22 SES 11 B, Widening Access to Higher Education for Diverse Groups: Age and Disability as Risk or Opportunity for Promoting an Inclusive University
In Portugal, recent policies have “opened” up the Portuguese HE system to “new publics”. Nevertheless, this is not the first time, in Portugal, that adults have had access to HE. Historically, we can find adult access to universities began around one hundred years ago with the creation of Popular Universities, that cherished a vision and a mission that could be transferred to nowadays, while experimenting a set of difficulties that sound very familiar today. Then, in the 1970s, adults could apply to “ad hoc” examinations. But new policies regarding adult access — transferring responsibility to higher education institutions (HEI) —, resulted in a massive change: the number of adults enrolled increased 434% in public universities, 1959% in public polytechnics and 3828% in private HEI. This paper highlights the differences in access between the four subsystems of HE — public universities and polytechnics, private universities and polytechnics – showing that it seems (almost) indisputable that adult students are admitted according to the seats abandoned by the “old” (traditional and young) publics. However, if access seems to be guaranteed, can the same be said about progression? Our data on academic equity and success of adult students questions the openness of HEI today.
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