The Inclusive Campus Life project is an Erasmus+ project (funded by the EU) about the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in higher education. The general idea behind this is that, not only by being teachers and learners but also by bringing in their perspective, people with intellectual disabilities can enhance the quality of higher education. Within the project, the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht focuses on the development of a Framework and Monitoring Instrument to achieve genuine inclusion by valuing everyone equally and to accomplish new ways of thinking about learning and being an inclusive community and society.


Narrative, origins and objectives of the initiative

What kind of project is this? Please give a short description (summary) of it.

The Inclusive Campus Life project is an Erasmus+ project, funded by the EU. The University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (UASU) works together with several partner universities and organizations, mainly from Belgium, Finland and Czech Republic (https://www.iclife.eu/partners.html)

The project is about the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in higher education. Higher education is traditionally aimed at people of above-average intelligence. The general idea behind this initiative is, however, that, not only by being teachers and learners but also by bringing in their perspective, people with intellectual disabilities can enhance the quality of higher education. After all, many students will, in their future working lives, have a lot of interaction with people with disabilities (like teachers, therapists, psychologists and social workers). It is, therefore, very important that they get to know and make a meaningful connection with people with intellectual disabilities; not only as clients, but also as colleagues and friends. In that way, mutual learning can take place.

'Give people with intellectual disabilities a college experience, give them opportunities to learn and do new things, include them in university life and let them bring in their perspective', are the main goals here. “Of course, they would need different assignments and probably would not gain credits (…). Not everyone who studies medicine needs to become a medical doctor and not everyone who studies law will become a legal practitioner” (Inclusive Campus Life, p.3).

The University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (UASU) focuses on the development of a Framework and Monitoring Instrument to achieve genuine inclusion by valuing everyone equally and to accomplish new ways of thinking about learning and being an inclusive community and society.

Please tell us why, in general, this project is considered a successful one?

Although the project is still running, several promising results have already been achieved. The project has defined six “intellectual outcomes”: Campus accessibility (1); Buddy system for people with intellectual disabilities (2); Involvement in teaching activities (3); Work placement (4); ICLife Framework & Monitoring (5) (https://www.iclife.eu/outcomes.html) and Communication and dissemination (6). In areas (1), (2) and (4), results are already evaluated and reported.

Campus Accessibility (description of one of many outcomes and advises):

“We highlight two simple but very effective tools that can be used on a Higher Education campus: 'Tip Cards' and 'BlueAssist’. ‘Tip Cards’ are developed by the health services in Scotland aimed at caretakers with direct patient contact. The cards are meant as a quick reference guide to remind people and not as a replacement for training measures. ‘BlueAssist’ is a simple system, on paper cards or phone, for anyone with a disability to ask for help on the campus. We give tips on how to implement BlueAssist at a Higher Education Campus, with 'frequently asked questions' and with “how to’s” regarding Social Media, QR codes, email signatures, etc.”

(https://www.iclife.eu/uploads/2/3/9/2/23924438/output_campusaccessibility_io1.pdf, P.42)

Buddy system:

“We can conclude that the buddy system is very efficient and that students with a disability feel a lot better thanks to the system. The students are satisfied to have someone around to help them and they enjoy seeing this person often. The buddies get more experience this way and are encouraged to learn to take responsibility. In this way the buddy system is a win-win situation.” (https://www.iclife.eu/uploads/2/3/9/2/23924438/output_buddy_system.pdf, P.20)

Work Placement:

“There are countless possible jobs on a higher education campus for people with a mental disability, although often 'job creation' will have to be done because these people are better employable in a certain part of the current jobs. However, this can generate a win-win situation, because people with an intellectual disability like executive and routine jobs, which is exactly the part of the package of tasks that the average employee would rather not do. Employees with an intellectual disability usually also come to work in a good mood, they especially enjoy being treated equally. The environment can be adjusted slightly where necessary, but preferably to the minimum and as integrated as possible.” (https://www.iclife.eu/uploads/2/3/9/2/23924438/output_work_placement.pdf, P.20)

Outcome 5 is the focus of UASU; a draft of the report is available and currently, the instrument is tested. As for the sixth, more general outcome: communication and dissemination already takes place in many different ways: by attending congresses, organizing seminars, workshops, website, articles etc.

