Universities are being urged to boost the number of students with disabilities going into higher education and do more to help them succeed, as the Universities Minister calls for greater action.
Figures published show that the numbers going to university from this underrepresented group has increased to a record amount. There were 94,120 new students with a disability that started university in England in 2017/18. Representing 13% of entrants this is still below the proportion of working-age adults with a disability, and the minister wants universities to review their offer and provision for disabled students.
To build on the encouraging figures published and to drive forward his ambition for even greater participation of disabled students in higher education, the Universities Minister will call for a roundtable of key stakeholders to discuss how the higher education sector can continue to break down barriers and secure improvements for students with disabilities.
Mr Skidmore has also highlighted the financial help at hand to all prospective students with a disability through the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). Previous figures show that students in receipt of the DSA are more likely to continue on their course (91 per cent) than not only disabled students not receiving the allowance, but also more likely to than students without a disability (90 per cent).
The figures from the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) show that in 2017/18 there were 26,100 more new students with a disability at English universities than in 2013/14 – an increase of 38% per cent.
Alongside these figures, the Department for Education has published research showing that the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) has helped to break down barriers that can exist for disabled students at university. The research shows results from a survey of disabled students, which found that 69 per cent felt confident about completing their course and 68 per cent felt confident about passing their course.
In addition, more than half (59 per cent) of students who receive the DSA said they would not feel confident about passing their course without receiving the allowance.
As part of the Government’s ambition for everyone to have the opportunity to benefit from higher education, whatever their background, universities that charge fees above the basic level must draw up an access and participation plan agreed by the Office for Students.
The Universities Minister expects the plans to be ambitious in driving increased numbers of students from underrepresented groups and for their use of DSAs. Higher education providers have legal responsibilities to support disabled students under the Equality Act 2010, and the Minister wants access and participation plans to meet these obligations in order to support those with disabilities thrive in higher education.
In 2018/19 higher education providers plan to spend £860m on measures to improve access and successful outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and under-represented groups, including students with disabilities.
Last year saw a record proportion of English 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds going to university, but more is still more to do to ensure all young people have the opportunity to succeed in higher education and break down any barriers they encounter.