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Blog Special Issues

A new ecology of higher education: Disability, access, participation and belonging

This special issue of the BERA Blog aims to push higher education towards a new ecology that embraces the values and voices of disabled students, and places inclusion and equity at the forefront of the sector’s policy priorities and objectives. The collection of blog posts brings to the fore issues on participation, belonging, accessibility and lack of inclusivity that pre-existed and emerged after the series of lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The term ‘ecology’ is used to describe the interconnected and entangled nature of disability as a part of higher education policy and practice that includes the following bodies: students, government policymakers, academic communities, student services, third-sector organisations, and other linked non-academic organisations and communities. An ecological approach can effectively shed light on the synergy that connects a variety of stakeholders in creating universities as inclusive spaces for disabled students and academic communities alike.

The issue features contributions that explore:

  • some key lessons for the higher education sector from a report published by Disabled Students UK drawing upon the survey responses of more than 300 disabled students
  • current problematics and under-used potentials of the disabled students’ allowance
  • the consequences of non-disclosure of disability and conditions for individuals and institutions alike
  • the state of widening participation policies in British universities
  • disabled students’ activism and university student unions, and the importance of the political dimension of disability
  • how to mobilise existing practices in inclusive assessment and Universal Design for Learning
  • the project of the Writing Café: a space of peer-support that facilitated inclusion by shifting the power dynamics of academia
  • what is required to support disabled and neurodiverse university students into meaningful, work-based opportunities.

In June 2023, BERA will host an event that draws on contributions from this special issue. You can find out more information and register for the event here.


Profile picture of Francesca Peruzzo
Francesca Peruzzo, Dr

Research Fellow at University of Birmingham

Dr Francesca Peruzzo is a Research Fellow in Educational Equity and Policy at the Education Equity Initiative, University of Birmingham. Her research interests lie in the intersection between politics, policy, education governance and inclusion,...

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