With increasing rates of disabled students dropping out, a recent report by the Office for Students (OfS) has criticised institutions on their ‘inadequate’ support systems – where instead of informing eligible students on the help available, universities expect them to start and lead the process.
However, students battling with mental health issues may find disclosing their disability incredibly difficult. They had the lowest continuation rate (86.8%), compared to 90.3% of non-disabled students.
Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, condemned the reliance on students to “navigate the barriers in their way,” and is now pushing for universities and colleges to promote equal opportunities for disabled students. “This means not only meeting their legal duties for individual students but learning from each other to create learning environments in which all students can thrive,” he said.
‘Intentional’ lack of provision
Deaf students are particularly at risk of abandoning their degrees. Lengthy waiting lists for specialist tutors, interpreters and notetakers are leaving students feeling excluded from university life, as stated by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS).
Martin McLean, policy advisor at the NDCS, labels the dropout rates as ‘appalling’: “Deaf students are just as valid as their hearing counterparts; they’ve paid the same fees, possess the same legal rights, and their capability is matched – but support is either ‘unavailable’ or ‘not good enough’.”
Piers Wilkinson, disabled students’ officer at the National Union of Students, went further, saying: “The current provision isn’t just inadequate, it is intentionally not given.” In a booming business such as university, Wilkinson suggests that students’ worth is measured against the price: “Once we become more expensive than profitable, we are forced into debt or to seek charity.”
Universities UK referred to their ongoing support of the new Disabled Students’ Commission, which aims to assist in improving support systems for disabled students.