“Am I included?”- An Australian case study exploring the experiences of university students with ‘hidden disability’

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Hickey, Jane (2023) “Am I included?”- An Australian case study exploring the experiences of university students with ‘hidden disability’. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


How does the university meet the diverse needs of students with hidden disability? In this qualitative case study, an exploration has been undertaken to capture the experiences of university students with hidden disability and the academic staff who support them. Semi structured, face to face interviews were used to engage with eight university students who self-identify as disabled or having a hidden disability. Eight university academic staff who all work with students with hidden disability were also involved in this study. All of the student and academic participants had the opportunity to share their experiences of the university’s teaching and learning environments, both inside and outside of the classroom. The data was examined through an interpretivist lens and analysed thematically. The interviews revealed that students felt most supported when they are taught by staff with whom they were able to establish trusting relationships. Students also reported that flexibility regarding assessments and attendance were important to their academic success. Academic staff members stated that they felt underqualified and under resourced to effectively support students with disability in their classrooms. Staff relied on informal networks created by the teaching team and external formal services to provide direction and strategies to support students with hidden disability. Additional research is required to gain further insights into the diverse academic experiences of students with hidden disability as this is a heterogeneous group. Streamlined formal supports are recommended to meet the needs of the growing number of students with disability and additional professional development opportunities exploring universal design for learning need to be offered to all university staff in order for inclusive teaching practices to be implemented in the classroom and across the university at large.

Additional Information

Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated)

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/45673
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3903 Education systems
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3904 Specialist studies in education
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Keywords Australia, university students, hidden disability, teaching, learning, barriers, enablers, inclusive teaching, learning strategies, tertiary, pedagogy, interview
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