And why would you consider it a grass-roots initiative?

This is a grass-roots initiative in two ways: it was initiated by teachers who wanted to research possibilities to create a truly inclusive university campus and it stimulates students and teachers (with and without intellectual disabilities) to cooperate and form an inclusive university community.

What challenges needed to be solved in this project?

The challenge is to give people with intellectual disabilities what they are entitled to: access to higher education and the opportunity to learn and get a college experience. In this project, this general aim is translated in the quest for a truly inclusive campus life.

Is this initiative based on any particular theoretical framework? Which one?

UASU is aiming at creating an inclusive campus. A framework and monitoring instrument must support this:

“Both the framework and monitoring instrument have been built up on the basis of a selection of topics matching with social inclusion. Social inclusion comprises elements such as (1) full and fair access to community-based resources and activities, (2) having relationships with family, friends and acquaintances, (3) having a sense of belonging to a group, which is interrelated with notions of community connectedness, personal inter-dependency and social capital (Cobigo et al. 2012, Cummins & Lau 2003). In addition, it is society with its resources to adapt to the needs of the persons with disabilities instead of the impaired individual needing to adapt to the structures of society.”

“Community as mentioned here can be understood as an environment of higher education, so-called campus. Besides these elements social inclusion is recognized as a general principle, a general obligation, as a right, as a goal and as a dynamic process (Cobigo et al. 2012, Simplican et al. 2015).”

(From: Inclusive Campus life. Framework and Monitoring Instrument; see also question 5)

(Appendix) Is your intervention standing on its own or is it a part of a bigger and more holistic approach?

Jeroen Knevel, the initiator within UASU, also leads a research program called Inclusion & Rights of People with Disabilities; this was a good starting point for participation in the ICLife project. Inclusion was already a theme, but more support and time had to be created to put the idea of inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities on the agenda of management and teaching staff. Moreover, the ICLife project participants think in terms of the UN Convention of the rights of Persons with a Disability ; this has always been the framework of Knevel’s research program. The same goes, more and more, for the education programs.

Besides that, the Institute of Social Work within UASU has already worked on inclusion for years. Recently, the subject gets a lot of attention within and outside UASU.

Please describe the group(s) intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

Why has this group (have these groups) been chosen?

In society, millions lag behind and do not reach their full potential because their educational needs are not satisfied. People with intellectual disabilities are said to suffer from ‘learning disabilities’, but it is a fact that they are able to learn (they learn different things, at a different pace and/or in a different way than others of their age).

Moreover, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities promotes “equal access for all women and men with disabilities to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university, and lifelong learning” (see the article on Inclusive Campus Life).

Apart from that: “People with intellectual disabilities have come to more and more understand their potential to contribute to society in various forms. Under the flags of self-determination and self-advocacy, many of them have undergone trainings on how to speak and present confidently about different subjects. Their organisations provide the necessary support to make presentations and guest lectures in different higher education faculties a possibility that can easily be realised” (see the article on Inclusive Campus Life, P.3).

Could you please tell us something about the relative size of the (of each) target group, within the school/university population, region and/or country?

People with intellectual disabilities are highly underrepresented (probably even almost unrepresented) in Dutch higher education; this type of education is traditionally reserved for people of above-average intelligence; this has always been the core rationale of its existence. You need a (higher) secondary education diploma to be admitted to HE.



Which social characteristics are taken into account and what is the geographical area covered?

Social characteristics: people with intellectual disabilities and the possibilities to include them in higher education. Geographical area is Utrecht area, Netherlands.

