Improving outcomes for disabled students – working papers, Nov 2023

This project report has been authored and published by Lead Scotland and grew out of a research project that was originally developed with Advance HE.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) previously co-hosted the ‘Improving outcomes for disabled students’ advisory group with Lead Scotland, which brought students, parents and sector professionals together to identify key issues and discuss solutions. In 2019 SFC asked Advance HE to deliver a project that would attempt to address some of the key issues emerging from the group, to improve outcomes and experiences for disabled students. Lead Scotland were commissioned to deliver the project in partnership with Advance HE, however due to a changeover of key staff at both Advance HE and SFC, the work was never published. The findings and case studies discussed in the report are therefore now out of date and inevitably much has changed and moved on since then, not least as the project fell in the middle of a global pandemic that had significant ramifications for education. Nevertheless, Lead Scotland felt it would still be valuable to share the work due to the innovative and exciting practices and initiatives the report explores.

Advance HE consulted with the disabled student advisory group, the Scottish Heads of Disability Services and College Development Network’s Access and Inclusion Group to develop an understanding of what would make a difference to disabled students’ outcomes and experiences. Lead Scotland also consulted with disability advisors from across Scottish universities, to gain an understanding of where they felt the current gaps were. The practitioners we engaged with expressed the need for improved networking and sharing of best practice related to supporting disabled students and progressing inclusive approaches, particularly for academic staff.

Taking all of this into account, we decided the best approach would be to develop an understanding of the range of practices and initiatives currently happening across Scotland’s colleges and universities. We agreed the key to understanding this range of practice would be to identify initiatives that had some evidence of impact as it was clear from the literature review this is an underdeveloped area. The aim of building this picture of practice is to share evidence of what is working between colleges and universities, so we felt it was vital to ensure the practices we were examining had been evaluated or had some evidence of creating positive change.

The project took place in four stages:

  • Literature review (August 2019)
  • Online survey (October-December 2019)
  • In-depth interviews with institutions and student focus groups (January-February 2021)
  • Final report (June 2021)

Final report: Improving outcomes for disabled students (PDF)


Literature Review: Improving outcomes for disabled students (PDF)