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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Disability support in higher education

Universities and colleges are increasingly aware of the needs of disabled students and students with specific learning difficulties. They can provide support in a number of ways – and you may be able to get extra financial help.

What is higher education?

Higher education is the next step on from further education. Studying at university or college, you'll work towards one of a range of qualifications such as a degree - for example, a BA or BSc - Foundation Degree, or a diploma/certificate of higher education.

You can go into higher education at any age but many people enter when they around 18 years old.

There's a lot to consider if you're planning to go into higher education, and as a disabled student you'll need to give plenty of thought to:

  • where to study
  • the support you may need while studying
  • support with day-to-day living
  • money and funding

For general information on university and higher education, see the general 'education and learning' section of Directgov.

Where to study

Universities and higher education colleges have an obligation to make provision for disabled students.

Each place of study should publish a Disability Statement setting out how it provides support. You can ask to see a copy of this statement, as well as looking on their website to see details of their policies.

Support provided by colleges and universities could include:

  • accommodation adapted for the needs of disabled students
  • professional care staff
  • assistance from volunteers

Every university or college has a Disability Advisor or Learning Support Coordinator to help you get the most out of your time in higher education. They can tell you about the support available - for example equipment to help you study. When applying to a university, you don't have to tell them about your disability - but you'd need to do so to get any additional support or funding.

You may find it useful to contact your university or college's disability adviser or disability coordinator before you make a final decision about where to study. It's also a good idea to go and check the institution out for yourself.

Support while you're studying

There are many things universities can do to help disabled students, including:

  • providing course materials in Braille and other accessible formats
  • ensuring buildings and facilities are accessible
  • encouraging flexible teaching methods
  • providing support during exams, so that all students are assessed fairly
  • allowing additional time to complete courses

You may also need assistance on a day-to-day basis to help you study. This could be someone to:

  • interpret words into sign language
  • take notes for you
  • write down your words - for example in an exam
  • help you overcome physical barriers

It's worth contacting your disability advisor or disability co-ordinator soon after you arrive at university or college so you can find out about the support available.

Disabled Students' Allowances and other financial help

If you have a disability (including an ongoing health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia), you may be entitled to extra financial help towards the costs of specialist equipment, a non-medical helper or extra travel costs.

If you qualify for Disabled Students’ Allowances, they’re paid on top of any standard student support you get. They are not means-tested, and you don’t have to pay them back.

Support with day-to-day living

You have the right to ask your local social services department for an assessment of your daily living needs - including any personal care or help you may require. Going to university or college may mean that the support you are used to at home will no longer be available. However, social services should provide you with the support you need.

You can choose to have 'direct payments' to buy services that meet your assessed needs instead of receiving services directly provided by social services.

Further help and advice

If you are currently in further education, you can get advice and guidance from your teacher or college about the courses, colleges or universities you are interested in. The Connexions Direct service helps disabled people throughout their time in further and higher education, sometimes up to the age of 25.

There's plenty of useful information on all aspects of student life available through Skill: the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities. As well as a website, Skill runs a free helpline - call 0800 328 5050.

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Additional links

Get careers and skills advice

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)

Get careers advice online or speak with a Next Step adviser by calling 0800 100 900

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