Innovation in education

Transitions to Tertiary Education and Work for Youth with Disabilities


Executive Summary | Table of contents | Download the free e-book



ISBN: 9789264177895

Publication: August 2012

Pages: 179


This report addresses the lack of data on pathways followed by young adults with disabilities beyond secondary education in most OECD countries. It describes the activity undertaken by a sample of Czech, Danish, Dutch, French and Norwegian young adults with disabilities and its evolution, as well as looking into the factors that have facilitated or hindered high-quality transition processes to tertiary education and employment. Do upper secondary schools enable students with special educational needs to move successfully to tertiary education and employment? Are young adults with disabilities supported appropriately when leaving upper secondary schools? Do universities’ and colleges’ admission and support strategies foster transition to and success within tertiary education?

The report shows that young adults with disabilities who left upper secondary education in 2007 have mostly accessed tertiary education, while those leaving tertiary education the same year have mainly entered the labour market. It also reveals that due to low-quality support at upper secondary level and the relative absence of transition issues in upper secondary schools’ policies and strategies, transition to tertiary education and to employment is closely linked with parental support and involvement, and young adults with disabilities coming from a low socio-economic background have less transition opportunities than those coming from a high socio-economic background. It demonstrates that young adults with disabilities who moved on to tertiary education consider they have gained the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers, as well as self-confidence and better inclusion opportunities.

This report also shows that persistent inactivity beyond secondary education has a strong disaffiliation effect. It restricts individuals’ participation opportunities and deprives individuals from social and economic independence as well as from personal well-being.

Executive Summary

The longitudinal study is designed to address the lack of data on pathways taken by young adults with disabilities at the end of secondary education and thus to complete the data collected by the country reports. It does however not claim to either describe thoroughly the complexity of the mechanisms governing access to tertiary education and employment, and the wide variety of situations faced by young adults with disabilities, or to compare countries with each other. It seeks to identify the factors facilitating or inhibiting the respondents’ access to tertiary education or employment, and not the factors facilitating or inhibiting access to tertiary education for all young adults with disabilities.

It builds upon a methodology devised jointly by the Secretariat and the countries concerned (Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, United States) but implemented according to each country’s specificity. The Czech Republic, Denmark and France adopted the jointly devised questionnaire. The Netherlands preferred to focus the investigation on aspects linked to participation and transition and sought, as far as possible, to use the same questions. Norway retained all the descriptors but without wishing to cover all the agreed questions, as it felt restricted both by the time factor and certain specific aspects of the methodology described below. After analysing the data, the statistical institute undertook to ensure that, wherever possible, they were fully consistent, as will also be described in due course.

The first wave of the longitudinal study was carried out among Czech, Danish, French, Dutch and Norwegian young adults with disabilities. The second wave was implemented among French and Norwegian respondents, and data relate to the pathways followed by French respondents within tertiary education and to those followed by Norwegian respondents within the labour market.

Table of contents

Executive summary


Pathways leading to education and employment tend to be inclusive

Transition to tertiary education, a process that may require support

Young adults with disabilities may not feel prepared for active citizenship in secondary education

Weaknesses in transition strategies

Pathways followed increased respondents’ inclusion since the first wave

Chapter 1. Analysing transition: Conceptual framework and indicators

Transition, a vector of equity

Descriptors of transition


Chapter 2. Young adults with disabilities tend to feel included

Most young adults with disabilities entered tertiary education on completion of upper secondary education

Most young adults with disabilities entered work upon leaving the first cycle of tertiary education



Chapter 3. Perceived chances of inclusion beyond secondary education

Relatively low perceived participation opportunities on completion of secondary education



Chapter 4. Transition, an issue rarely included in schools’ strategies

Improve transition strategies to improve transition opportunities

A challenging transition period



Chapter 5. Transition to tertiary education, a key factor for inclusion

Access to tertiary education

Providing better support opportunities to improve study conditions

Most students with disabilities feel included



Chapter 6. Situations tend to improve over time

Situations tend to improve since the first wave

Pathways within tertiary education in France depend on the coherence of universities’ policies

Professional pathways in Norway



Annex A. Methodology

Annex B. Description of the population

Annex C. Key indicators relating to the longitudinal study

Annex D. Sampling procedure

Annex E. Distribution of respondents by situation and socio-demographic characteristics

Annex F. Logistic regressions


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Pathways for disabled students to tertiary education and employment 


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