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Resilience / Thriving in Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities: An Exploratory Study

An interdisciplinary research team from the University of Southern Queensland is the recipient of one of twelve National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) research grants. A pilot project, “Resilience / Thriving in Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities: An Exploratory Study” will be led by Dr Rahul Ganguly (Special Education) in collaboration with Drs Charlotte Brownlow (Psychology), Jan Du Preez (Psychology) and Coralie Graham (Nursing).

Dr Ganguly says:

“A significant development in the field of postsecondary disability supports in the last two decades has been the proliferation of individuals with disabilities. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of students with disabilities attending Australian Universities nearly quadrupled between 1994 and 2011 from 11,656 to 42,111. Despite these growing numbers, several studies, mainly in US and UK, have reported students with disabilities experience difficulty in completing course work and have poor academic achievement, and yet the scholarship on equity in the Australian higher education sector has largely ignored the needs of these students.

In our mixed-method exploratory study, we will move beyond the deficit paradigm on achievement by identifying key personnel, policies, programs, and resources that help postsecondary students with disabilities succeed across a range of university settings. Instead of adding to the existing body of literature and conversations about high attrition rates, low academic completions rates and poor academic achievements, our study seeks insights from academically successful students with disabilities. Emphasis will be placed on understanding how these students with disabilities manage to negotiate attitudinal, institutional, environmental, and physical barriers that typically disadvantage their peers, and successfully build portfolios of experiences that render them competitive for internships and jobs.”

According to project member Dr Preez, the resilience factor is the significant aspect of this project, cutting across each team member’s academic disciplines (psychology, health and education).

Dr Ganguly further states:

“The current research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) will enable us to identify skills that academically successful students with disabilities use to ensure that they persist and remain in the university settings. Additionally, the study will identify institutional services and supports that facilitate the development of meaningful, supportive relationships with students with disabilities.

We are thankful to the NCSEHE for recognising the need for research in this area, and excited to be collaborating with the centre on this important issue.”

Dr Ganguly’s team is scheduled to conclude its work in March 2015, after which time reports, papers and a ‘toolkit’ for responding to the needs of students with disabilities will be made available here on the NCSEHE website. The findings from this initiative will be useful in improving the experience and retention of students with disabilities in Australian universities.

Dr Rahul Ganguly is currently a faculty member in the School of Linguistics, Adult and Specialist Education at the University of Southern Queensland. He has 20 years’ clinical experience with students with emotional / behavioural disorders and their families in post-secondary settings. Dr Ganguly conducts mixed-methods intervention research on school to work / postsecondary settings, access and equity in higher education settings, and families of postsecondary students.

Posted 15 April 2014 Posted in Disability, General