Background: Historically, challenges faced by students with disabilities (SWDs) in accessing higher education institutions (HEIs) were attributed to limited public funding. The introduction of progressive funding models such as disability scholarships served to widen access to, and participation in, higher education for SWDs. However, recent years have seen these advances threatened by funding cuts and privatisation in higher education.
Objectives: In this article, the funding mechanisms of selected developed and developing democratic countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa and India are described in order to gain an insight into how such mechanisms enhance access, equal participation, retention, success and equality of outcome for SWDs. The countries selected are often spoken about as exemplars of best practices in relation to widening access and opportunities for SWDs through government mandated funding mechanisms. Method: A critical literature review of the sample countries’ funding mechanisms governing SWDs in higher education and other relevant government documents; secondary academic literature on disability funding; online sources including University World News, University Affairs, newspaper articles, newsletters, literature from bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Disabled World and Parliamentary Monitoring Group. Data were analysed using a theoretically derived directed qualitative content analysis.
Results: Barriers which place SWDs at a substantial educational disadvantage compared to their non-disabled peers include bureaucratisation of application processes, cuts in disability funding, means-test requirements, minimal scholarships for supporting part-time and distance learning for SWDs and inadequate financial support to meet the day-to-day costs that arise as a result of disability.
Conclusion: Although the steady increase of SWDs accessing HEIs of the sampled countries have been attributed to supportive disability funding policies, notable is the fact that these students are still confronted by insurmountable disability funding-oriented barriers. Thus, we recommend the need for these HEIs to address these challenges as a matter of urgency if they are to respect the rights of SWDs as well as provide them with an enabling environment to succeed academically.
African Journal of Disability, Vol 8, 2019