University Support

Starting and surviving the university experience can be difficult and the process can be made even harder if you have a disability or learning difficulty. Below are services and information which you may find helpful should you need assistance before or during your time at university.

Applications

It’s worth noting to begin with that under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), universities and colleges are not allowed to discriminate against disabled students in their admissions procedures and provision of student services. They must also make adjustments to ensure you do not suffer any major setbacks while studying your course. So if higher education is something that interests you, it’s worth looking into the idea of applying.

Writing Personal Statements

While you may feel you don't want to draw too much attention to your disability on your UCAS form, that doesn't always mean you shouldn't. Talking about your disability in a way which casts yourself in a positive light can boost your application. For instance if you feel your disability has encouraged you to be more disciplined, strong-willed or develop an interest in a certain field, then it is worth mentioning.
Remember, it’s entirely up to you – you do not need to refer to your disability in your application if you do not want to.

Getting Informed

Be sure to gather all the information you may need before embarking on the application process and submitting your UCAS form. Feel free to contact tutors at your own college/6th form and disability advisers/coordinators at the institutions you’re thinking of applying to. They should be able to tell you what support is available at the college/university and will help you set up an information visit.

Asking Questions

If you do set up a visit, make sure you take lots of questions with you. Ask about elements relating to your course, support, facilities, assessments and anything else you feel is vital to you enjoying and succeeding in your course. You can also use a visit as an opportunity to speak to staff such as the head of department and other academic staff, should you have questions for them also.

Disabled Student Allowance 

DSAs are designed to help with the costs that you incur, in attending your course, as a direct result of your disability or specific learning difficulty. They are available to both full-time students and part-time students studying at least 50% of a full-time course.
DSAs are not means-tested and are determined solely by your level of need. Needs could include: specialist equipment, a non-medical helper, extra travel costs and more. Unlike a student loan, it does not need to be repaid.

It is important you let your awarding authority, e.g. Student Finance England, know you have a disability as soon as possible should you want to apply for DSA. It is suggested you make your application 6-9 months before your course begins, but you can apply for it at any point before or during your course.
Evidence of your disability or learning difficulty, such as a letter from a medical professional or a ‘diagnostic assessment’ are required if you are to be eligible for DSA. You must also fill in various forms depending on whether you are a full-time, part-time or post-graduate student. Further details of said forms can be found via the links below:

https://www.studential.com/applying/UCAS-for-disabled-students

https://www.gov.uk/student-finance


For the academic year 2014/15, the maximums for full-time and part-time higher education students are:

Full-time undergraduate students

  • Specialist equipment allowance - up to a maximum of £5,212, for the entire course
  • Non-medical helpers allowance - for help with study related personal support, up to £20,725 a year
  • General allowance - up to £1,741 a year
  • Travel costs - students may claim reasonable costs if they have to pay extra costs to attend university because of a disability. You will not be eligible for everyday travel costs, which any student would expect to pay.

Part-time undergraduate students

  • Specialist equipment allowance - up to a maximum of £5,212, for the entire course
  • Non-medical helpers allowance - as a percentage of the full-time rate up to £15,543 per year
  • General allowance - as a percentage of the full-time rate in the same way as the non-medical helpers allowance, up to £1,305 a year
  • Travel costs - students may claim reasonable costs if they have to pay extra costs to attend university because of a disability. You will not be eligible for everyday travel costs, which any student would expect to pay.


Postgraduate students

Postgraduate students (including Open University students and other distance learners) can apply for a single allowance to cover all costs.
The maximum allowance for 2014/2015 is £10,362.
The money will either be paid into your bank account or directly to the supplier of the services - for example your university, college or equipment supplier.


Teaching Support

As mentioned before, institutions are required by law to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure you are not at a disadvantage. Communication support workers, signers or note-takers can also be used to help you get the most out of your course and can be paid for using DSA. In terms of course materials, texts in large print and Braille, e-books, audiobooks and digital talking books could prove useful adjustments and can be requested from course providers. Contacting disability advisers/ coordinators can also prove useful should you need additional support.


Examinations

A variety of arrangements can be made at institutions to make sure your work can be assessed in the same way as other students – solely on merit. These can take the form of extra time during exams or the option to take exams at home or in a separate area, all of which will aim to help you get the most out of your course.


COUNSELLING AND CONCERNS

Many universities have counselling services with trained professionals should you be experiencing a particularly hard time. Take advantage of resources such as these and support which disability advisers/coordinators and tutors can provide.
If you are experiencing any issues regarding your rights, allowances and the accessibility of your course, contact Disability Rights UK, who can provide advice and support. Their details are below:

Telephone: 0800 328 5050

Email: students@disabilityrightsuk.org