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Disability Support for Further and Higher Education Students: Learn How To Access It in the UK

By IntFormalities
Published on September 27, 2023
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Once upon a time, disabled people had minimal options in terms of what they could accomplish. But in this modern era, all sorts of opportunities are available for everyone. This article will discuss the disability support available for people in further and higher education environments. 

What disability support is available for students in the UK?
Thanks to the Additional Support Fund most colleges in the UK are in a position to cater to people with nearly all disabilities

Further Education Prospects for Disabled People

Further education is the schooling that takes place after secondary school. This form of education can cover many courses ranging from:

  • The basics of writing and reading
  • Numeracy
  • GCSEs and 
  • A Levels

In addition to classroom-based learning, vocational courses such as hairdressing, catering, and childcare also fall into the remit of further education. Learning difficulties and disabilities do not limit people’s access to Further Education in the UK. 

However, care should be exercised when choosing a course or an educational institution. You will need to have the right qualifications for the selected course. For example, if someone wishes to study A Levels, they will need the qualifying GCSEs to enrol.

Support for Disabled People in College

All colleges in the UK make “reasonable adjustments” to limit the disadvantages faced by people with learning difficulties, handicaps, or disabilities. Colleges can do this as they receive an “Additional Support Fund” (ASF) to provide extra personal and technical support to learners and enable those with learning difficulties or disabilities to access college education.

Thanks to ASF, colleagues can give technical support through specialised equipment such as hearing loops, specialised software, and braillers

Personal support will include specialist advisers/tutors such as: 

  • Classroom assistants 
  • Note-takers 
  • Interpreters 

The support colleges provide depends on the course and the extent of the disability.

Accessing Additional Support

For disabled people, the cost of the course, and the additional support offered by the further education institution are free. To apply for a further education course, you must take the following steps:

  1. Make an application online with a further education institution.
  2. Attend an interview.
  3. Provide certificates to prove eligibility for the course.
  4. Receive and accept the offer.

The application takes place in the summer, a month or so before colleges start in September. At the interview stage, the institution will find out the exact needs of the students and advise if they can meet the needs of the students. 

Discrete Provision for Disabled Students

For those students unable to participate in mainstream education because of learning disabilities or difficulties, colleagues can provide “discrete provision.” It is designed to match students’ specific needs and taught in a highly supported environment. 

It may contain higher staff numbers (including specialist staff and classroom assistants) and smaller class sizes than mainstream education. “Discrete provision” provides regulated and non-regulated courses at entry level, level 1 and 2. Read more about regulated and non-regulated courses and the qualification levels here on the UK government website. 

Under “Discrete provision,” it is possible to do a mix of:

  • Personal development 
  • Life skills 
  • Work-focused courses

It is also feasible to do work placements to prepare for employment opportunities in the future.  

Accessing Discrete Provision

The application process is similar to that of students applying for courses with additional support. As with the additional support, students will need to make an online application a month or so before the start of the first term, attend an interview, and accept the offer from the college. 

However, the difference is discrete provision courses are aimed at the entry-level, and candidates do not need to hold any prior qualifications to access these studies. 

The classes are free of any cost, as is the discrete provision assistance from the college. 

Disabled people under 19 on a further education course can access a bursary payment of £1,200 per year if they are on benefits such as Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance. Those over 19 could apply for a “Student Support Fund” with their college if they are in exceptional hardship. This funding is open to both disabled and non-disabled students.

Support for Disabled People at Universities
People with physical disabilities learning disabilities such as dyslexia or health conditions including mental health issues can obtain various forms of financial assistance

Higher Education Prospects for Disabled People

Higher education is the academic schooling that takes place after a college education. It involves courses at university such as a bachelor’s degree or postgraduate degree courses such as a Master’s or PhD. Some degree programs lead to specific career paths, such as a Doctor or a Lawyer, and more general subjects, such as Languages or History. 

Support for Disabled People at Universities

People with physical disabilities, learning disabilities such as dyslexia, or health conditions (including mental health issues) can obtain various forms of financial assistance. 

It is in addition to the standard financial packages available for all students. The help on offer includes benefits such as:

  • Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)
  • Personal Independence Payments (PIP)
  • Support Funds
  • Employment And Support Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Universal Credit

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is a support fund to cover the additional study-related costs incurred due to a disability, long-term illness, or mental health problems. It can be obtained standalone or in addition to other finances available to all students. For the 2023/24 academic year, the DSA amount is £26,291 (for undergraduate and graduate students). 

Personal Independence Payments (PIP)

Personal Independence Payments help with the additional living costs for those with long-term disability, and difficulties getting around or everyday tasks. PIP is available for anyone meeting these requirements, including University students, and the payment rates are based on the severity of a person’s condition.

Support Funds

Available to students in Northern Ireland and paid for by the Department for the Economy (DfE). This funding is open to disabled and non-disabled students in genuine financial hardship. It could be used to pay for the course or other living costs not covered by other grants.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Those with a disability and low income could apply for Employment And Support Allowance while studying. It’s open to people who have worked as an employee or self-employed in the past and have paid enough National Insurance contributions. The payments are up to £67.20 for those under 25 and up to £84.20 for those over 25. 

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is paid every month to cover living costs. It is open to disabled people studying part or full-time if they are receiving Personal Independence Payments, Attendance Allowance, and Disability Living Allowance.

Getting the Best out of the Education System

In the past, life was limited for people with disabilities. Thankfully, nowadays, disabled people no longer face the same disadvantages. Disabled people can participate fully in life, including the education system. For those in further and higher education, various funding streams are in place to enable disabled people to access different types of education. If you are disabled and want to study at college or take a university course, check out all the options because many forms of help are available.

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