Find the steps you can take to improve inclusion, accessibility and enable impactful learning.  

“We will be recognised globally as an inclusive educational community, widening participation, where the diversity of our student and academic body is celebrated and the individual needs of our students are respected and supported through a personalised, holistic and inclusive approach.” – Sussex 2025

Some definitions

Jisc (2021) defines accessibility as “designing systems to optimise access. Being inclusive is about giving equal access and opportunities to everyone wherever possible. In education this involves reducing and overcoming the barriers that might occur in:

  • digital content
  • teaching and learning activities
  • assessments.”

The guidance on this page comprises three sections including:

  • background information on inclusion and accessibility; what our students say, the legislation and best practice for teaching and learning (why)
  • an introduction to the principles of Universal Design for Learning (what)
  • UDL toolkit for module convenors (or anyone involved in designing teaching, learning and assessment) designed to help you undertake a self assessment of your teaching and assessment, and find actionable areas to develop, plus links out to further support, guidance and reading (how).

If there is something you're looking for and can't find it, please let us know.

Why inclusive teaching?

There are three key drivers for integrating inclusive teaching, learning and assessment into our everyday practice at Sussex:

  • What our students are telling us

    The following comments have been taken from a series of surveys and reports which have been contributed to, or produced by, Student Connectors.

    Teaching and learning activities

    The reports and surveys by Student Connectors indicate that:
    • students would like opportunities for all voices to be heard, including those who lack the full confidence to attend group sessions (discussions, seminars, workshops etc.). Teachers are responsible for creating a positive environment where students can also encourage their peers
    • students appreciate transparency. For example where staff are actively working to decolonise the curriculum, they would like to be involved in the journey and process.
    • there is a high demand for more hands-on, interactive and active learning. They appreciate interactive learning tools, such as: Kahoot, live Q&A, and Padlet
    • students want opportunities to develop digital and employability skills and it shouldn't be assumed that they already posses these skills
    • lectures can be a challenge for some students, for example students with ADHD. Students report appreciating more active learning approaches
    • students want more practice of assessment modes, for example writing practice for an essay
    • technology can be an enabler, although it is noted that relying on students having access to certain technologies can be problematic as well. There is a digital divide, not just in access but also in capability.


    Assessment and feedback

    Results on assessment and feedback showed that:
    • students value a dialogue about the assessments and want to understand why they have been chosen; their purpose and role in the module design. They also report valuing links to learning outcomes at both the module and course level
    • students are prepared to take risks, though only where this is supported by diversity and scope of assessment topics for example. Dialogues are hugely important here.


    Online content and the virtual learning environment (VLE, Canvas)

    It was found that:
    • students want more resources available online –library resources in particular
    • pre-recorded lectures can be useful
    • signposting is a recurring theme, with students citing lack of consistency of key information across modules and signposting to key support resources, such as the Student Support Unit. Consequently, some students report relying on their lecturers to email content
    • students prefer clear signposting and consistent use of Canvas templates to email communication (which they receive a lot of)
    • students would like mandatory digital training for staff members and lecturers, highlighting the importance of developing our own digital capability, thus enabling us to work more inclusively.
  • Sector best practice and guidance

    Sussex 2025

    Our own Strategic Framework, Sussex 2025, aspires for our institution to become recognised globally as an inclusive educational community. The Learn to Transform pillar includes several key aims relating directly to inclusion and accessibility, such as:

    • review assessment and feedback mechanisms to ensure inclusive practice
    • working with students to understand student diversity
    • growing alternative and flexible delivery methods.


    Advance HE

    “An inclusive curriculum design approach is one that takes into account students’ educational, cultural and social background and experience as well as the presence of any physical or sensory impairment and their mental well-being. It enables higher education institutions (HEI) to embed quality enhancement processes that ensure an anticipatory response to equality in learning and teaching.”

    Inclusive curriculum design in higher education, HEA (Advance HE)


    De Montfort University (DMU)

    DMU has been using the Universal Design for Learning framework for many years. Dr Kevin Merry, Senior Academic Development Consultant at DMU, joined us at an event for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (20 May 2021) in which he walked us through how DMU uses the UDL framework and what that looks like at DMU. We also caught up with Kevin in the TEL podcast, linked below.

    "So there's a very diverse group and community of learners within the institution. And we just felt that a one size fits all way of teaching them just wouldn't work. We needed to find more bespoke more customisable ways to ensure that the vast majority of those students could learn effectively and could achieve successful outcomes."

    Dr. Kevin Merry on the TEL:US podcast


    Plymouth University

    Plymouth University has a lot of excellent resources, but this quote in particularly highlights our collective responsibility.

    “It is a social/political/ethical responsibility - for you to treat your colleagues and students fairly and for them to treat you fairly in return. Creating vibrant and critical discussion in the classroom requires you to foster open and respectful environments in order that such discussions can take place."

    Why is inclusive teaching and learning important, Plymouth University

  • Regulatory bodies and legislation

    Whilst much of the above should be enough to encourage us to design more inclusively, it’s also worth noting the legislative and regulatory environment in which we sit as an HEI. Namely, the Equality Act 2010, Web Accessibility legislation and the National Student Survey run by the Office for Students.

    Equality Act, 2010

    To meet our obligations under the Equality Act 2010, we must:

    • eliminate direct AND indirect discrimination
    • advance equality of opportunity
    • foster good relationships.


    Web accessibility legislation

    The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 requires that our websites (and apps) are digitally accessible to a given standard (WCAG...). This includes each Canvas module site.


    Office for Students (OfS) and the National Student Survey (NSS)

    The NSS, run by the OfS contains a number of questions which have bearing on inclusive curriculum design, including Learning Resources, Learning Community and Student Voice, which itself includes an opportunity for students to report positive AND negative experiences.

Enabling inclusive teaching and learning (what)

Knowing that we should be doing something, and why we should be doing it, is one thing. Knowing where to start is something else entirely. ‘Universal Design for Learning’ (UDL), an evidence based curriculum design framework, is a great place to start.

What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

The UDL ‘guidelines offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities.’

The framework is based on three principles, which say that an inclusive curriculum provides multiple means of:

  • engagement or the ‘why of learning
  • representation or the ‘what of learning
  • action and expression or the ‘how of learning

You can download the UDL guidelines [PDF 210KB] or visit the CAST UDL Guidelines website for an interactive version and to find out more about UDL. 


How to enable inclusive teaching and learning

Incorporating inclusive and accessible modules is key for effective teaching and learning, and this can be done using UDL self-assessment tools.

UDL self-assessment tools

Using the UDL framework, we have created a series of self-assessment tools designed to give you buildable and actionable strategies for incorporating inclusive design across your modules. Each is available in three different formats.

Teaching and learning activities

Assessment and feedback

Curriculum resources and the VLE (Canvas)

Guidance, support, resources and further reading

Links to resources, guidance, support and research relating to each of the three categories.

If you are unable to find something that you are looking for please just get in touch.



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