“I just filled out a form” Experiences of Doctoral Students with Disabilities, Long-term Health Conditions and/or Additional Study Needs

O'Connor, Grainne; O'Dell, Lindsay; Álvarez, Inma; Tipi, Nicoleta; Bowes-Catton, Helen and Luck, Rachael (2024). “I just filled out a form” Experiences of Doctoral Students with Disabilities, Long-term Health Conditions and/or Additional Study Needs. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research (In press).

Abstract

This paper reports on an empirical study at a public university in the UK. The project explored the lived experiences of doctoral students with disabilities, long-term health conditions and/or additional study needs. Taking a critical disability studies lens, we investigated how students perceive the university’s social and institutional structures. We used a mixed methods methodology using a survey and semi-structured interviews and adopted a reflexive thematic analysis to discover emerging themes. Three main themes were identified from the students’ data, namely, diversity in disability identity, the impact of supervisors’ attitudes (disclosure, emotional, institutional) and barriers to study. We argue that universities are implicitly organised around the needs of non-disabled, ‘normative’ students, hence perpetuating disadvantage and stigma. The paper makes suggestions for changes to institutions and processes to equitably support disabled doctoral students.

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