Challenging Deficit-Based Discourse in Higher Education Through a Social Connection Model of Responsibility: A Critical Disability Studies Perspective

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis engages the theoretical lenses of Critical Disability Studies, Anti-Oppressive Pedagogy and Iris Marion Young’s Social Connection Model of Responsibility to discuss disablement and inclusivity in the Higher Education sector. This challenges Paulo Freire’s suggestion that only the oppressed can actualise their liberation by moving the burden of change away from disabled students: calling to action all stakeholders in Higher Education, through consciousness raising activities. The thesis achieves these aims by curating three interconnected projects which evidence consciousness raising activities in different contexts. Project 1 includes music education and music therapy practices which advocate a social justice approach, challenging deficit-based perspectives in practice as well as, crucially, through dissemination. Project 2 demonstrates how this practice was shared with others through learning and teaching activities and the embedding of these values in an undergraduate, Creative and Therapeutic Arts curriculum at the University of South Wales. Through curriculum documentation, pedagogical research and community projects, the potential to explore consciousness raising activities with students is demonstrated, and the notion of a shared responsibility for inclusivity emerges. Project 3 explores, at an institutional level, how the wider organisation and sector understands disability. This involves engagement with the Disability Service, academic committees and the wider sector. A series of impact statements are included to evidence impact occurring across the sector and internationally in response to this work. This thesis calls to action stakeholders at all levels in Higher Education to critically reflect upon their values and attitudes towards disability, and to take collective responsibility for addressing inclusivity, accessibility and social justice in academia.
    Date of Award1 Dec 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRuth Northway (Supervisor), David Pontin (Supervisor) & Mark Davies (Supervisor)


    • higher education
    • pedagogy
    • ableism
    • accessibility
    • responsibility
    • Equality and Social Inclusion
    • diversity
    • consciousness raising
    • oppression
    • disability

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