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AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability

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AHEAD Launch Report on Numbers of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education

By Ann Heelan, Executive Director, AHEAD 

It is my pleasure to introduce the results of the AHEAD Survey on the participation rates of students with disabilities in higher education in Ireland for the academic period 2017/18.  AHEAD has been surveying the participation rates of this cohort of students for over 20 years. While the findings of a single survey offers the opportunity to examine outcomes in a given academic year, the cumulative findings of the AHEAD surveys over time offers readers the opportunity to study the flow of students with disabilities entering the higher education system, observe their progress and identify emerging patterns and trends. AHEAD surveys of participation rates are a useful tool especially to those involved in the delivery and management of our higher education sector.

Get the Full Report>>

Download the Summary and Recommendations Only>>

Go to the Interactive Data Centre>>

Some of the key findings are detailed below and beneath them you will find links to the full report or and an abridged summary and recommendations document, as well as a link to our interactive data centre where you can visually interrogate the data, add filters etc:

Selected Key Findings

  • 2017/18 marked another year of continued growth in the participation of students with disabilities in higher education. There are now 14,720 students with disabilities representing 6.2% of the total student population. This figure represents a 17% rise in the number of students with disabilities in higher education year on year and a 62% rise over the last 5 years of AHEAD’s research in this area . 2017/18 is the second consecutive year we have seen a 17% year on year rise in the numbers.
  • The participation rate of students with disabilities at undergraduate level (7% of undergraduate population) is two and a half times the rate of postgraduate participation (2.8%). However, the number of students with disabilities participating at postgraduate level (1233, up 22% year on year) grew at a higher rate than the number participating at undergraduate level (13487, up 16% year on year).
  • The participation rate of students with disabilities studying full time (7.3% of the total full time student population) was more than five times times the rate of students with disabilities studying part time courses (1.4% of part-time population).
  • Students with sensory disabilities had the lowest representation across undergraduate and postgraduate levels in comparison to other categories of students with disabilities (Blind/Visually Impaired at 1.8% of total students with disabilities and Deaf/Hard of Hearing at 2.5%). Blind/Visually Impaired, has remained the lowest represented category of students with disabilities in higher education year on year, while students with a Specific Learning Difficulty remained the highest represented category at 38.9% (5,724). 
  • Over the past five years of this research (AHEAD 2018; 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014), the numbers of students in the Mental Health condition category (up 127% to 2,217) has risen at more than twice the rate of total numbers of students with disabilities (up 62% to 14,720)
  • The number of students with disabilities per disability support staff member has increased by 5% (176) year on year. This research has found that over the last six years there has been a 34% increase in the number of students with disabilities per disability support staff member (AHEAD 2018; 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013).

Get the Full Report>>

Download the Summary and Recommendations Only>>

Go to the Interactive Data Centre>>

A Note on Accessibility

We have endeavored to make the PDF documents linked above as accessible as possible by incorporating a hierarchical structure using tags, providing alt text for graphs and images (and providing key data in body text) and tagging decorative images as artifacts. In the event that you are still experiencing issues reading this document with screen reading software or other assistive technologies, please contact ahead@ahead.ie to request an alternative version.

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