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Assessing descriptors of academic program inherent requirements

Prospective university students need clear and accessible information on the skills required to complete a degree or course. While this information is important for all students, it is particularly vital for students who may be unable to comply with these requirements because of disability.

Since the introduction of the Australian Government’s Disability and Discrimination Act 1992, and subsequently the Disability Standards for Education 2005, it has been unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of disability. Universities are obligated to make their programmes accessible and where necessary, make reasonable adjustments to enable student participation.

In determining reasonable adjustments, the topic of inherent requirements comes to the fore; which elements of a curriculum are central to the acquisition of skills, attributes and knowledge, and satisfy the award of a qualification?

A new research study led by Dr Andrew Harvey, Director of La Trobe University’s Access and Achievement Research Unit, is looking to audit and assess the descriptors of academic program inherent requirements across Australia’s higher education sector.

“The concept of inherent requirements within higher education isn’t defined within disability legislation, so the Australian Human Rights Commission definition has been appropriated. The Commission defines inherent requirements in the context of specific occupations and includes a person’s ability to perform functions necessary to a job, the ability to work as part of a team, the ability to work safely, and so on.”

“In Australia, some higher education providers publish course inherent requirements. in order There are multiple motivations behind these inherent requirements statements that include encouraging student consultation around the adjustments that may be possible, to prevent students from unknowingly enrolling in courses that they are unable to complete, or where professional registration and subsequently employment would be unlikely or impossible.”

Working with La Trobe University colleagues, Mr Matthew Brett and Dr Andrew Funston, Dr Harvey will audit and assess descriptors of academic program inherent requirements across the Australian higher education sector.

“Our project will provide the first comprehensive national analysis of the extent, nature, and effectiveness of academic program inherent requirements,” said Dr Harvey.

“It’s our aim to inform policy and practice to support the participation in higher education of students with disability.”

Dr Harvey’s project is one of 12 funded via the NCSEHE’s 2015 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program. The project is scheduled to conclude in December 2015, after which time the final report will be made available here on the NCSEHE website.

Posted 20 August 2015 Posted in Disability, General