Funded PhD Opportunity: Policy changes for inclusion of disabled students in HE

Accessible entrance
Student Life at Merchiston. The entrance to the Jack Kilby Computer Centre.

Higher education institutions in Scotland are legally bound to provide an inclusive learning environment. Tinklin & Hall (1999) conducted a study to explore the experiences of disabled students in Scottish higher education institutions. Although they concluded that some steps were being made towards the inclusion of students, there was still a long way to improve the experience for students with disabilities. 18 years later, Moriña (2017) explored the inclusivity in higher education. The conclusions of the study point out that there is a series of transformations needed at both the institutional and policy level, to ensure an inclusion of all students in all activities of student life.

Most of the available literature on students with disabilities focuses on improving curriculum, access to materials and help with exams/time management. However, very little is known how disabilities affect other aspects of student’s lives, such as extra-curricular activities, socialisation and attending events, such as Fresher’s week. Wessel et al. (2009) identified that universities experience a high dropout rate of students with disabilities in the first weeks of the trimester. The first six weeks of the trimester are considered crucial as it is during that time that students feel most susceptible to feeling left out (Tinto, 1988).

This project will research how students are affected by their disabilities when choosing their areas of studies and explore levels of inclusions effect on success. Research questions may include: Can the Scottish higher education policy be affected to improve the levels of inclusion for disabled students?

If you are interested in applying, read the general requirements on and contact Dr Debbie Meharg the supervisor to find out more. Note the tight closing date: 15 January.

You can read about other social informatics PhDs opportunities here.

If you have concerns about your qualifications, please contact Debbie to discuss how best to present your case. We do not want to see good candidates unnecessarily ruling themselves out.

Indicative Bibliography

Commissioner for Fair Access. (2019). Discussion paper: Disabled Students at University. The Scottish Government.

Moriña, A. (2017) Inclusive education in higher education: challenges and opportunities, European Journal of Special Needs Education, 32:1, 3-17, DOI: 10.1080/08856257.2016.1254964

Scottish Government statistics. (2017). Long-term Monitoring of Health Inequalities. The Scottish Government.

Tinklin, T., & Hall, J. (1999). Getting round obstacles: Disabled students’ experiences in higher education in Scotland, Studies in Higher Education, 24:2, 183-194, DOI: 10.1080/03075079912331379878

Tinto, V. (1988). Stages of Student Departure: Reflections on the Longitudinal Character of Student Learning. The Journal of Higher Education 59 (4): 438–455, DOI: 10.2307/1981920 

Wessel, R. D., Jones, J. A.,  Markle, J. &  Westfall, C. (2009). Retention and Graduation of Students with Disabilities: Facilitating Student Success. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability 21 (3): 116–125. 

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