The group of people with intellectual disabilities is not clear-cut and is highly diverse. One thing is sure: many people are involved and the problem is much bigger than most people realize. Grossly, 20% of an overall population is expected to have intellectual restrictions in some way; about half of them (10%) or more suffers from mild or severe mental disabilities.

Some supporting statistics (CBS, 2013): in the Netherlands, about 2.2 million people (13% of the population) have I.Q.-scores between 70 and 85. Although these people are not officially labelled “mentally disabled”, the bigger half of them (about 1.4 million people) experience (mild) mental restrictions and need some kind of support to function in society.

On top of that, about 8.5% of the population “officially” suffer from mental (intellectual) disability (with I.Q.-scores under 70). Within this group, 4.4% have ‘medium severe’ intellectual disabilities (I.Q.-scores between 50 and 69) and 4.1% have severe intellectual disabilities (I.Q.-scores under 50).


On which level is the project implemented?

In the long end, the whole university (campus life) yet for the time-frame of this project (until the end of 2019) primarily the Institute of Social Work.

Please describe the political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

Did the initiative have political support?

Recently, the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (UASU) stated it wants to contribute to an inclusive, sustainable and just (local) society. These statements are not yet incorporated in the strategic plan of the university: HU 2020. Within UASU, however, the Institute of Social Work already established these three core values in its work plan: Safe, just and inclusive society. In that respect, the ICL-project matches the university's policy.


As for the ‘political factors’: the ICLife-project is inseparably linked to, inspired by and anchored in: (1) the UN convention about the rights of persons with disabilities, (2) the Action Plan of the UN treaty, coordinated and promoted from the Dutch Ministry of VWS (Public Health, Welfare and Sports) – one of four preconditions for implementation being the ‘commitment to involve experts by experience’.  ICLife does this continuously, (3) “Participatiewet” (literally, participation law; https://iederin.nl/nieuws/17593/de-participatiewet-eenvoudig-uitgelegd/).

How did it fit with local, regional or national policies?

The Dutch government (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science) encourages more diversity in HE and stimulates the universities (especially in the four biggest cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague and Utrecht) to address the so-called performance gap between students of privileged and those of underprivileged backgrounds.

Who are the stakeholders supporting the initiative?

Mainly researchers, teachers, students (with and without intellectual disabilities)

Are there particular demographic changes present that are influencing the project?


What is the institutional strategy and culture of the (educational) organization?

UASU participates in the USP-I project, together with other HE organizations in the region: (research) University Utrecht (UU) and the University Hospital Utrecht (UMC). The three work together on implementation of the ambitions as set out in the Participatiewet (5% of the staff is handicapped or disabled). Apart from that, USAU has an adviser on ‘Reintegration and Participatiewet’ who attempts to recruit and employ people with (intellectual) disabilities, in cooperation with the HRM-department and (local) care institutions.

UASU is also a partner in the national project to stimulate the accessibility of (higher) education. (https://www.duic.nl/algemeen/utrechtse-onderwijsinstellingen-tekenen-intentieverklaring-toegankelijkheid/)

To what extent does the initiative have an influence on institutional policy (or potential influence) of the (educational) organization?

This project seems to be at the heart of the ambitions of UASU, the region and the Netherlands. Therefore, it is expected that ICLife will have an impact here.

(Appendix) Is there public support for your initiative and the issue it addresses?

(Appendix) What other factors do you think have been important for the success of this initiative?

Please describe the overall initiative design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

Please describe the specific activities carried out.

The project was defined along six “intellectual outcomes”: Campus accessibility (1); Buddy system for people with intellectual disabilities (2); Involvement in teaching activities (3); Work placement (4); ICLife Framework & Monitoring (5) (https://www.iclife.eu/outcomes.html) and Communication and dissemination (6).

In each area, excessive research was done, lead by (at least) one of the partners. At UASU, the focus was to develop and test the Framework and Monitoring Instrument (the fifth outcome).

What were the key roles (teacher, student, management team etc.) within the project?

