The insider view: tackling disabling practices in higher education institutions

Merchant, W, Read, S, D’Evelyn, S, Miles, C and Williams, V (2020) 'The insider view: tackling disabling practices in higher education institutions.' Higher Education, 80 (2). pp. 273-287. ISSN 0018-1560

12847.pdf - Published Version
CC BY 4.0.

Download (321kB) | Preview
Official URL:


This paper reports on research about the experiences of disabled staff members in UK universities, drawing on eleven semi-structured interviews with disabled staff in one university, alongside a group auto ethnography conducted by the first four authors, all of whom identified as disabled academics. Disability is generally considered to be predominantly an issue for students, both in practice and in the literature. By contrast, taking a social practice approach, we focused on the barriers faced by disabled employees, both overt and hidden. We found that disability was still viewed as a medical problem, and that disabled members of staff faced considerable extra labour in organising their own supports. We were often made to feel that we were unwanted and that we were ‘misfits’ in the institution. This paper contributes to theory by showing how social practices can become exclusionary, and how interconnections between practices matter. We discuss ways in which ableism, based on the ideal of ‘individual’ excellence, creates barriers for disabled staff. In the global context of Higher Education, the increasing marketization of universities in higher income countries creates a difficult climate for the values of inclusion.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: disability, British Higher Education, diversity, equality, social practices
Divisions: School of Education
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Research in Equity, Inclusion and Community
UoA: Education
Identification Number:
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2019 18:54
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:53
URI / Page ID:
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)