Text provided by Natalie Freislich-Mills for the UniTasterDays Teachers' Guide to University, when in-post as the Head of Make Happen (Uni Connect Progrogramme)
Although special educational needs and
disabilities is a term used widely in schools
and colleges, at higher education this is
usually replaced with the term disabilities.
Some students may not identify with the term
disabled; however, it is important that students
are aware of their rights and the support
available to them during their studies.
The first step for students is to declare their disability on their UCAS application. Universities use this to begin conversations with students early, to ensure support is in place from the start. Declaring their disability will not affect their offers, universities have a legal obligation to ensure they are not discriminating against students during admission and throughout their education (Equality Act 2010). In addition, any student who declares a disability is legally entitled to reasonable adjustments. Universities want students to succeed, and will be keen to provide students with the information and support they need.
Disabled students can apply for specific funding in the form of the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). The DSA helps to cover additional costs incurred whilst accessing their course and is usually applied for through the relevant nation’s body for student finance. It is a non-repayable grant and is dependent on a student’s individual needs. If students are yet to receive an official diagnosis, it is not too late. Some universities offer full or partial financial support for assessments once enrolled.
The types of support on offer for students will vary depending on the university, so it’s essential that students research carefully.
Generally, the focus is on developing independent learning skills, so often support is less than in schools and colleges. Disability support is usually provided by student services teams so encourage your students to get in touch or visit their page within the university website to find out what is available.
University open days allow students to
meet staff as well as existing students to
find out what support is really like. Student
unions often have a disability officer who will
represent disabled students within university
decision making and ensure their interests are
Once students begin their course, some universities will proactively keep in touch, while others will expect students to take the initiative. It is also important to consider how the university supports students with career transition, so encourage students to speak to the career teams.
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