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Student Equity Forum - Attaining Student Equity through the Universities Accord - 27 March 2023

On Monday 27 March 2023 UTS in partnership with the Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA) held a Student Equity Forum to discuss how to attain student equity through the Universities Accord.

The Universities Accord is looking for 'big ideas' to transform higher education for the better. The Hon. Prof. Verity Firth AM spoke with influential sector leaders Associate Professor Nadine Zacharias (Swinburne), Emeritus Professor Alan Pettigrew (University of Sydney), Chris Ronan (country Universities Centre), Dr Kylie Austin (University of Wollongong), Dr Leanne Holt, Macquarie University and of course ADCET’s own Darlene McLennan.

Darlene talked on a range of issues relating specifically to the structural changes need to improve disability inclusion. This included recognising the significant increase in people with disability accessing tertiary education and the need for strategic levels to support their success.

Darlene noted a gap in committing the NDIA to better support for people with disability to pursue tertiary education.

"Given that more than 9 out of 10 jobs in the future will require tertiary qualifications we need to ensure that people with disability are getting access to tertiary education and finding success in future employment" she said.

The other major issue Darlene is proper investment in supporting students with disability.

"People also talked about the funding model here and the importance to have really good investment. An example is that the UK Government invests 50 million pounds a year on inclusive initiatives for students with disability" Darlene said.

Darlene explained that the Disability Support Program totals around $7.9 million per annum and the last big review under Bradley (2208) recommended a $20 million investment which never came to fruition.  

Darlene also talked about the need for capacity building in the tertiary education workforce to upskill in areas that can influence whole-of-institution transformation. This includes disability awareness, inclusive teaching, accessible ICT procurement understanding compliance obligations including reasonable adjustments. Topics which ADCET provides a range of eLearning programs, resources, and webinars to assist the sector.

Darlene and the panel encourage the sector to consider transformational ideas as part of their Accord submission.

You can help advance disability inclusion with the additional resources listed below