Being, becoming belonging: Developing Inclusion and Inclusive Education in Higher Education

Michelle Somerton

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Nazarbayev University was established in 2010 by the first President Nursultan Nazarbayev and is tasked with the mission of being a model for higher education reform and modern research in Kazakhstan. Within this model, the first strategic goal is to ensure that the lessons of Nazarbayev University’s experience are transferred and understood by other universities, schools, and research centers. As Kazakhstan has signed international agreements that concern inclusive education such as the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994) and Education for All (UNESCO, 2000), the burden has been placed on a range of stakeholders at all levels of education, to meet the country’s international obligations. Not only is Kazakhstan placed between Asia and Europe resulting in competing paradigms of understanding and definitions of inclusive education, additionally, inclusive education in Kazakhstan has emerged from the soviet educational approach of ‘defectology’. This approach is best described as a medicalized and segregated version of what many western countries understand as ‘special education’ that constrains the definition of inclusive education to a disability only paradigm. As a result there is confusion between historical and contemporary definitions of inclusive education leading to the fragmentation of reforms. This paper will discuss the process of developing institutional policy that addresses contemporary understandings of inclusive education and is the first of its kind in this context and across many others. The research includes the construction of a campus climate questionnaire developed in partnership with the student population and between schools and faculty. The questionnaire is based on culture, policy and practices, three dimension of the Index for Inclusion (Booth & Ainscow, 2002), and explores the attitudes and experiences of undergraduate and post-graduate students based on gender, disability, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, and socio-economic status. At present, pilot study data is available with preliminary data available on the full study in early October, 2019. This research highlights some of the opportunities and challenges faced by higher education institutions in transforming and creating a more inclusive educational landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2 2019
EventIAFOR Education Conference - Tokyo, Japan
Duration: Nov 1 2019Nov 3 2019


ConferenceIAFOR Education Conference


  • inclusive education, higher education, inclusion


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