04 SES 13 A, Students with Disabilities in Tertiary Education – European and African Perspectives on Inclusion
This symposium presents a number of different perspectives on the involvement in tertiary education of students’ with disabilities. Globally there have been a number of international proclamations to enhance the participation in all relevant life areas of people with disabilities. The Madrid declaration from 2002 was a milestone for the European countries and the UN Convention of the rights of persons with disabilities brought a global shift from a care to a human rights perspective.
In the educational sector this corresponded with a shift from special education provision to inclusion. Though European and global frameworks are valid for all supporting countries, the level of access differs highly between children and youth at different ages and in different countries, but show also commonalities in relevant sectors. Whereas European countries, which provide access to the educational system since decades, are moving from special education systems to more inclusive ones, some developing countries, which provided no or only little access to formal education, try to develop the special and the inclusive education sector at the same time.
Even if education is provided at a high level in primary and secondary schools, the access to tertiary education systems for persons with disabilities is significantly lower than in other sectors of the educational systems. Even if persons with disabilities get access to higher education, the level of dropout is often higher than for other groups and access to the labour market for persons with disabilities is significantly lower than for graduates without disabilities.
The symposium has the following leading questions:
What experiences do young adults with disabilities have in tertiary education? Which biographical experiences in education preceded to higher education involvement? How did the national school system influence access to higher education in different countries? What is their current situation in their institutions? Which barriers do they face and what steps may help them to succeed in higher education and to get access to the labour market?
The symposium presents data from ongoing and recently finished investigations from several European countries and one African country with a main focus on the United Kingdom, Austria and Ethiopia, but with additional data from Ireland, Spain and the Czech Republic. The symposium integrates research studies from the Austrian-Ethiopian collaboration project RESPOND-HER (information on the website: http://respond-her.univie.ac.at/) and from the European Science Foundation project Quali-TYDES (information on the website: http://quali-tydes.univie.ac.at/).
Though there is a common thematic framework for the symposium, the methods of investigation differ between the different studies, presented in the symposium. They include quantitative surveys, analysis of biographical interviews, focus group discussions and secondary analyses of recently published data. The different methods of data collection in diverse countries add several complementary perspectives on the involvement in tertiary education of students’ with disabilities and show commonalities of problems in the tertiary educational sector that go beyond the different levels of societal development.
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