Inclusion and Belonging in Higher Education: A Scoping Study of Contexts, Barriers, and Facilitators

  •  Steven D. Taff    
  •  Maribeth Clifton    


A sense of inclusion and belonging are critical for students’ learning and personal development in higher education institutions. Learners who identify as non-majority identities (racial/ethnic minority, LGTBQ+, disability, and first generation) are at greater risk of feeling isolated and unwelcome. Lack of belonging and inclusion among individuals from marginalized identity groups is a contributor to increased stress as a chronic response to racism, stigmatization, discrimination, and exclusion. Conversely, a sense of inclusion and belonging contributes to better academic outcomes and enhanced physical and mental health. A systematic search of the literature initially yielded 2,914 articles with 68 eventually included for full-text analysis. Basic content analysis resulted in multiple categories including institutional context, barriers to inclusion and belonging, and facilitators of inclusion and belonging. The most commonly evoked institutional contexts were faculty and peer interaction; policies, procedures, and infrastructure; and classroom or clinical instruction. Barriers to inclusion and belonging included social exclusion, lack of accessibility, and microaggressions or other instances of discrimination and bias. Facilitators of inclusion and belonging included receptivity, availability of support services, accessible spaces, and inclusive policies and procedures. Lack of discussion regarding specifics of curriculum, instruction, and assessment indicate the need for future research to outline inclusive teaching best practices.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1925-4741
  • ISSN(Online): 1925-475X
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: quarterly

Journal Metrics

h-index (December 2021): 45

i10-index (December 2021): 207

h5-index (December 2021): 23

h5-median(December 2021): 36

(The data was calculated based on Google Scholar Citations. Click Here to Learn More. )