The UK has seen an increase in the number of postgrad students with a declared disability. According to the most recent statistics collected by the Higher Education and Funding Council for England (HEFCE) this number has doubled over the past decade!
Many of us are wondering what has caused this rapid increase and also, what do higher education providers need to change in order to cater to students with a declared disability?
Fundraising manager for Disability Rights UK Tony Stevens, believes that this increase in disabled students undertaking a postgraduate study, mirrors the UK’s decision to create a more supportive and inclusive learning environment. The 1990 widening participation agenda, Tony feels, is what kickstarted this educational revolution.
“Further inclusion of disabled people in higher education was propelled by Conservative and Labour government policies. Labour also set themselves the target of increasing participation in higher education to 50% by 2010” Stevens added.
Because of society’s inclusion of students with disabilities in higher education, providers of such education now have to understand what their legal duties entail. The Disability Discrimination Act was also amended in 2001 and the Equality Act was introduced in 2010.
Trained professionals who have a background in working with students with a wide range a disabilities are now employed in most universities across the UK. In the past few years, the UK has also seen disability support departments become an integral part within student services.
Stevens has some top tips for those who have a disability and are looking to begin their postgrad studies. He says that people with disabilities should not treat searching for the right postgrad differently to those searching without a disability. People need to search for the right course, subject type, funding, then visit to see whether the university can cater to their particular needs.
However, there are still issues that arise for students with disabilities. Stevens feels that one area we are failing to help students with disabilities is careers advice, he said: “careers advice for disabled students needs to improve, and we also need to give these students further support to help them transition into employment”.
Due to this lack of careers support, some disabled graduates consider staying in education because they struggle to get the jobs they desire. Sometimes students haven’t checked whether their postgrad study will actually help them get the job that they want. Stevens suggests that work experience - in some cases - might be a better option for people with disabilities, as they may gain more of the skills they need to progress in their desired profession.
Overall, Stevens has revealed that he thinks the UK’s attempt to make higher education completely inclusive has almost been achieved, as he said: “in modern day Britain, very few colleges or universities would even consider turning away an application because the potential student had a disability. Thankfully, the UK boasts some of the most well developed systems and procedures that will ensure that students with all forms of disabilities can progress in their desired studies”.