Internationally, the number of persons with disabilities pursuing tertiary education is gradually growing. In Malaysia, there was an upward trend in enrolment of students with disabilities in tertiary institutions from 2011 to 2017, but showed decreasing percentage of enrolment in 2018 and 2019.
Until today, many persons with disabilities around the world still face discrimination in enrolling into tertiary education programmes. In 2021, the denial of admission into university of a high-achieving Malaysian student with disability highlighted the discrimination faced by persons with disabilities in tertiary education, especially the limited choice of university courses available to students with disabilities in the name of “mesra-OKU” (disabled-friendly).
However, enrolment does not guarantee supportive learning experiences during their tertiary education. Evidence has shown that course-completion rates of students with disabilities are lower than other students.
Hence, it is important that tertiary institutions adopt and implement disability-inclusive policies to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are adequately supported and enable meaningful learning experiences for all students.
In November 2018, the Ministry of Education (MOE) launched the IIUM Disability Inclusion Policy (Garis Panduan Pelaksanaan Dasar Inklusif OKU) in institutions of higher education. The guidelines were developed to increase the enrolment and decrease the dropout rate of students with disabilities in tertiary institutions.
The guidelines aimed to address a number of institutional barriers commonly faced by students with disabilities in higher education institutions by:
The support that students with disabilities receive (or not) while studying in tertiary institutions is pivotal to their ability to cope with their studies, their enjoyment of studying and motivation to succeed, as well as employment prospects after graduation. Both institutional (universal) disability-inclusive support and individualised (targeted) disability support approaches are needed to effectively support students with disabilities to succeed in their higher education pursuits.
Institutional disability-inclusive supports in universities and colleges include:
Individualised disability supports vary from person-to-person, and should be planned together with the individual student with disability. They include, but are not limited to:
While it is ideal for tertiary education institutions to implement inclusive practices from the outset, it is however not always true and students with disabilities will likely have to advocate for the support that they need.
*Note: Resources linked are in English and pdf or webpage format, unless stated otherwise.
Garis Panduan Pelaksanaan Dasar Inklusif Orang Kurang Upaya Di Institusi Pendidikan Tinggi (BM)
Policies and practices governing disability in Malaysia’s higher education: A comparison with England and Australia
Sokongan dan halangan yang dihadapi pelajar-pelajar kurang upaya di sebuah institusi pengajian tinggi di Malaysia (BM)
Higher education and disability: Exploring student experiences (UK)
Supporting tertiary students with disabilities: individualised and institution-level approaches in practice (Australia)
Student with 9As denied admission at varsity due to disability, group claims (Yahoo! News link) by Malaysiakini
⇒ Article in Bahasa Melayu: Pelajar 9A SPM dakwa dinafikan peluang ke universiti kerana ketidakupayaan
Persons with disabilities inclusion policy in higher education institutions still in place, says ministry in MalayMail
Disabled students' public uni options expanded days before application deadline in Malaysiakini (subscription is required to access the article)
⇒ Article in Bahasa Melayu: Pilihan pengajian pelajar OKU ditambah sebelum permohonan tutup