TASO is working with the University of Lincoln on a project that seeks to explore what works to reduce equality gaps for disabled students in Higher Education (HE).

The project will begin with a rapid review of the evidence around the impact of different interventions used to support disabled students. To support the findings of this review, the University of Lincoln will administer a survey and carry out a consultation with key stakeholders from across the sector to explore which interventions and approaches are currently being used and how institutions are measuring the outcome and impact of this activity.

Having an understanding of the evidence and where gaps lie in existing research will help shape the next phase of the project, where we will decide which interventions to prioritise for impact evaluation.

The project marks the beginning of TASO’s work in this area, after announcing its new Theme 4 (Mental Health and Disability) earlier this year. The decision to commission projects on mental health and disability came as a result of a prioritisation process which included consultation with a range of sector stakeholders.

The University of Lincoln team is co-led by Professor Carol Evans (Visiting Professor at Cardiff and Southampton Universities) and Dr Xiaotong Zhu (Research Fellow, University of Lincoln’s Higher Education Research Institute (LHERI), supported by a strong team comprising Will Cheetham, Judith Ochinanwata, Gemma Ruff and Olivia Smith, who are studying at under/postgraduate levels at the University of Lincoln. They were selected to undertake the project after an open call for partners. All applications were assessed by the TASO Research and Evaluation Team.

“It is a privilege to be leading this research, working closely with Dr Helen Lawson and the TASO team. This project is one that is especially close to our hearts given our experiences and work on critical pedagogies to support the development of inclusive learning environments within higher education. We care passionately about ensuring full equality of access, participation and equal opportunities to do well for all students. This project is especially timely given the significant increases in the number of students entering higher education with increasingly complex needs, and the need to better understand how we can take universal design principles to the highest level to enable all to thrive within higher education.

From the outset we acknowledge the complexities inherent in notions of disability, that those with disabilities do not comprise a homogenous group, and that disability intersects with many other student characteristics, and the nature of the learning environment.”

Professor Carol Evans, project co-lead

“We’re delighted to be kicking off our research on HE inequalities caused by and exacerbated by disabilities with this important project alongside the University of Lincoln. The research team brings to the project a range and depth of experience and insight, alongside genuine passion for the topic which shone through during the application process. In order to create an HE system that works for all, it is essential to understand the very specific set of challenges faced by people with a range of different needs, and this project will play a decisive role in our understanding of the issues and where to focus our research moving forward.”

Dr Helen Lawson, Research Programmes Manager and project lead at TASO

If you are interested in getting involved in the consultation phase of this project, please email University of Lincoln’s Project Lead, Dr Xiaotong Zhu  (xzhu@lincoln.ac.uk).

We will be reporting on the evidence review and consultation findings in May 2022.