Developing an Autonomous-Support Culture in Higher Education for Disabled Students

Arinola Adefila, Christine Broughan, Diane Phimister, Joanne Opie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
332 Downloads (Pure)


Inclusive practices have enhanced opportunities for many disabled people to engage in Higher Education; however, although support services that are central to success are increasing they are still intermittent and atomistic. Poor continuity of support is a systemic problem, particularly for students who engage in offsite placements where organisational structures do not adopt a student-centred approach. UK Universities require students to opt-into programmes of support that may necessitate rigorous paper work and labelling processes that may disempower students. Such models of support deter students from disclosing a disability and accessing relevant resources and support in a timely manner. This paper argues that using Self Determination Theory, HE Institutions can develop bespoke models of support, which will enable disabled students to utilize their autonomy agency and capabilities. This approach provides students with the requisite tools needed to take responsibility for their own learning and seek appropriate and timely support when needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100890
Number of pages6
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number3
Early online date3 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Disability and Health Journal. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Disability and Health Journal, 13:3, (2020)
DOI: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2020.100890

© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


The Intervention for Success Project which informed this piece was funded by the Office for Students (OfS), Part of the Catalyst funding scheme (2017–2019). Coventry University was part of a Consortium led by Huddersfield University, including The University of Lincoln and Manchester Metropolitan University


  • Autonomy
  • Disabled students
  • Higher education
  • Self determination theory
  • Support culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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