Neurodiversity in higher education: a narrative synthesis

Deanne Clouder, Mehmet Karakus, Alessia Cinotti, Maria Virginia Ferreyra, Genoveva Amador Fierros, Patricia Rojo

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    61 Citations (Scopus)
    2512 Downloads (Pure)


    Neurodiversity is an umbrella term, including dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia, autistic spectrum and Tourette syndrome. The increasing number of students with learning difficulties associated with neurodiversity entering higher education (HE) poses a shared and growing challenge internationally for teachers and institutional leaders. This narrative synthesis draws together a corpus of international literature on how neurodiverse students experience higher education and the ways in which higher education institutions respond to the cluster of neurodiverse conditions. A systematic review was carried out to search, retrieve, appraise and synthesize the available evidence to provide an original contribution to the literature and significant insights of worth to higher education internationally. An inclusive approach to data extraction was used to ensure that all the relevant studies were included. All stages of the review process, including the initial search, screening, sample selection and analysis, are described. Three main themes and 11 subthemes were identified. Although the majority of publications focus on either dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorder, or ADHD, some common themes are evident in student experience across learning difficulties associated with neurodiversity. Although support services and technologies are available to meet students’ specific needs, there is an apparent dislocation between the two. Fear of stigmatization and labelling worsens the divide between what is needed and what is available to ensure neurodiverse students’ success in higher education, where good intentions are evidently not enough.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberHIGH-D-19-00818R2
    Pages (from-to)757-778
    Number of pages22
    JournalHigher Education
    Issue number4
    Early online date7 Jun 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

    Bibliographical note

    The final publication is available at Springer via

    Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


    • Disclosure
    • Narrative synthesis
    • Neurodiversity
    • Reasonable adjustments

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education


    Dive into the research topics of 'Neurodiversity in higher education: a narrative synthesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this