Faculty Attitudes Towards Students with Disabilities in Russian Universities: A Glance at Western Siberia


The main purpose of this study was to investigate the attitudes of faculty members of Russian state universities, in Western Siberia, towards inclusive education and students with disabilities. We revealed positive attitudes of regional academic staff towards co-education of healthy students and persons with disabilities. Threequarters of the respondents agree that inclusive education has a positive impact not only on the development and socialization of people with disabilities, but also on their peers with normal educational needs. However, only a quarter of respondents feel ready to work with students with disabilities. The study revealed significant influence of gender, experience, age on the attitude towards inclusion. The lack of experience of working with students with disabilities is the reason for the psychological fear, on the part of academic staff members.

Keywords: Inclusive higher education, students with disabilities (hereafter- SD), an inclusive educational environment, psychological willingness for inclusion, attitudes towards the inclusive education

1. Introduction and problem statement

After the ratification of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (2012, the process

of forming an inclusive higher system of education, started in Russian universities. Inclusive higher

education is an organization of training process that includes all students irrespective of their physical,

mental, intellectual, cultural-ethnic, language, and other features in the higher education system, and

are trained with their non-disabled peers; taking into consideration their special educational needs, and

rendering necessary support (Ainscow, 2002). The aim of inclusive education is to eliminate social

exclusion. In the accordance with Federal Law on the 29th December 2012 No 273-FZ “On Education

in the Russian Federation”, SD are guaranteed an equal access to all levels of education.

Amendments to the 508 federal state educational standards (2014-2016) requires accommodations

for SD including modifications to academic programs, a time extension for completion of degree

requirements, the availability of electronic resources and adopted syllabuses, special procedures for

admission and passing exams, and tutor assistance. The social context of the problem is that Russian

students with disabilities face physical and mental barriers. The percentage of students with

documented disabilities in Russian universities was only 0,32% in 2014. This is a very small number,

in accordance to the World Health Organization's statement (2013): approximately 15% of the world's

population is disabled.

Faculty attitudes towards SD include cognitive, behavioral, and value components, which are

important components of higher school inclusion. It determines the success of students and quality

of academic interactions. So the Ministry of education and social development of the Russian

Federation has approved requirements to the inclusive special skills of teachers of higher education

in September 2015.

The attitudes of teachers towards SD is an independent research topic in Humanities. According on

the data of García-Fernández, 240 articles on the attitudes to people with disabilities and inclusion in

education, had been posted into a peer-reviewed database of Social sciences citation index, Web of

science, including 24 publication dedicated to the development and testing of measurement tools of

inclusion from 2000 to 2011 (García-Fernández, Inglés, Juan Gonzálvez-Macià, Mañas-Viejo, 2013).

The most cited article devoted to the description of the measurement tools of attitudes towards people

with disabilities (50 citations) is the study by Antonak and Livneh (2002). The most common research

instrument is a test- Attitudes Towards Disabled Persons Scale (ATDP) developed by Yuker (1966).

It revealed that 1) the positive attitude of faculty and staff toward students with disabilities is an

essential condition of academic success determining the quality and effectiveness of academic

communications (Florian, Black-Hawkins, 2011; Rao, 2004; Bagget, 1994). 2) factors influencing

positive / negative attitude towards inclusion of persons with disabilities are based on; gender, age,

experience with individuals with TDO, specialized training, position, and region (Bashir Abu-Hamour,

2013); 3) the gap between the positive attitude to inclusion of the majority of teachers of higher

education systems in various regions of the world, and on the other hand, a low level of special

knowledge and skills in this area (Vogel, Leyser, Wyland, Brulle,1999, Williamson,2000). These were

the results of studies aimed at identifying the level of knowledge about legislation on the rights of

persons with disabilities, published by Thompson (Thompson, Bethea, and Turner, 1997).

The russian studies revealed that 1) the willingness of teachers to inclusion is the basic premise of

real integration in a classroom (Alekhina, 2011); 2) the willingness of teachers to inclusive education is

a complicated mental formation including cognitive, emotional and behavioral components (Alekhina,

Agafonova, Alekseeva, 2012, Malyarchuk, Volosnikova, 2015, Pevzner, Petryakov, Shirin, 2014). At

the present stage of studies, the main efforts of the Russian humanitarian science focuses on inclusive

education in general schools; while there is a shortage of studies for the higher education inclusion

(Karynbaeva, 2015; Kulagina, 2015; lyubavina 2013; Yarskaya, Yarskaya-Smirnova, 2015).

