Access to higher education and people with disabilities : individual and institutional perspectives.
This qualitative study considers the experiences of three small cohorts of students
whose disability has affected their walking, as they attempted to secure places on
courses in higher education. It is based on a series of interviews with the students
and with staff at their further education college who were responsible for
applications procedures. Further information was obtained from a variety of
documentary sources - confidential references, communications from the higher
education institutions, etc.
In order to place the experiences in context, the process is also examined from the
perspective of higher education institutions. The approach adopted is to use case
studies of a university and a polytechnic. The data again derives from interviews
and from analysis of documentary evidence.
The third dimension of the study concerns change both in relation to the spread of
good practice and also the implications for people with disabilities of the new
government policies affecting higher education. The focus is on the part played by
Skill: The National Bureau for Students with Disabilities and its efforts to safeguard
and improve provision.
The little evidence currently available suggests that people with disabilities
encounter negative discrimination when they try to enter higher education. The
nature of this, how it operates both in terms of contacts with individual applicants
and in the determination of policies within institutions, has not been investigated
previously. This study can be viewed as a contribution to debates about equality of
opportunity and about civil rights. More recently, there has been increased concern
about the widening of access to higher education. This investigation is timely and
relevant to this development.