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An ASEAN interdisciplinary network to promote access and inclusion of disabled students in higher education


Academy of Medical Sciences, GCRF




Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (Malaysia), Christian University of Indonesia (Indonesia), Hue Industrial College (Vietnam), Centre for Higher Education Studies, Vietnam Institute of Education Studies (Vietnam)


Project Lead: Prof. Lynn Clouder, Coventry University
Prof. Zenaida Reyes, Philippine Normal University


21 October 2019 to 09 December 2022

Project overview

Establishing an interdisciplinary network in higher education in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries addresses Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4, advocating “inclusive and quality education for all”. People with a disability experience marginalisation due to being excluded from education, leading to poor employment prospects, low socioeconomic status and dependency.

Underrepresentation and poor achievement of disabled people in higher education (HE) is a global challenge, including in ASEAN countries, especially Indonesia and Vietnam, where gaps between achievement of disabled and non-disabled people are greatest (UNESCO, 2018). Discriminatory policies and practices impact on all disabled people, but women are doubly disadvantaged in accessing education compared to disabled men. A current gap in understanding/sharing data on the extent of the challenge highlights the importance of the proposed network.

The network comprising an interdisciplinary mix of partners from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, is crucial to identifying challenges facing disabled people, especially women, in higher education in the ASEAN region. Importantly, it will also enable sharing of current support and practices, reasonable adjustments, and use of assistive technology across disciplines. Project impact will take the form of raised disability awareness in higher education, increased collaborative research capacity of project partners, and a framework to evidence future impact of research and capacity building for staff and students. Wider societal impact will result from increased inclusion and greater independence and engagement of disabled people in education, and the workforce, responding to SDG 4, and to development and welfare in the ASEAN countries.

Project objectives

The ASEAN interdisciplinary network will collaborate to:

  1. Scope current challenges/support for disabled people in higher education, including gender specific issues and disciplinary differences, identifying key areas for future research
  2. Build research capacity amongst partners
  3. Develop a framework and tools for a robust research project to underpin inclusive higher education for disabled people.


  1. Map national laws, local/institutional policies, advocating inclusion for disabled people
  2. Explore the challenges/support disabled people experience in higher education to produce a series of brief institutional case studies
  3. Identify any gendered differences in experiences
  4. Conduct a cross-disciplinary analysis of programme learning outcomes to identify those that are accessible and any prohibiting disabilities
  5. Engage in knowledge exchange and skills transfer - share results of initial scoping activities and deliver research skills workshops
  6. Develop a framework for future research around inclusive interventions, including design of data collection instruments capturing access, retention, attainment and graduate employment
  7. Disseminate initial results/ tools developed through a project symposium, and articles in high quality peer reviewed journals.


The proposed activities are in synergy with the ten disability-inclusive development goals of the Incheon Strategy (2012), which highlights the need for better comparability of disability data, and identification of centres of excellence within the Asia and Pacific regions to foster collaboration. Both suggestions are met through this network proposal, which focuses on UN SDG4, and enhancing gender equality and advancing disabled women’s economic participation (UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific 2014).

Whereas there is a discourse of disability and special education at primary and secondary school levels (UNESCO, 2018), a gap exists in understanding disability in higher education. The identification of key research questions and robust research framework will generate comparable data, through longer-term network collaboration, to provide new knowledge on disability and access, retention, completion and employment following higher education for the first time, which will contribute to closing this gap in disability understanding.

Involvement of a wide range of stakeholders in AI events and networking activities will ensure project impact at different scales. The networking activities include HEIs, school teachers and parents (institutional level). There is the potential for engagement and promotion to be significantly scaled up to reach national stakeholders. These include Special Education and Autism Society in the Philippines; the Disability Working Group VUFO-NGO (Vietnam); BAKTI-MIND (Malaysia); the Indonesian Disabled Peoples Association (Indonesia), and regional networks, such as the ASEAN Disability Forum, which is a network of organisations of persons with disabilities, advocating for the creation and implementation of inclusive policy.

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University of the year shortlisted
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