2.The purpose of the study

The main purpose of this study was to investigate the attitudes of faculty members in 9 Russian

state universities of Western Siberia, towards the inclusive education of SD. The main issues to be

explored: 1. What are the attitudes of the academic staff towards inclusive education and SD? 2 What

factors (gender, age, experience, training in teaching SD) significantly impact the positive/ negative

attitudes towards inclusive education and SD? 3. How do you evaluate the willingness, knowledge, and

skills of inclusive education of university teachers?

We invited all 3876 faculty members of nine universities in Western Siberian Tyumen region,

Russia, to participate in the study: State agricultural University of North Ural, Tyumen state Institute of

culture, Tyumen state industrial University, Tyumen state medical University, Tyumen state

University, Surgut state pedagogical University, Surgut state University, Yugra state University,

Nizhnevartovsk state University. We have received 2081 completed application form.

Figure 1: Demographic characteristics of faculty members Demographic characteristics %
Demographic characteristics of faculty members Demographic characteristics %
See Full Size >

3.Research methods

The study was conducted in April-May, 2016. Letter from the head of Council of Rectors of

Tyumen region was sent to University rectors. To improve the research’s instrument, the authors

reviewed prior published instruments used to assess attitudes to DP (Booth, Antonak, Thompson,

Bethea and Turner, Rodríguez Martín and Álvarez Arregui). The instrument contained an explanation

of the purpose, and included 30 questions in 5 blocks: attitude, willingness, knowledge, skill, and

evaluation of the inclusive environment at the University. The survey included 4 pen-ended questions

that asked to justify the attitudes of respondents towards SD. A survey was carried out through

distribution of an email link to the survey. The measurement error is 1, 5% according to the formula of

V. Paniotto.


4.1. Attitudes towards inclusive education of SD

Of the total number of participants, 86% of respondents expressed a positive attitude towards

inclusive education of SD (answers "positive"-42% "rather positive"- 44%); 7% expressed negative

attitude towards inclusive education of SD (answers "rather negative" – 6%; negative –1%, and 6% of

respondents omitted this question.

Respondents were asked an open question about the positive effects of inclusion. Of the total

number of participants, 89% of respondents formulated positive effects of inclusion for students and

for the society as a whole, 6% of respondents omitted the question, 5% of respondents did not see any

positive effects of inclusive education. The ranking of the most common key words used to describe

the positive effects of inclusive education are presented below: tolerance – 829 references (29.1%),

socialization – 259 (13.9%), adaptation - 187 (9.0%) communication- 133 (6.4 %), mutual aid - 88

(4.2%), interaction - 44 (2.1%), empathy - 42 (2.0%), social support -24 (1.2%), and respect - 23 (1.1


4.2.Willingness for the inclusive education of SD

Of the total number of participants, only 25, 7% of respondents (571 people) note their total

willingness to work with SD; 37,6% had psychological willingness, but an insufficient level of special

skills, 36,2% noted total unwillingness to work with SD., 98% of respondents were ready to help

SD (responses of "always" -67, 2%, "sometimes"-30,8%), 2% of respondents chose the answer

"never". Of the total number of participants, 95,3% of teachers understand the social significance of

inclusive education of SD( "always"- 74, 2%, "sometimes"- 21,3%, 4,4% - "never").

4.3.Experience of work with SD and special training for inclusive education students

Of the total number of participants, only 8% of respondents (184 people) have received special

inclusion-focused training. At the same time 66% believe that training of teachers for inclusive

education of students with disabilities is the most important condition for effective inclusion. Of the

total number of participants, 46,9% of teachers had experience of teaching students with disabilities,

and the rest had no experience. The study revealed a correlation between the presence of training

experience of SD and willingness to inclusive education of SD. Оnly 19,4% of the respondent group

«total unwillingness to work with SD» had experience of teaching SD.

4.4. Knowledge of the laws on the rights of persons with disabilities and the experience of inclusive


Of the total number of participants, only 15 % of respondents know Russian legislation on the rights

of SD; 56% chose the answer "partly", 31% reported complete lack of knowledge(the answer is "no").

Only 8% of respondents know the international law on the rights of persons with disabilities; 40%

chose the answer "partly", 52% chose the answer “don't know." Finally, 36% of respondents noted a

total lack of knowledge about the national experience of inclusive education; 45% -lacked total of

knowledge on foreign practices of inclusive education (the answer is "no").


