National career development learning hub for students with disability

The challenge

This project explores the perceptions and experiences of students with disabilities undertaking work-integrated learning (WIL) placements during their university study.

Project overview

This study took place at a single university in Victoria, Australia in 2022 which at that time had an estimated 12 per cent of the student intake identifying as having one or more disabilities compared to a national estimate of 17 per cent (ABS, 2019). In our study, students with disabilities included those with intellectual, learning, physical or sensory disabilities, as well as those who have a mental health, neurological and/or chronic medical condition(s).

We used a mixed methods approach that generated data across two phases. In the first phase, current students who were registered with the disability support centre were invited via an email to respond to an online questionnaire which primarily sought to explore the motivations of, and barriers to, the participation of students with disabilities in WIL placements (n=127). In the second phase of data generation students with disabilities participated in online focus groups (n=27).

In these focus groups students were invited to share their experiences and perceptions of WIL placements and to offer their suggestions and ideas for future resources that could be created to mitigate the challenges faced in WIL placements by this cohort.


Findings suggest that students value WIL placements for career preparation, but that it raises several challenges around access, disclosure, and corresponding anxiety around meeting expectations. Suggestions for improvement including a learning support coach or mentor, open dialogue around disclosure, and possible accommodations and flexibility around assessment.

Through this study, we provide key insights into the inclusion and access of current WIL placement experiences and offer recommendations on how universities can continue to develop and support inclusive WIL placement experiences for students with disabilities.

Survey analysis of students’ perceptions and experiences of WIL placements:

  • Focus group analysis of students’ perceptions and experience of WIL placements and their ideas for improvement.
  • Creation of several resources to better support equity and inclusion of WIL placements, hosted on the ADCET website.

Project team

Dr Mollie Dollinger (Chief Investigator)

Professor Rola Ajjawi

Dr Rachel Finneran


Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DISER)
National Careers Institute Partnership Grant



15 March 2022 – 31 March 2023

Research partners

Curtin University

University of Swinburne

University of Tasmania

University of Wollongong


More information



students with disability, inclusion, work integrated learning