Findings and suggestions from the national experts
Publisert: 07.mar 2018
Endret: 07.mar 2018
The NNDC network has discussed the findings in the country reports closely. There are clearly a lot of good systems unknown (or at least not used) for students and student counsellors. At the same time, there are difficulties at all levels which must be sorted out before an improvement in mobility between the Nordic countries can take place.
Without taking the student investigation into consideration, the NNDC expert groups has concluded with the following key obstacles for mobility between the Nordic Countries:
- Lack of information and knowledge
Key stakeholders have little or no knowledge or information about disability, and available arrangements for better inclusion of students with disabilities. This leads to inaccurate information to students, and occasionally even negative attitude towards the student asking for support.
Knowledge and information about education, mobility, diversity, disability, legislation and regulations and available support should be present among all key stakeholders:
o Disability service/ counselling
o International offices at the universities
o National organisations of mobility (i.e. CIMO, SIU)
o Support systems at municipality level
A very good example is all the potential funding for student mobility, where there seems to be an underconsumption of service and support.
- Roles and responsibilities between stakeholders are not well defined
All countries report of challenges due to ambiguity of roles and responsibilities, and silo thinking between sectors. Students with disabilities often relates to different legislation, like health, education and work. There is discrepancy between services offered by different sectors, and in some occasions this leads to lack of service at all. This is the situation both locally, nationally and between the Nordic countries.
What seems to be a critical challenge in the sector, is the areas where no agency claim responsibility.
- Lack of research about Higher Education and Disability
We have very little information about students with disabilities, partly because of absence of research and formal registrations. The HEIs are not allowed to register and count students, and investigations about important questions (like student surveys) do rarely include questions about disability. The result is that development of support might be inaccurate. To give good advice, you must have deeper knowledge.
- Lack of role models and ambassadors for mobility between the Nordic countries
Both students and organisers appreciate good practice and experience for motivation and learning. Student ambassadors for mobility do rarely have a disability, which might lead to an assumption that mobility is impossible.
Role models are also important for the students wish and ability to disclose their difficulties to other stakeholders. There has to be an open culture which accepts diversity, also within mobility. Many students do not identify themselves as having a disability, and will miss opportunities like funding etc. Students with dyslexia might be of this category.
- Gap between policy and praxis
There are several acts and regulations on inclusion, like the UN convention (CRPD), national acts and regulations, and local regulations formally set by the institutions. Still, both students and disability practitioners and experts register that there is a discrepancy between policy and praxis, and that arrangements made for the “regular student” might be discriminating individuals.
The expert group have seen that a very strict interpretation of regulations, alongside with bureaucracy, is in disadvantage for students with disabilities. Due to this, administrators and student counsellors report of difficulties in supporting students with their application to systems like funding etc.
Likewise, the NNDC expert group has concluded with the following advice for action:
- Clarification of roles and responsibilities to ensure that policy will be carried out in praxis
Quality assurance of support and services to students with disabilities must be carried out by all stakeholders. Silo thinking must be challenged both at a political and an administrative level. Bureaucratic tangles must be dissolved, and grey areas cleared out. A prolonging of this first investigation might work directly with each stakeholder.
- Make an accessible roadmap for Nordic mobility
This is a knowledge base, with adjusted information and competence for students and all stakeholders. The knowledge base – defined as a project - must provide information to relevant stakeholders until knowledge and competence is present at the lowest possible level.
Collaboration between disability/accessibility coordinators and international student services need to be strengthened.
A solution could be a “forum” for information sharing and good preparation of international mobility, with the following tasks:
o Clear up roles and responsibilities – who is doing what in each country (municipalities, HEIs, public welfare, national organisations)
o Engage mobile student ambassadors (se bullet point 3)
o Work on an agreement on accessibility and disability support in university agreements on student mobility.
o Defining a Nordic “mobility-disability-coordinator” to promote equity in international mobility and advise national and HEIs’ mobility offices.
- Recruit role models and student ambassadors
Students who have experienced studies abroad, with or without disabilities, possess knowledge and experiences that could be a great resource for students with disabilities. They could share their stories through portrait interviews, act as mentors and be receptive for questions for future students. This is an initiative that is especially necessary for students with disabilities, but helpful for all students.
A common website for information (as described in bullet point 2) is necessary for easy access for all.
- Research and investigations
There is need for more knowledge, and smaller development and research project must be financed and implemented in this question. Examples:
- Evidence at scale: send the online survey used in this study to all Nordic HEIs and interviews of students with disabilities in each country.
- Study how alternative approaches encourage students to participate in Nordic or international mobility.
- Follow up mobile students with disabilities to identify ways how mobility influences their employment and careers.
- Involve students with disabilities in conducting the studies and disseminating findings.
- Well supported short-term study periods (in Nordic or European countries) and internationalization at home HEIs
Some students prefer (due to health conditions, family situation etc.) to participate in short-term mobility in Nordic or European HEIs. Furthermore, intensive support, e.g. medical care, therapies and 24h assistance are easier to organize and provide for a short term.
Nordic HEIs and countries have means to negotiate and offer alternative options.
The current criteria for funding international student mobility (by ministries, funding agencies, European Union) are limited to a minimum of three-months study abroad.
How does these key obstacles and suggestions for action match with the student’s experience? This will be addressed in the next chapter, where we bring forward the voice of the students through surveys and interviews.