Reflections on Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education

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This seminar celebrates 2 recent edited collections by Brendan Bartram and Zeta Williams-Brown from the Education Observatory.

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This seminar celebrates 2 recent edited collections by Brendan Bartram and Zeta Williams-Brown from the Education Observatory, University of Wolverhampton. Contributors from the books will present their work on different aspects of inclusion and diversity.

Academic diversity and its implications for teaching and learning – Anesa Hosein & Namrata Rao

This paper examines academic diversity in contemporary higher education institutions and considers the possible implications of such diversity for learning and teaching (L&T) in their approaches, practices and policies in British academia. Using the UK as a case study, we examine higher education statistics (HESA 2015/2016 data), to determine the extent of the academic diversity. We explore the academic workforce in the UK through a multitude of lenses including that of the nature of their academic contracts (full time or part time), the focus on academic work (teaching only, research only or teaching and research), age, gender, ethnicity, nationality and disability. Some of the key questions pertinent for higher education environments in relation to these aspects are discussed, such as what implications might an exposure to a largely White male dominated academic workforce have on the learning experience of students.

Disability, diversity and inclusive placement learning in HE – Stephanie Brewster and David Thompson

There is an increasing emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion, and on graduate employability within Higher Education. Work-based learning (or placement learning) is a key component of many undergraduate degrees, but for many students factors such as disability, ill-health, caring or work responsibilities can impact on their placement experience. This paper discusses the authors’ research of Education Studies students’ experiences and HE staff members’ views of placement learning. Using the Capabilities Approach as a theoretical framework, the chapter considers a range of individual and environmental factors that can affect a student’s achievement of their learning goals, and the resources available to promote their learning on placement. Taking a critical stance towards the concept of employability, and recognising the diversity of the student population, we argue for a wider conceptualisation of placement learning as contributing towards students’ capacity for meaningful engagement with and contribution to society.

Pedagogy for inclusion in HE? – Tunde Rozsahegyi and Mike Lambert

‘Pedagogy for inclusion?’ (in Brown, ed: Inclusive Education: Perspectives on Pedagogy, Policy and Practice) encouraged the strengthening of pedagogical discourse in relation to educational and social inclusion. A further chapter, ‘Pedagogical outlooks in England and Hungary’ (in Bartram, ed: International and Comparative Education: Contemporary Issues and Debates) compared bi-national thinking in early-years education and training. This conference paper extends ideas from these two chapters by considering demands for higher education to respond to and further promote increasing diversity in background and need amongst the UK student population. It argues that structural changes, for instance in staffing, curriculum and environment, while imperative, are by themselves not sufficient, and that pedagogical changes which enhance teaching and learning are needed to meet the challenges of diversity and inclusion in HE.

Students as core: A time for change in the higher education discourse of 'Widening participation’ and ‘Inclusion’ – Susanne Gibson

Over the past 25 years, the world of higher education (HE) in the UK has experienced many changes, not least those linked to the ubiquitous term: ‘inclusion’. This paper aims to address this, questioning what ‘inclusion’ is, what discourses form and frame it and the impact it has upon students, academics and the HE sector in general. The presentation aims to introduce concepts and language, to support your thinking and develop new critical insights into this area of HE.

‘Inclusion’, in education contexts, has various definitions, some convoluted and arguably incorrect linking it to practices of integration, some developed to fit within government policy and manifesto language and others connecting it to its orthodox origins – i.e. emergent from pressure groups and grass-roots movements regarding the political issue of human rights and equal opportunities, with a particular emphasis on the rights of those with disability, this body argues for parity of access to education, the rights of ‘disabled’ or ‘diverse’ learners, independent living, relationships and employability. Their views and those of others on issues of access and equality, stem from the ‘social’ model of disability, which asserts the disabled are oppressed by society and this is tied up in relations of power: who has power and who has not (Barnes et al., 2002; Swain et al., 2003; Thomas, 2004).

Critical definitions of ‘inclusion’ will be explored, ‘disablism’ as a reality in education uncovered, research findings on what works and what doesn’t presented and delegates will be invited to share their insights, thoughts and experiences at key points. The key focus of my work is to reposition ‘disability’, to disrupt hegemonic beliefs, and radically alter that which is positioned as valid knowledge and who is positioned as knower – the legitimate and legitimised holders of agency and power.

About the contributors

Dr Brendan Bartram is Reader in Education at the University of Wolverhampton

Dr Stephanie Brewster is Senior Lecturer in Special Needs and Inclusion Studies at the University of Wolverhampton.

Dr Suanne Gibson is Acting Director of Plymouth University’s Institute of Education and an Associate Professor of Inclusive Education.

Dr Anesa Hosein is a Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the University of Surrey.

Dr Mike Lambert ( was Principal Lecturer in Education at the University of Wolverhampton.

Dr Namrata Rao is a Principal Lecturer in Education at Liverpool Hope University where she is based in the Centre of Education and Policy Analysis.

Dr David Thompson is Senior Lecturer in Education Studies at the University of Wolverhampton.

Dr Tunde Rozsahegyi is Senior Lecturer in Special Educational Needs, Disability and Inclusion Studies at the University of Wolverhampton.

Dr Zeta Williams-Brown is Reader in Education for Social Justice at the University of Wolverhampton.

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