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New research — Empowering students with disability to better manage their careers

Improved university staff training will inform and enhance careers support for students with disability, new research has found.

The study by National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) Equity Fellow Mr David Eckstein highlights opportunities and barriers in career support for university students with disability.

National surveys of university staff and students with disability, focus groups, email interviews and a case study identified areas for refinement of career support that would help students with disability move beyond pre-determined and career-limiting frameworks.

“Instead of validating the concerns of students with disability and giving them the experience of inclusion, the current system may entrench disability as a powerful career-disabler,” Mr Eckstein said.

“A lack of understanding of the way students with disability think about careers may undermine attempts to provide targeted careers support and adequately address issues that concern students with disability.”

“The lack of accredited specialist training for careers professionals and the persistence of outdated notions of careers support in the broader university community indicate further service barriers.”

The study finds that Disability Employment Service (DES) partnerships with university careers services are important; however, a new funding model may be required to ensure quality support.

“Existing DES funding arrangements mean that many have to restrict their services to students with disability who have graduated, or are in their final year,” Mr Eckstein said.

“This report recommends a new funding model for DES providers to compensate their investment in supporting university students with disability and to enable their engagement with students from the first year of their studies.”

The challenges faced when providing targeted careers support for students with disability are heightened for regional universities. Regional graduate employment opportunities and outcomes are often specialised or limited in general, let alone those specifically targeting students with disability.

“Regional Heads of Service pointed out in email interviews that prospective DES partners may have limited scope for developing local networks relevant to graduate employment,” Mr Eckstein said.

NCSEHE Director Professor Sarah O’Shea noted the positive implications of this research on ensuring quality, targeted support for students with disability.

“This report outlines the steps universities must take to ensure students with disability have access to inclusive careers opportunities,” Professor O‘Shea said.

“The recommendations from the report have the potential to make a considerable contribution to sector-wide practice and policy.”

Mr Eckstein’s Equity Fellowship was supported by Swinburne University of Technology and conducted under the NCSEHE Equity Fellows Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Read the full report, Meaningful jobs for students with disability: From luck to business as usual 


Media Contact:

Nina-Marie Thomas
NCSEHE Media and Communications Officer
Tel | +61 8 9266 3721 / 0488 436 235
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Posted 23 February 2022 Posted in