UNIversal Inclusion Rights and Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in the Academic Context

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Across Europe, there has been a marked expansion in higher education participation, with a growing emphasis on the inclusion of previously under-represented groups including disabled students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The expansion is supported by the EU and national governments and is driven by both social justice and economic concerns. Policy documents , for example, the European Education Strategy 2020 (European Commission, 2013), subscribe to the view that the majority of newly created jobs in Europe will require high skill levels and failure to build a knowledge economy will result in declining standards of living, particularly in the light of growing competition from emerging economies. In order to achieve to achieve this expansion, it is necessary to increase participation by people who, at an earlier point in time, would not have had the opportunity to gain a higher level qualification, since there is little room for growth in participation by those from middle class backgrounds (Weedon and Riddell, 2012). The active engagement of disabled people in higher education is also supported by the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (European Commission, 2010) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations, 2006). The paper is divided into the following sections: (i) Overview of European policy on widening access to higher education for under-represented groups including disabled students. (ii) Discussion of the construction of disability and evidence on disabled students’ participation rates in different countries, drawing on the Eurostudent survey. (iii) Analysis of UK and Swedish policy and practice in relation to the inclusion of disabled students in higher education. (iv) Review of Scottish data on the social characteristics of disabled students, including some intersectional analysis. (v) Presentation of short case studies to illustrate the experiences and outcomes of deaf students from different social class backgrounds in Scottish universities. (vi) Summary and discussion of key points.
Period12 May 201614 May 2016
Event typeConference
LocationTurin, ItalyShow on map


  • disabled students
  • higher education
  • Europe
  • education inclusion