Disability support in higher education
Universities and colleges are increasingly aware of the needs of disabled students. Disabilities include long-term illnesses, mental-health conditions or specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. Find out what support and extra financial help is available.
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 most people enter when they are 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
Where to study
Universities and higher education colleges have an obligation to make provision for disabled students.
Each university or college should publish a Disability Statement explaining how it provides support. You can ask to see a copy of this statement, or look on their website.
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 Adviser or disability 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 Learning Support 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 get around
It's worth contacting your Disability Adviser 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 you may be entitled to extra financial help towards the costs of the following:
• specialist equipment
• non-medical helpers
• extra travel costs
• other extra course-related costs due to your disability
Disabilities covered include long-term illnesses, mental-health conditions or specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia.
If you qualify for Disabled Students' Allowances, they're paid on top of any standard student support you get. They are not affected by your household income, 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. This can include 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 Careers Helpline for Young People can help disabled people throughout their time in further and higher education, sometimes up to the age of 25.