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Supporting Students with a Disability in Tertiary Education

Although for some, the transition from high school to first year tertiary studies is a breeze, for many it is a very challenging, and sometimes overwhelming period in their lives.

A wide ranging report released by the Grattan Institute in 2018 indicates students with a disability are at a 5% higher risk of not completing their studies, than those students without a disability. Although there are a number of other factors that can be attributed to this rate, anecdotally the report found that social isolation was much more significant amongst students with a disability, and contributed to them dropping out of studies during their first year.

The latest Capacity Building Project being pursued by Feros Care Local Area Coordinator, Ben Armstrong and the ACT Team aims to address this issue, and help more students with a disability to complete their tertiary studies. We’ve dubbed it ‘Step 2 Education’.

A 2018 report found that social isolation contributed to students with disability dropping out of studies during their first year.

Currently being scoped, the team have already met with the Education Directorate, the National Disability Insurance Agency and Tertiary institutions to understand what supports are currently in place and where the gaps are. Mindful that we don’t want to reinvent the wheel, in many cases Step 2 Education will further develop the supports currently in place. The program has flexibility to be adapted to suit the inclusion framework of each Tertiary institution.

Step 2 Education is modelled on similar disability peer mentoring programs in place — including Monash University. Specifically, the programme will facilitate the option for first year university students with a disability to be matched with a volunteer student mentor at the same university. The mentor will provide assistance with university life in general, including accessing services, linking with other available supports at the university, navigating social events and managing workload.

Importantly, they’ll be a friendly face that the student can trust, helping avoid the social isolation that many students with a disability can feel.

Additionally the project has an extra component — ‘A Day In The Life” which links students with disability in their final year of secondary with a volunteer tertiary student who also has a disability. This component aims to prepare the secondary student for university life, and provides them with a role model who has managed to navigate their tertiary education successfully.

We’re looking forward to launching the project. Its success will be measured by the success of the students who are involved! 

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