Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Experiences of higher education students with chronic illnesses

Hamilton, Pippa R.; Hulme, Julie A.; Harrison, Emma D.


Pippa R. Hamilton

Julie A. Hulme

Emma D. Harrison


This paper explores the experiences of students with chronic illnesses in UK universities. Sixty-seven students with chronic illnesses completed an online survey with open-ended questions about their experiences in higher education. Questions covered four main topics: academic work; university staff; social and extracurricular activities; and participants’ miscellaneous opinions. Using thematic analysis, the data were analysed with references to the social model of disability and social representations of chronic illness. Participants wrote of misconceptions surrounding chronic illnesses, a sense of inequality, and feeling undervalued. Many staff members seemed to lack understanding and so ‘policed’ academic regulations rather than accommodating for their chronic illnesses. However, some participants wrote of social and academic ‘allies’ who offered understanding and proactive support. The findings add substance to the chronic illness literature with the focus on students at university, and we offer recommendations to universities for improving inclusivity for students with chronic illnesses.


Hamilton, P. R., Hulme, J. A., & Harrison, E. D. (2021). Experiences of higher education students with chronic illnesses. Disability and Society, 38,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 20, 2021
Online Publication Date Apr 26, 2021
Publication Date Mar 22, 2021
Journal Disability and Society
Print ISSN 0968-7599
Electronic ISSN 1360-0508
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Keywords students, chronic illness, fatigue, higher education, myalgic encephalitis, university
Publisher URL