribed. Analysis is still ongoing at the time of submitting this abstract.
Data is still being analysed.
Soorenian, A (2013) Disabled International Students in British Higher Education: Experiences and Expectations. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers
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