A phenomenological study of students with hidden disabilities in higher education: A cross sectional study of learning support needs in a University in the UK.

PhD Thesis

Shepherd, Rosemary 2018. A phenomenological study of students with hidden disabilities in higher education: A cross sectional study of learning support needs in a University in the UK. PhD Thesis https://doi.org/10.48773/94xx9
AuthorsShepherd, Rosemary
TypePhD Thesis

This phenomenological study was designed and conducted in a Post 1992 ‘new university’ situated in the UK. The aims of the study were a) to investigate inclusive practice amongst disabled students in higher education, b) to explore students’ perceptions on their lived experiences of the support provided c) to explore disabled students’ experiences of the process in gaining support d) to identify the kind of practices disabled students used to support their own effective learning in HE. A sample of 14 students, aged 19 to 56 volunteered to participate in the study. The study was underpinned by inclusive theory and equality policy provided for higher education institutions. Rich data from phenomenological interviews was analysed using thematic and narrative analysis. Analysis of the data uncovered new knowledge for lecturers and support staff in understanding disabled students’ lived experiences as they approached support systems and classrooms in higher education. The key findings involved a) barriers to communication and collaboration between students and lecturers, b) attitudes of staff and the asymmetries of power experienced by students in accessing support, c) issues around student anxiety, dependence and independence and ownership of learning, d) the idea that a reasonable adjustment could be unreasonable and embarrassing and evidence of tokenism in supporting students. The recommendations included a) the need for more in-depth training for all staff in equality and inclusive practice and inclusive course design, b) more support for students in negotiating their Study Needs Assessment, c) bridging the communication gap between Student Wellbeing, lecturers and students. The changes in funding to the Disabled Students’ Allowance came into force during 2016 which has consequently reduced or removed support for students who have disclosed a disability. Due to such changes, it will be even more important for universities to support the training of students, lecturers and support staff in creating and maintaining more inclusive environments in the future.

KeywordsDisability; Disabled students; Higher education; Inclusive practice; Lived experiences; Phenomenology; Hermeneutics; Asymmetries of power; Anxiety; Reasonable adjustments, unreasonable adjustments, embarrassing adjustments
PublisherUniversity of Derby
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.48773/94xx9
Web address (URL)hdl:10545/622739
File Access Level
File Access Level
Output statusUnpublished
Publication process dates
Deposited29 May 2018, 14:49
Publication datesMay 2018
ContributorsUniversity of Derby
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