Inclusive education



What is inclusive education?

Inclusive education can be defined as the ability of all students, regardless of disability, ethnicity, socio-economic status, nationality, language, gender, sexual orientation or faith, to access and fully participate in learning, supported by reasonable adjustments and teaching strategies tailored to meet their individual needs. This means that the physical environment, teaching methods, and curricula are accessible to all students.

Inclusion is embedded in all aspects of the university and is supported by culture, policies and everyday practices.

Why is it important for university courses to be inclusive?

According to a 2011 World Health Organization report, 15% of people in the world have some type of disability; universities need to support those 15% of students in realising their educational aspirations. The average university completion rate for students with disabilities is 4.5%, compared to 7.9% for those without a disability.

Twenty-five years ago, the Salamanca Statement called on the world to support inclusive education approaches, including at higher education institutions. Australia adopted the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) Education Standards as federal law in August 2005. The DDA set out the educational rights of students with disability, as well as obligations that education providers, including universities, must meet in order to support students with disability.

The Education Standards outlined three main obligations of education providers:

  1. Obligation to consult
  2. Obligation to make reasonable adjustments
  3. Obligation to eliminate harassment and victimisation

Universities must think about the needs of students with disability when they are deciding what will be in a course and how they will teach it. They need to think about the types of adjustments or different ways of teaching that can help a student with disability to achieve the main aims of a course. This includes making sure that students with disability have the same opportunities to participate in school or a course as other students. This may mean making adjustments to how the course is taught, what materials are used, and how students will be assessed.

How can we ensure that education at UNSW is inclusive?

  1. We can ensure that students have a voice and support them in expressing their views. Student feedback should be used to drive continuous improvement across the university.
  2. Students participate in all educational decisions that affect them.
  3. Inclusion is embedded in all aspects of life at UNSW, supported by culture, policy, and everyday practice.
  4. The provision of a range of reasonable adjustments, including changing assessment formats, providing notetakers, and the provision of extended time for exams and assessment.
  5. Universal Design for Learning is used to design and deliver course work, providing students with multiple means for expression, engagement, and representation. This will reduce the need for students to self-disclose their disability in order to receive support.

Helpful resources

Whether you are involved with inclusive research or education, we have a range of articles, webinars and guidelines available in accessible formats.

Watch educational showcases and download Universal Design for Learning (UDL) resources that provide principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

Watch webinars and download guidelines and fact sheets produced to help share knowledge that is interdisciplinary, innovative and inclusive through research and education.