A Qualitative Content Analysis of Welsh Universities’ Disability Service Websites and Consideration of Their Potential Impact on Recruitment of Diverse Learners: A Critical Disability Studies Perspective

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


This poster addresses the focus on “diverse learners and service users” as well as “capacity and recruitment: service needs” by considering the impact that Welsh universities’ Disability Service websites may have on recruitment of disabled and diverse learners. The study was developed in response to the narratives of disabled students in Higher Education who reported that they found it challenging to engage with the current system of specialist support (Pickard, 2019), which is reported to be complex and difficult to navigate (Welsh Assembly Government, 2017; Department for Education, 2019). There has also been recent media coverage of disabled students’ negative experiences of Higher Education and a suggestion that there may be many more disabled people who are not aware of the potential to engage successfully with Higher Education (Butterwick, 2019; McLean, 2019). Concurrently, at the University of South Wales we have a widening access and participation agenda (USW, No Date) but are noticing on our professional trainings in Therapeutic Studies a lack of learner diversity (Coombes and Pickard, 2020). As such, Welsh universities’ Disability Service websites were analysed in order to understand the portrayal of disability that disabled applicants may be receiving, and to consider whether this could contribute to a lack of diversity in applications and recruitment (Pickard, Forthcoming). Qualitative Content Analysis (Schreier, 2012) was pursued as a qualitative method that enabled the development of a concept driven coding frame, drawing heavily from theoretical and philosophical stance of Critical Disability Studies (Goodley, 2017). This enabled consideration of the presence and prominence of certain elements and semantic choices, as well as the omission of other dimensions. The outcomes of the research illustrate four thematic areas of interest: testimonial injustice and epistemic invalidation of disabled students’ experiences (Wendell, 1996; Fricker, 2007); the Parsonian ‘sick role’ (Parsons, 1951, 1964); erasure of disabled presence; and disability advantage. These four themes are explored and discussed, and tentative conclusions and recommendations are offered. Some examples of good practice can be highlighted and learned from, while the lack of disabled students’ voices and visibility is posed as a potential barrier to the recruitment of diverse learners, leading to a lack of diversity in the profession and workforce.


Butterwick, C. (2019), ‘I couldn’t have gone to university without support for my disability’ [online], Guardian Newspaper, Available at https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jan/24/i-couldnt-have-gone-to-university-without-support-for-my-disability?CMP=share_btn_tw (Accessed 1st February 2019).

Coombes, E. and Pickard, B. (2020), ‘Riding in Tandem: Journeying the Research-Teaching Nexus in Partnership’, Online Conference for Music Therapy (OCMT) 2020, Saturday 1st February 2020, Online/International.

Department for Education (2019), ‘Evaluation of Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)’ [Online], Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-disabled-students-allowances-dsas (Accessed 8th February 2019).

Fricker, M, (2007), Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing, (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press).

Goodley, D. (2017), Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction (2nd Edn), (London: SAGE).

McLean, M. (2019), ‘Getting Serious About the Barriers Facing Disabled Students’ [Online], Available at https://wonkhe.com/blogs/getting-serious-about-the-barriers-facing-disabled-students/ (Accessed 9th August 2019).

Parsons, T. (1964), Social Structure and Personality, (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press).

Parsons, T. (1951), The Social System, (London: Routledge).

Pickard, B. (2019), 'Demystifying the Process of Engaging with the Disability and Dyslexia Service in Higher Education' Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education, 10(1), p. 40-58.

Schreier, M. (2012), Qualitative Content Analysis in Practice, (London: SAGE).

University of South Wales (USW) (No Date), ‘Widening Participation’ [Online], Available at https://www.southwales.ac.uk/about/schools-and-colleges/widening-participation/ (Accessed 25th January 2020).

University of South Wales (USW) (No Date), ‘Values and Culture’ [Online], Available at https://www.southwales.ac.uk/about/our-organisation/values-and-culture/ (Accessed 25th January 2020).

Welsh Assembly Government (2017), ‘A Review of the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA)’ [online], Available at https://gov.wales/review-disabled-students-allowances-0 (Accessed 9th August 2019).

Wendell, S. (1996), The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability, (New York, NY: Routledge).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2020
EventNational Association of Educators in Practice Conference 2020: Whose Placement is it Anyway? - Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Apr 202024 Apr 2020


ConferenceNational Association of Educators in Practice Conference 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • inclusion
  • diversity
  • disability
  • recruitment
  • Higher Education
  • professional practice
  • music therapy


Dive into the research topics of 'A Qualitative Content Analysis of Welsh Universities’ Disability Service Websites and Consideration of Their Potential Impact on Recruitment of Diverse Learners: A Critical Disability Studies Perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this