Exploring lecturer’s translations and negotiations of Inclusive Practice in post- 1992 English universities

SOULBY, Karen (2020). Exploring lecturer’s translations and negotiations of Inclusive Practice in post- 1992 English universities. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00353


Since the Equality Act (2010), English universities have been compelled to address issues of inequality as experienced by groups of students with legally protected characteristics. Developing a policy of inclusive practice (IP) was one way in which universities tried to address this. However, despite this legislation and policy, differential outcomes have persisted for most disadvantaged student groups, with little improvement. Almost ten years on from the implementation of legislation, this research seeks to extend and contribute to academic debates on how to reduce differential outcomes and make English universities more equitable. The aim of this research was to explore the enactment of IP as a policy from the perspective of lecturers as they negotiate university policy, structures and processes. The research explored the extent to which lecturers understand, interpret and implement IP and how they engage with university policy and processes aimed at supporting the development of IP. Underpinned by a sociological policy enactment approach, the research design took a critical realist stance and used qualitative in-depth interviews to collect data with 19 lecturers at 3 universities across England. Using thematic data analysis, the study found that lecturers experience everyday ‘dilemmas of practice’ involving inclusion which are often unresolved. Influencing those dilemmas are the contingencies of situated contexts that inform, constrain and shape lecturers’ choices in how they practice. Themes revealed variable misunderstandings of IP based on deficit discourses, professional pragmatism (including a reliance on informal networks for professional development) and discomfort felt by policy actors. Furthermore, the research identified the important constraints of powerlessness, space and time on IP enactment. An unexpected theme emerged concerning affective responses from lecturers who appeared to experience anxiety, stress, feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and who felt unsupported in relation to the expectation placed upon them to achieve equality through their practice. This study has made a significant contribution to informing professional practice surrounding IP policy, extending knowledge to give a nuanced understanding of the constraints of the practice across several higher education institutions in England. It has extended an original sociological understanding of how policy is played out in English universities. The conclusion of the research is that the capacity of the lecturer to enact IP policy is overestimated, and must be accompanied by changes to institutional culture, structures and processes to achieve improvements in equality for students.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Madriaga, Manuel [0000-0003-2725-1718]
Thesis advisor - Fitzgerald, Damien
Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr. Manuel Madriaga / Supervisor: Damien Fitzgerald.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00353
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2021 16:14
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:03
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/28510

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