Teachers, researchers, students. In short: all participants of campus life, with and without intellectual disabilities.

What ideas, tools, theories, models, methodology (etc.) have been used to reach the goals?

Also see the answer to question 2 (about the theoretical framework). Focusing on the Framework and Monitoring Instrument, the ecological approach to social inclusion is used (by Simplican et al.; see Inclusive Campus life. Framework and Monitoring Instrument, Figure 1, p.5). The model distinguishes five variables (levels) and presents pathways towards social inclusion.

A framework on social inclusion has been developed along these levels (p.6). This framework has been an important basis for the development of a (complex) monitoring instrument with six components (stages), two cycles and five pathways (the model of Integrated Inclusive Life Framework & Monitoring Instrument; for further explanation: see pp. 8-10 of the aforementioned article, or watch the YouTube instruction video https://www.iclife.eu/). To make the model ready for use, a list of instructions (step-by-step explanation) is included in the article. The first (elementary) step is to get an understanding of inclusion, while the eighth (and last) step is inclusive assessment (of campus life).

What are the final revenues of the project?

To be established yet.

Please describe if your project ensured its sustainability

If so, how did you ensure the short-term impact of the project?

At the moment, the aforementioned Framework and Monitoring Instrument is tested (October 2018 – June 2019). If you take the prescribed steps of the model (among which ‘Find supporters’; ‘Action’: bring the ideas into practice and take care of ‘Inclusive assessment’), something must have changed permanently.

And how did you ensure the long-term impact of the project?

Applying the model (see above), dissemination, involve key figures. Ambitions:

1)  To make the website completely accessible to the public (after improving its design and content).

2)  Currently, ideas are developed for a follow-up of this project

3)  The ‘intellectual Outcomes’ will be available (downloadable) in every corner of the world at the end of 2019 (reports and hands-on tools).

4)  A motivation paper will be shared worldwide

5)  Dissemination of the project outcomes at conferences, symposiums, in trade journals, in all kinds of discussions, meetings, on YouTube, etc.

6)  Within UASU, the dean of the Social Work department wants to permanently hire a person with intellectual disabilities as a teacher and researcher (currently, this is an ambition to be achieved).

7)  Within the four-year bachelor curriculum of Social Work / UASU, every year contains courses in which (especially) Intellectual Output 3 (“Involvement in teaching activities”) is an intrinsic part of the (SW-)curriculum. The next step will be to effectuate this in other UASU institutes and programs.

Has your project been replicated elsewhere?


Please tell us about the resources used in this initiative

What was the budget for the initiative?

For the whole project, a total amount of about €450.000 was available; the UASU-share is about €90.000. Of this amount, about €60.000 came from Erasmus+ and the rest is co-financed (by UASU, lectorate PZO (Participation, Care and Support)).

How much did the initiative depend on volunteers?

How were the costs perceived by the public/the sector/other stakeholders?

To what extent did the initiative achieve its objectives?

Please describe the evidence to support the success of your initiative.

Under construction (see the answer to the question below about the indicators to demonstrate success).

Did the intervention lead to any unintended (positive) outcomes?

Nothing yet.

What indicators (quantitative and qualitative) have you measured to demonstrate success?

Several tools have been developed, partly based on Design Thinking Principles. The researchers/developers go through a cycle of developing, testing, adjusting, retesting, readjusting, etc. The tools that are part of Intellectual Outputs 2, 3 and 5 were particularly developed in this way.

The feedback collected in order to make the outcomes useful for (educational) practice comes through national and international meetings, workshops, qualitative and quantitative evaluations.  For example, IO5 (monitoring instrument) is offered to more than 20 partners for testing in their own context (program, institute, management level, education, etc.), feeding back their experiences and opinions to ICLife, so that they can move on with it.

In short: it is very much a matter of product development.

(Appendix) How did you evaluate/monitor this intervention?

The project is defined along six “intellectual outcomes”.