Students with Special Educational Needs: Content Analysis of Regulation in the Portuguese Higher Education

  • Ana Pereira Antunes
  • Débora Rodrigues
  • Leandro S. Almeida
  • Sandra Estêvão Rodrigues


Nowadays, exist several pressures on educational institutions to democratise access and success for all students, including students with special educational needs (SEN). Unfortunately, practices do not always follow the guidelines adopted by governments. This discrepancy becomes even more evident in higher education (HE), perhaps due to the greater pedagogical and scientific autonomy of universities. Even so, awareness of the problem has warranted the advancement of student support structures for these students (DGEEC, 2018). Therefore, it is important to know the needs of students with SEN at HE and to investigate inclusive practices (Roth, Pure, Rabinowitz, & Kaufman-Scarborough, 2018). So, qualitative research might be a strengthen form of investigation because it allows to give voice to the actors and to listen to their perspective, which is a basic principle of disability studies, that is, “nothing about us without us” (Van Hove, 2018).

The main goal of this paper is to analyse the current understanding of students with SEN in HE, considering the conceptualisation and the intervention referred in the Portuguese HE regulation. To this aim, we highlight the contribution of qualitative methodology and the documentary analysis as a privileged form of data collection to achieve the defined goals.