Of the total number of participants, 30% were males and 70% were females. Differences in

attitudes towards inclusive education of SD on the basis of gender were unstable. Of the total number

of respondents, 84,4% of men and 87, 1% of women expressed a positive attitude towards inclusive

education, 72,8 % of men and 78,4% of women believe, that inclusive education impacts positive

effects for the students and the society as a whole. Of the total number of respondents, 59,7% of men

and 70, 5% of women are always ready to provide assistance to persons with disabilities; 77,3% of

women and 67,1 % of men were constantly aware of the social significance of working with SD;

57,4% of women and 42,4% of men chose the answer "always show empathy"; 46,2% women and

30,5% men constantly feel the need to improve special skills. On the topic "Knowledge of the

Russian legislation on the rights of persons with disabilities" of 38,9% of men and 35,7% of women

chose the negative answer. Lack of knowledge about inclusive education - 35,% men and 29,6%



The survey involved teachers age group "under 30 years" (13%)"from 31 to 40 years"(34%) , from

41 to 50 years" (26%), «from 51 to 60 years" (18%), "older than 61 years" (8%). Of the total number of

participants, a high level of positive attitude to inclusion is expressed “from 41-50years (81,2%), and

younger than 30 years (80%), the lowest level is "from the age of 61 and above” (72%). The lowest

level of willingness to teach SD: only 20,4% of the category "older than 61 years" chose "full

readiness" (in the sample it is 25%). The analysis of the data revealed a fact: a positive attitudes of

teachers towards SD increases from decade to decade, however, once respondents are 60 years and

older, there is a "fracture" followed by the reduced willingness to work in inclusive educational space.


Analysis of research results allows formulating the following conclusions. Inclusive education in

Russia began recently, so the Russian universities have to go through the difficult level of developing

different strategies and models of successful integration of students in higher education, and

accommodations for promoting their success.

The positive attitudes of teachers towards SD is an important component of the university

environment, as a well as special knowledge and skills. The attitudes of majority of teachers of the

state system of higher education (Tyumen region) to collaborative learning of non-disabled students

and SD is positive (86%). In their opinion, inclusive education will have a positive impact not only on

the development and socialization of individuals with disabilities, but also on their peers with normal

educational needs. A limitation of this conclusion is that the study was conducted based on self-

evaluation, and the respondents could choose answers that they believe are socially desirable.

Every fourth respondent found it difficult to define the term "inclusive education. The study

revealed a considerable gap between positive attitudes towards inclusion and low levels of willingness

to inclusive education: only a quarter of respondents feel total (professional and psychological)

readiness to work with SD. 38% of respondents are psychologically willing, but complain about

insufficient professional skills. The main reasons of fears of inclusion are; lack of work experience

with SD, and lack of special training and instructions. Academic staff members consider professional

development and special training as the main priority for the development of an inclusive academic

environment. A review of foreign literature allows to conclude that the problems experienced by

teachers in the transition to inclusive education, is also encountered by Russian teachers.

Of the total number respondents, three quarters of respondents (74,2%) are fully aware of the social

significance of work with students with disabilities in terms of inclusive education. Women

demonstrate a higher level of positive attitude to inclusion than men. Experience with students and

special training impact on the positive attitude towards inclusive education.

This review implies the need for the development of positive attitude towards the successful

implementation of inclusive higher education. Further, there is a need to intervene on negative

attitudes, and control factors contributing to negative attitudes in implementing successful inclusion.

It is necessary to form these capabilities in academic staff members for effective work in conditions of

inclusion, and maintaining these competences at a high level for the development of tolerant attitudes

towards SD. " It is possible to form an inclusive civil society in which people can co-experience, co-

feel and help others in the context of inclusive education . “Only when all children are learning

together, can they understand how to tactfully and tolerantly to treat others” (cited from a respondent's



Finally, the authors thank the European Project TEMPUS IV/VI “Initial and Further Education and Training for Educationalists and Managers in Education in the field of Diversity”543873-TEMPUS-1-2013-1-DE-TEMPUS-JPCR, and the rectors of Tyumen universities, ' for support of the research.


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Cite this article as:

Volosnikova, L. M., & Efimova, G. Z. (2016). Faculty Attitudes Towards Students with Disabilities in Russian Universities: A Glance at Western Siberia. In R. Valeeva (Ed.), Teacher Education - IFTE 2016, vol 12. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 432-438). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2016.07.68