skip to content

Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning


What is inclusive teaching and learning?

'Inclusive Teaching and Learning' is the umbrella term used in Cambridge for initiatives that seek to secure participation and learning success for all students within Cambridge. It addresses the teaching, learning and assessment needs of students from a range of protected characteristics, including race, disability and gender.

There has been a significant shift in understanding of inclusion from being the responsibility of the access and widening participation units, or referring to the work by certain key members of staff to support the learning needs of specific groups of students, to an acceptance that inclusivity is the responsibility of all staff and is closely correlated to excellence in educational experiences. Inclusive practices involve a respect for diverse students, materials and ideas, are related to quality assurance and the maintenance of high academic standards, and should be integrated into all aspects of the academic cycle from teaching and learning practices, assessment design, through to ongoing curriculum enhancement.


What are the guiding principles?

The following six Guiding Principles for Inclusive Teaching and Learning have been developed with students and staff members of the Inclusive Teaching and Learning Advisory Group and reviewed by the General Board of Education. They have been designed to provide a framework for further guidance, resources and case studies about inclusive teaching and learning practices for students and staff across the collegiate University.


  1. Recognise that an excellent education is inclusive

    Access to the University is not enough; all students at Cambridge have the right to full participation in the available educational opportunities that will allow them to reach their individual potential. This means delivering high quality teaching for all students, understanding that students learn in different ways.

  2. Ensure a positive educational environment

    The promotion of positive attitudes in education is necessary for inclusion; a shared culture and ethos based upon welcoming attitudes towards a diversity of learners is crucial and needs to be fostered by individuals, as well as by larger institutions such as Colleges, Departments and Faculties.

  3. Design an inclusive curriculum

    An inclusive curriculum is one that allows for diversity of content, material, ideas and methods of assessment. It involves purposefully integrating perspectives that expand and enhance the canon, both within individual papers and across the whole course. It provides students with opportunities to engage with a variety of viewpoints and equips them for a global and diverse environment.

  4. Embed inclusive practices

    Educational practice should be purposely designed to meet a diverse range of needs, enhancing the quality of education for all learners, rather than being focused upon individual students or groups in a deficit approach.It also means proactively addressing the barriers that may prevent students from learning.

  5. Provide structure and transparency

    Students arrive at Cambridge with different cultural backgrounds, personalities, learning differences, and confidence levels. This diversity may seem overwhelming at times, but by clarifying the structure of a course, assessment and teaching methods, and by communicating the learning outcomes, students will know what is expected of them. By being clear about expectations, many issues related to the ‘hidden curriculum’ will be bypassed.

  6. Work with students as partners

    Students’ education should encourage and facilitate their active engagement in learning. Staff-student partnerships and student-led activities can make valuable contributions to course enhancement and inclusion, and these activities may be purposefully integrated into programmes as well as extra-curricular.