No one left behind: increasing access for all students

No one left behind: increasing access for all students

Since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been celebrated annually on 3 December around the world. The observance of the day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

This year’s theme focuses on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development, as anticipated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to “leave no one behind” and recognises disability as a cross-cutting issue to be considered in the implementation of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Disability is referenced in various parts of the SDGs and specifically in parts related to education, growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, as well as data collection and monitoring of the SDGs.

Access and inclusive internationalisation

Promoting and protecting equal rights and equity of access should be safeguarded in international education and internationalisation policies and practices. Nevertheless, many groups remain underrepresented in international education.

The 2019 EAIE Conference theme ‘Encompassing all voices’ perfectly captured the way in which higher education has been changing in recent decades. The student population has grown and the composition of the student body has changed and diversified. In the 21st century, one of the new challenges for higher education is to design inclusive and accessible teaching and learning environments that cater to students’ various learning styles, backgrounds, life situations and access needs.

One of the EAIE’s values is inclusive – highlighting celebration of diversity in communities, combatting discrimination, working towards ‘encompassing all voices’ and fostering better access to international education. In line with this goal, the EAIE Expert Community Access and Diversity is committed to promoting inclusive teaching and learning environments and equity in access and participation of students and staff regardless of age; disability; gender; sexual orientation; race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin; religion or belief; and socioeconomic background in all aspects of higher education, especially in international mobility.

Inclusion is a step-by-step journey and stakeholders should work together and include people whose own lived experiences provide insights to working towards more accessible education and a more accessible future. This year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities marks an occasion to reflect on all we’ve accomplished so far towards broadening access to international higher education, and to consider the work that remains to reach a truly inclusive future.

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Agnes Sarolta Fazekas
Eötvös Loránd University, HungaryAgnes is Chair of the EAIE Expert Community Access and Diversity.