Mike Wray & Ann-Marie Houghton (2018) Implementing disability policy in teaching and learning contexts – shop floor constructivism or street level bureaucracy?, Teaching in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2018.1491838

Since 1995 the UK higher education sector has been required to implement national disability related legislation. This paper reports on a study which explored the role that policies play in influencing how staff support disabled students. In particular the extent to which staff in HE behave in similar ways to those described as street level bureaucrats. Although there was little evidence to show that policy had a direct influence on practice, it was clear that staff made considerable efforts to support disabled learners and these efforts were based on values associated with providing an equitable experience for all students. Additionally, staff were able to exercise discretion in the way they responded to disabled students and constructed responses to policies without significant influence from institutional managers, national legislation or broader policy discourse.

Wray, M. (2013) Comparing disabled students’ entry to higher education with their non-disabled peers — barriers and enablers to success. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, Volume 14, Number 3, 1 January 2013, pp. 87-101. DOI:

This article discusses a research project that utilised focus groups to compare the experiences of disabled HE learners with their non-disabled peers and compared the reported experiences of learners who had entered HE with those that had decided not to pursue this path. Disabled learners in this study did report significantly more difficulties in their progression to HE than the non-disabled learners who were interviewed. However, both groups of learners also encountered a number of enabling factors that assisted their educational progress. Findings from learners who decided not to enter HE also reinforced these assertions. The research begins to answer the critique of previous studies by providing comparison groups and will assist practitioners in implementing evidence-based practice in supporting disabled learners to progress to HE.

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