Supporting students with disabilities

The Department for Education have today published best practice guidance aimed at universities, colleges and independent HE providers on how to best support students with disabilities throughout their studies. This is to ensure they have a positive experience and are able to be involved in all aspects higher education.

The guidance has been produced by the Disabled Student Sector Leadership Group, which is a new sector-led group chaired by Professor Geoff Layer, Vice Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton, supported by the Department for Education.  The Group involves senior representatives from higher education as well as sector groups, and members came together to share best practice, and to reflect on how providers can best cater for disabled students throughout their studies. The group aims to help all HE providers to expand their inclusive provision for the benefit of all students, and this is the first step.

The National Union of Students, who are also members of the group, have produced a survey format for providers to collect their own student feedback. This will enable them to gather information about the challenges their students’ face in accessing their higher education course, and inform their approach to reducing barriers within their organisation.  It will be issued alongside the guidance.

Vice Chancellor Geoff Layer is appointed to Social Mobility Group

Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor University of Wolverhampton led on the development of this guidance. He said;

“Higher education has the power to transform lives, providing skills, experiences and opportunities that leave an indelible positive impression. However we know that a student’s experience can be adversely affected if they have a disability and do not receive the right support to enable them to reach their full potential. The Disabled Students’ Sector Leadership Group was set up to build on the work and good practice in place across our universities to support our disabled students to succeed. By addressing equality issues and adopting inclusive teaching practices, universities can recognise and value the diversity of the student body and work with them to enhance the learning experience for all.”

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:

“I welcome this guidance and would like to thank the members of the group for their work on producing this extremely useful document. It will be of benefit to higher education institutions, HE colleges and independent HE providers, as well as to students.

“This is an excellent example of how the HE sector can work together for the benefit of all students, supporting the Government’s aim to allow everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, the chance to get ahead and, in this case, study at higher levels of education. I would ask all higher education leaders to read this guidance and consider the actions that they can take to reduce barriers to learning so that all students have the opportunity to succeed.”

The Teaching Excellence Framework will put a renewed focus on teaching quality and as part of this, universities should support staff to help them understand equality, diversity and inclusive practices. This will ensure that all students are able to enjoy their university experience and be a part of all aspects of learning.

In the meantime, Higher Education institutions should review learning, teaching and assessment approaches to identify and address inclusion and equality issues. There should also be a renewed focus on learners and staff with disabilities to ensure that any concerns they have are being listened to and addressed. The Government is committed to giving anyone with the ability to study at a higher level the opportunity to do so. By bringing these issues to the forefront of people’s minds through this guidance, universities can address the barriers that prevent people from studying at their institution and allow them to succeed to earn a first-rate degree. 

Further information

Notes to Editors:

The guidance is available here: (insert link) 

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