A request for support for disability inclusion and ADCET in Universities Accord submission
We are asking our university colleagues making submissions to the Universities Accord to promote disability inclusion as a key element in this current reform agenda. This includes retaining ADCET as Australia's leading resources on disability inclusion in the tertiary education sector.
We have produced some key talking points below.
Why disability inclusion is important
- We know that education is transformative and that the social, economic and physical wellbeing of people with disability is improved by access to tertiary education1. Yet, while people with disability remain one of the groups with the most significant increase in enrolments in tertiary education they experience lower levels of access, participation, retention and success compared with their non-disabled peers. They also experience lower levels of employment and are paid less than those without disability. These statistics are borne out of higher education statistics, student satisfaction surveys and graduate outcome surveys2.
- There is unfinished business from the last significant higher education reform agenda – the Review of Australian Higher Education: Final Report (the Bradley Review). In the Review (2008) recommendations specifically addressed the need for support for people with disability:
That the Australian Government increase the funding for the access and participation of under-represented groups of students to a level equivalent to 4 per cent of the total grants for teaching. This would be allocated through a new program for outreach activities and a loading paid to institutions enrolling students from low socio-economic backgrounds. Funding for the Disability Support Program would be increased to $20 million per year (Chapter 4.2).
Review of Australian Higher Education: Final Report (2008), p.160
- Funding for people with disability under the Higher Education Disability Support Program is only $7.9 million per annum (indexed)3. This equates to an average of $110 per student. This is in stark contrast to the investment being made by the Commonwealth in schooling from 2018 to 2029, where it will invest an estimated $28.8 billion for student with disability loading4. On average, funding for students with disability in schooling will grow by 5.1% each year over this period and each student would be allocated between $4,704 through to $35,350 per student.
Why ADCET is important
- ADCET is at risk. Currently receiving minimal base funding, and reliant on ad hoc project funds to retain minimum staffing levels, ADCET is also subject to the recommendations of the Australian Universities Accord. If you value ADCET as a leading resource on disability in tertiary education, then we need your help to ensure that the Accord Panel recognise the vital role that ADCET plays and must play in the future.
- ADCET has grown from being just a repository of information. ADCET is Australia’s leading resource on disability in tertiary education for disability practitioners, educators, and students recently celebrating 20 years of impact within the sector. It provides strategic and nationally consistent expert guidance to assist tertiary education providers to implement a wide range of disability inclusion strategies and initiatives. ADCET’s content aims to assist tertiary education providers to address barriers to access and participation for people with disability in education and employment. This work is strategic, sector-led, evidence-based and champions the voices of people with disability.
- ADCET’s funding is inadequate. It receives base funding of $150,000 (indexed) is legislated under the Higher Education Disability Support Program (HEDSP) within the Higher Education Support (Other Grants) Guidelines 2022. Additional funding to manage ADCET is received through the National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) Program. This funding enables ADCET to employ a Manager, a National Assistive Technology specialist, and administration support. The University of Tasmania has hosted ADCET for 20 years and the administration of ADCET is managed through the Department of Education, Higher Education Division. Additional staffing is supported through ad hoc project funding to progress key initiatives and funding is provided on an annual basis.
- The precarious nature of ADCET’s funding, which renews on a calendar year, is currently subject to the University Accord outcomes. The loss of ADCET would create a serious knowledge gap for the sector and impede innovative projects which advance disability inclusion. There is no other nationally recognised, sector-led and evidence-based initiative which provides this support to disability practitioners, educators and students within the tertiary education sector.
- It’s time for the Australian Government to think more strategically about support for people with disability with a reform agenda that builds on the work already undertaken in the sector to inform, educate and influence the sector and build capacity and disability responsiveness amongst staff and educators.
 Review of the loading for students with disability 2019 – public submission. https://www.dese.gov.au/system/files/documents/document-file/2020-12/australian_government_department_of_education_0.pdf