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BLuE [Bildung (Education), Life-Competence und (and) Empowerment]

The Salzburg University of Education Stefan Zweig's submission 'BLuE' was chosen as one of the three promising practices within the 'Policy Impact' category. BLuE is an inclusive post-secondary education (IPSE) programme for students with intellectual disabilities based in the University of Education Salzburg Stefan Zweig. The university programme aims to create employment opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities upon completing the course.

Name of practice: BLuE [Bildung (Education), Life-Competence und (and) Empowerment]

Organisation:University of Education Salzburg Stefan Zweig

Description of organisation: The Salzburg University of Education Stefan Zweig (Pädagogische Hochschule Salzburg Stefan Zweig) offers pre-service professional preparation as well as in-service and continuing education for teachers and conducts research on relevant educational and social needs for a modern European society. The University supports comprehensive education, effective pedagogical practices, and regional and international networks.

Country: Salzburg, Austria

Year of Initiation: 2017

Funding: University Budget

Link to UNCRPD: Article 24 - states parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access general tertiary education.

Description of Practice: BLuE is an inclusive post-secondary education (IPSE) programme for students with intellectual disabilities based in the University of Education Salzburg Stefan Zweig. It is a fully inclusive certificated programme taking place over a four-year (8 semester) period. The university programme aims to create employment opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities upon completing the course. This has led to the university developing a strong cooperative arrangement with the labour market, including employers and the labour market agency while students take part in the programme. The university’s experience with the BLuE Programme and the post-secondary programmes at its partner institutions will significantly facilitate post-secondary programmes for students with intellectual disabilities around Europe.

Problem Targeted: Throughout the world, persons with intellectual disabilities are excluded from many areas of life, often segregated in specialised systems, including special schools, sheltered work environments, and congregate living facilities. These arrangements adversely affect their learning opportunities and have a negative impact on their opportunities as adults and their quality of life. Inclusive post-secondary education (IPSE) for individuals with intellectual disabilities, which are programmes housed in traditional colleges and universities, is a relatively new practice that holds much promise for improved adult outcomes. However, there are currently relatively few IPSE programmes for young adults with intellectual disabilities in Europe.

Solution Offered: BLuE is the first programme for students with intellectual disabilities at Austrian universities, developed in cooperation with relevant stakeholders and operating at different levels. At university level, the programme coordinators regularly work with students and staff to develop personalised training sessions, discuss effective learning and teaching methods, and further adapt the BLuE programme according to changing needs. Each student participates in two development meetings per semester in which a personalised and individualised plan is developed.

Impact generated by practice: The university aims to disseminate their experiences at a national level, looking to encourage stakeholders from neighbouring Austrian universities to implement similar programmes. In October 2022, the university will organise a conference on this topic in Salzburg, where speakers from both national and international universities will discuss the importance of developing IPSE-programmes both in Austria and across Europe. Through BLuE, the University hopes to create an impact on the current policy and regulation procedures set in Austria which provides limited opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities to study at a university in Austria.

The university has also developed official job descriptions in cooperation with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce including office assistant, service assistant, pedagogical assistant and tourism assistant. Modules within the university programme can be developed around the competencies and skills necessary to attain these jobs.

Sustainability of the practice: Through the BLuE programme, the university has founded the European network joinIN alongside other European institutions as to improve knowledge-sharing. joinIN has partners in different Euopean countries (Austria, Ireland, Iceland, Germany and Switzerland). The University of Education Salzburg Stefan Zweig’s goal is to reproduce programmes like BLuE on a national level, increasing the access of persons with intellectual disabilities towards higher-level education and enhancing their employment opportunities in self-determined career areas.

This requires not only the development of fully inclusive programmes, but the development of instructions for IPSE staff and student volunteers to improve their knowledge on promoting inclusion and self-determination in school, as well as the creation and dissemination of quality indicators for IPSE programmes.

Contact Person: Dr. Wolfgang Plaute, Vice Rector: wolfgang.plaute@phsalzburg.at

Additional links:

BLuE: Salzburg University of Education Stefan Zweig YouTube Video

Article on BLuE: Junge Frau mit Handicap macht sich fit furs Berufsleben

Article on BLuE Programme: Ein ganz besonderer Hochschulabschluss