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Your A Level results are in. What happens now? (Part 1)

Hopefully you’re lucky enough to have got the grades you need to get on the course you want and if it didn’t go to plan remember that failure is a vital part of success.

If you are going to Uni, and you need support to level the playing field here’s what you can expect and some tips. 

The legal bit:

The Equality Act 2010 (“EqA”) makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of certain protected characteristics. Disability is one of those protected characteristics. It is defined in s.6 as being a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect upon the ability to carry out normal day to day activities. The definition is supplemented by Schedule 1 so that for example, long term means has lasted 12 months, is likely to last 12 months, or for the rest of the person’s life if less than 12 months.

Discrimination takes the form of direct (s.13), indirect (s.19) failure to make reasonable adjustments (s.20/21) and discrimination because of something arising in consequence of disability (s.15) – the latter two types applicable only to a claim of disability discrimination. 

In addition, specific conditions apply to Universities and higher education providers. Section 91 of the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for the Universities to discriminate against students in the way it provides education or affords access to facilities. The section states,

“It is also unlawful to subject the student to any other detriment. This section makes it unlawful for universities, colleges and other institutions in the higher and further education sectors to discriminate against, harass or victimise a student or someone who wants to become a student in relation to the arrangements it makes in deciding who to admit, the terms on which a person is admitted and the way a person is treated when admitted. Subsection (3) of section 91 specifically makes it unlawful to discriminate when considering conferring qualifications to disabled people who are not enrolled at the institution.

It also imposes on the responsible body of such an institution the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students and prospective students.”

What to do to thrive at Uni:

Try to protect yourself against things going wrong. You should ensure that you disclose your disability up front and ideally with a diagnosis, although this isn’t necessary.

The University should engage with you to produce a Disability Needs Assessment, or sometimes called a Disability Support Assessment (DSA) which will act as the blueprint for what resources or assistive technology you might need together with what adjustments should be made to teaching locations, assignment deadlines, methods of teaching and exam conditions to allow you the best opportunity to achieve.

Although the University should ensure that every teacher has details about what adjustments you may need, I recommend that you email a copy to each of your tutors or lecturers.

Also ensure that your student accommodation is accessible. You may need ground floor access, accessible facilities, alarms which may assist if you have sensory impairments and properly understood and compliant evacuation policies. You may also need priority parking. You should not be charged extra for accessible accommodation.

What happens if it goes wrong?

Let’s hope it doesn’t but if it does, act quickly. Ensure that you have a record of raising concerns by email ideally. You should point out the problem by reference to your Disability Needs Assessment and the impact that any issues are having on your studies and potentially your health. 

Be careful of being derailed by University Complaints Processes timing you out on your civil rights.

Whilst you will want to fix things without conflict, you also don’t have time to wait when your grades are likely to be affected. My experience is that tutors tend to be very defensive when complaints are made and that Universities will signpost you to their own complaints process and then to the Office of Independent Adjudicators

Whilst this is a useful route to take, the OIA is essentially an Ombudsman dealing with failures in service provision. It can fine Universities and recommend improvements but it does not determine what is disability discrimination in a County Court, Equality Act sense. It compensates for poor service and does not give compensation.

You have 6 months from the failures which may be the source of your detriment and complaint to ensure that a Claim Form is lodged with the County Court – separately to the OIA option. If you don’t do that then you lose your right to claim compensation and enforce reasonable adjustments. I have seen very strong cases timed out. 

What information do I need to take things further?

I would need the DSA, and the dates of failures to comply together with information about key people. It would also be sensible to make a Data Subject Access Request of your University to obtain the behind the scenes emails about your requests and the potential failures. Many cases succeed because of this. I can provide you with a template if you need one.

I can also help if you need help with a complaint. Not everything needs to go legal. One of the most important first steps is to make a Data Subject Access Request. This will show what your tutors know or don’t know about the adjustments identified for you and their attitudes in relation to those. I have won cases based on emails disclosed, exposing ignorant views in relation to depression and anxiety not being disabilities for example.

What can you achieve?

This depends on what you want. Some Claimants want to re-sit a year without having to pay the additional costs (or a refund for a wasted year). Some want to ensure that adjustments are enforced and staff trained. This is all possible. You may just want out, with a compensation payment and to apply elsewhere. This is a personal decision.

Compensation is also available to recover the expenses of attending Uni when the service was inaccessible. That can be for injury to feelings under the Equality Act and also breach of contract. In addition if your degree result has been affected, your career options harmed or if you have been delayed in starting work because of the failure to implement your DSA then you may be entitled to the earnings and pension loss for the University’s failure.

If you have to instruct lawyers to help you with this you will be able to recover your legal fees from the University too.


Mediation is the best solution to disputes like this. They allow a confidential safe space for you to explain face to face with decision makers what has gone wrong, what’s needed to change that and the impact, but most importantly it gives an opportunity to rebuild relationships and get things back on track.

I am a CEDR accredited Mediator with significant experience in resolving disputes this way.

What does it cost?

If there is a lot of information to review there may be a charge for reviewing that. At the end of that process you will be given an opinion as to whether the case is likely to succeed and what a realistic outcome might be. If your case has good prospects of success then you are likely to be offered a No Win No Fee Agreement which means that the remainder of work will not be payable by you as you go. If the case is successful then the other side will pay most of your legal costs (including any initial review fee) and the maximum it will cost you is 25% of any compensation recovered. If the case fails there will be nothing to pay.

We wish you the best of luck with your University journey, and hope that your experience is a good one, but please know your rights and act on them quickly. We’re here if you need us.

PS: Part 2 is about moving into work in a year out…. or in Placements

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