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The social organisation of learning difficulties at university: a qualitative study of four Higher Education Institutions in the North East Region of England

VOUROUTZIDOU, POLYXENI (2011) The social organisation of learning difficulties at university: a qualitative study of four Higher Education Institutions in the North East Region of England. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The last decades there is a clear shift in people’s attitudes towards disability and the participation of disabled people in society and especially in education. The new disability law and the anti-discrimination legislation changed the relationship between disabled students and Higher Education, allowing them access and providing support for their needs. The current research aims to discuss support and provision for students with learning difficulties within Higher Education Institutions. Specifically, within the framework of North East Universities in England (Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Durham and Sunderland University) the research addresses the issues around provision for students with learning difficulties at Durham University. The experiences of the students themselves, as well as the views of the Directors of the Disability Support Unit (DSU) from all four universities combined with the perspectives of lecturers and College Officers from Durham University only, they create a framework within which support and provision are discussed. This project used qualitative methodology as it was considered appropriate for the nature of the research problem. Semi-structured interviews were used for the data collection and were combined with the secondary literature (such as journal articles, papers, websites, documents provided by the institutions etc) to draw a more complete picture of the issues of interest. In the end, the sample consisted of 18 students with learning difficulties who studied in the four Higher Education Institutions, 4 interviews with the Directors of the DSUs from these universities and 7 interviews with lecturers and college officers from Durham University only. Clearly, from the findings of the project some of the changes in Higher Education are steps towards an inclusive educational environment where the needs of all students will be taken care of, regardless of disabilities or abilities of students. However, there are still concerns, which were expressed from both students and Directors of DSUs, about ‘attitudinal barriers’, which are necessary to change, in order to achieve the inclusive education for all. The research also concluded that in order to achieve an all-inclusive educational system it is necessary to focus more on personalised services and treatment for students with learning difficulties, where all the individual needs of students are met. The bureaucratisation of the services and the turn of the education towards marketisation where institutions compete for students and promote the market behaviour have to be replaced by personalisation in services and support for disabled students.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Students, learning difficulties, higher education, support, provision
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Jun 2011 10:32

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