Exploring the retention and performance of students with disability
In Australian universities, participation, retention and performance rates for students with disability vary. The differences in performance are evident across university grouping and geographical location. Innovative Research Universities (IRU) and Regional Universities Network (RUN) universities, as well as universities located in regional areas, report higher than average participation rates. Just under half of Australia’s universities in 2012 reported retention rates below the national average for students with disability. Similarly, almost half of Australia’s universities report that success rates for the cohort are lower than success rates for non-equity group students.
A new research study led by the University of Tasmania’s Professor Sue Kilpatrick, with colleagues Dr Susan Johns, Dr Robin Barnes and Ms Darlene McLennan (ADCET), is exploring the supports and adjustments provided by universities that influence the retention and performance of students with disability.
“International research reports factors that influence participation by students with disability, including institutional commitment to socially inclusive curricula, development of support services, and personal development planning,” said Professor Kilpatrick.
“In 2011, Sachs and Schreur found that student experiences differed according to disability type; students with a physical disability were more satisfied than those with a sensory or psychiatric disability.”
“Within Australia, we know that access to specialist support services assists with retention and that academic difficulties are a key factor in a student’s decision to withdraw from higher education. We don’t yet know how universities compare in terms of retention and performance of students with different disabilities.”
“Our study aligns closely with the objectives of the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) to promote and contribute to inclusive teaching and support practices within the post-secondary education sector for students with disability.”
“It’s also timely, as the research base on factors influencing the retention and performance of students with disability in higher education is limited.”
Professor Kilpatrick’s project is one of 12 funded through the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education’s 2015 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program. The study is scheduled to conclude in December 2015, after which time the final report will be made available here on the NCSEHE website.