A student with disabilities is more likely to complete a course at a school with a low enrolment, according to a new report from the University of Sydney.
In a survey of 6,000 university students, researchers found the average grade in all six Australian universities was a B grade or below.
This could indicate that students with a disability have limited or no access to the most prestigious universities.
The study also found that the university with the lowest enrolment for students who had a disability was Sydney University, which had an average grade of B. The University of Melbourne had the second lowest grade, at a B, and the University at Albany had the third lowest grade at a C.
The University at Canberra was ranked fourth lowest at a D grade.
University of Sydney students were also more likely than their peers at other universities to complete the course at an institution with low enrolments.
This may indicate that universities have a better chance of recruiting and retaining students with learning disabilities.
The survey also found students with severe learning disabilities were more likely in some of the universities studied to complete lower-grade courses, such as courses on social studies or art.
Researchers said the results were consistent with previous research, which showed higher-grade students are less likely to attend universities with high enrolments, and that these students also tend to be disadvantaged academically.
“This suggests that universities may have less to offer in terms of academic resources and the opportunity to recruit students with greater levels of learning disability,” the report’s authors wrote.
Despite the findings, the report does not suggest the universities with the highest enrolment levels are the worst places for students to complete their degree.
It said the findings are important because “higher education is a key component of our social mobility system”.
“It is important to recognise that many of the institutions with the best outcomes for students are also the ones with the least.”
The report also found many students with special needs were not included in the survey, which could lead to a bias in the data.
“These students are underrepresented in the student population in a wide range of university institutions and they are not included because they do not meet the inclusion criteria for the inclusion of students with certain learning disabilities,” the authors said.
A spokesperson for the Australian Education Union (AEU), which represents university students in Victoria, said students with hearing and vision impairments had a “distinct advantage” compared to other students.
“We believe that all students with specific learning disabilities should have access to a university education and that students should have the chance to attend a university with a higher standard of learning than other students,” a spokesperson said.