Keywords: Spain, young adults, intellectual disabilities, inclusive university, vocational training

Unidiversidad

Unidiversidad is an initiative from Fundación ONCE in Spain. It offers work training programmes to students with intellectual disabilities in a university environment. The programme has both theoretical and practical components, including direct input from companies, and aims to increase young people’s employment chances and promote more inclusive universities. The programme is currently offered in 23 universities in Spain, and they are looking to expand across Europe.

About the practice at a glance
Name of OrganisationFundación ONCE
Type of organisationSocial Business/Social Enterprise
Country
of Implementation
Spain
Year started2017
Funding modelPublic funding (subsidies; grants; etc.). Fundacion ONCE and European Social Fund finance grants for students

IMPACT

Unidiversidad is the first program to establish an inclusive university education model for people with intellectual disabilities. After three years has been implemented in 20 universities across 23 provinces, has graduated more than 500 students and has been key to facilitating the employment of these students. The programme has grown in all indicators, scope (universities and provinces) and beneficiaries (universities and trained students) since 2017. 

Our aim is for the Ministry of Universities to recognise the right of young people with intellectual disabilities to develop training itineraries in the field of higher education and to finance these programmes. The main intellectual disability organisations from all over the state took part in the design of the programme, and the opinion and exchange of experiences of young people with intellectual disabilities were taken into account. In addition, one of the requirements, both in the recruitment and selection of students and in the development of programs, is that universities collaborate with social entities of people with intellectual disabilities, being this collaboration one of the keys to success. 

THEORY OF CHANGE

We asked projects to outline their impact model (also called Theory of Change) – their main target groups, the key activities they offer these target groups, and what impact they want to achieve:

Target GroupActivityImpact
Universities
Financing their programmes

More inclusive universities
Young people with intellectual disabilitiesUniversity programmesEducation and job placement
Intellectual disability associationsSupport and assistance workA more inclusive society

REPLICATION EXPERIENCE

We have not replicated our innovation yet, but we have a clear idea about what to replicate, where and with which partners.  

The possibility of replication is one of the project’s virtues. The final objective is the implementation in all Spanish universities. The inclusive training model of training for employment is replicated with a section on theoretical training in general skills and another on employment-oriented professional practices, with universities having freedom in the design of their own programme and its contents. Replicating this project in other countries would ensure a firm step for inclusive and quality education in Europe. Regarding the geographical areas where we would like to replicate the project, we are willing to share knowledge and experiences with institutions that want to replicate the program in their own countries or others that seek to work in several countries simultaneously. 

Regarding the partners, we would like to work with intellectual disability associations, young people with intellectual disabilities who participate in training programs, public and private universities, donor companies and public and private institutions from other European countries. Fundación ONCE has collaborated with European universities and disability organisations in different programmes so we have the experience and contacts necessary to present the programme and work with foreign partners. 

ORGANISATIONAL CAPACITY AND STRATEGY

Fundación ONCE created the Directorate of Programs with Universities and Promotion of Young Talent, a unit from which the Unidiversidad program was born. The objective of this directorate is to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities in the university field, as well as to increase the ratio of university students with disabilities to facilitate, in this way, their access to quality jobs. The management has collaborated with European universities in the framework of Erasmus + projects and with the European Disability Forum in programs that pursue this goal. The team of the Directorate of Programs with Universities and Promotion of Young Talent would be involved in the participation of the Impact Transfer Program, especially Silvia Duarte, manager of international programs. 

MOTIVATION

We believe that by transferring the knowledge and experiences learned we would take steps towards a more inclusive global society, and towards inclusive educational models that make higher education a right within the reach of all Europeans and Europeans without exclusion.  

The Zero Project Impact Transfer Program gives us the opportunity to identify precise partners, receive training and personalized support to better design our knowledge transfer strategy, understand the specific needs of potential partners, and have a greater impact in other countries. Thanks to this training we could export our main objectives to different parts of the world: 1) Promote and develop university training programs for employment, with theoretical and practical content in business, aimed at young people with intellectual disabilities. 2) That the different administrations recognize the right of young people with intellectual disabilities to develop training itineraries in the field of higher education and finance these programs, like the rest of the programs aimed at the entire student body. 3) Find different sources of financing (university, private company, …) that allow the practice to be maintained and consolidated. 

Some of the challenges we hope to address through the Program: 

  • What are the steps to follw to implement a programme like Unidiversidad in other countries? 
  • The lack of updated and standardized statistics in European countries hinders a clear diagnosis to generate appropriate strategies.
  • Currently, the Unidiversidad programme is not self-sustainable, so it is necessary to look for new sources of funding. 
  • Each country has different laws and ways of dealing with intellectual disability, so it is necessary to study and discuss the possibilities in each country with potential partners. 
  • It is necessary to involve European parliamentarians so that in the future the programme can be standardised at European level and so that they are aware of the importance of allocating European funds for these groups and for programmes that have such an important impact on the life and progress of these young people.