Text reads: Children and young people with disability.

Universities Accord final report lets down young people with disability

CYDA Media Release.



Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) is disappointed by the lack of recommendations addressing students with disability in the Australian Universities Accords’ final report. 

The landmark document was recently billed by Education Minister Jason Clare as a “blueprint” for reforming higher education in Australia over the next decade and beyond. 

Yet few of its 47 recommendations across 400 pages adequately address the lived experience and needs of students with disability. 

“The absence of commentary and recommendations concerning disability and inclusion is a glaring shortcoming of this report,” said CYDA CEO Skye Kakoschke-Moore.  

“Where it does mention disability, it does so in ways that are ableist and based on offensively low expectations of students with disability.”  

Under recommendation 10 of the report, the focus for students with disability is on “maintaining [current] participation rates” at universities until 2035. 

This is in stark contrast to far more ambitious goals for other under-represented groups. 

For example, the aim for regional, rural, and remote students is to increase the participation rate from 19.8% to 24% over the same period. The participation rate for students with disability in 2022 was 11.6%.  

While the report suggests students with disability are participating at higher rates than other groups when compared to their share of the Australian population, it acknowledges that challenges in data collection and quality mean there is a ‘strong likelihood’ the cohort is still under-represented.  

“It’s upsetting that this long-awaited plan to transform higher education seems to prioritise the outcomes for some demographics over others,” Ms Kakoschke-Moore said. 

“Under the Disability Standards for Education, students with disability have as much a right to a quality education, and to access that education, as anyone else.” 

“Quality means going beyond participation and looking at recommendations around experience and achievement – as well as adjustments and accommodations to support this.” 

The report also fails to address other issues long highlighted by advocates. 

Its lack of explicit recommendations around a Disability Education Commissioner, employing people with disability at universities, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a letdown.   

While CYDA supports the call for a needs-based funding model designed around helping under-represented students succeed, the report does not appear to distinguish between short and long-term funding. 

Higher education providers must be able to address both immediate needs and invest in long-term capacity building to help university staff include students with disability and raise achievement and completion levels. 

The Final Report and its recommendations can be viewed here. 

For more information or further comment, please contact CYDA:

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (03) 9417 1025