Skip to main content

It’s exam time at most Universities at the moment for students coming to the end of the first semester.

For most students this is the first indication of progress and beyond the first year these results count towards the overall Degree outcome. This is what makes it a crunch time, not just for results but also for a chance to turn things around if adjustments promised to assist have failed to appear.

On application to Uni and disclosure of disability, most universities have great systems referring to very effective Disability Services teams who will work with students to understand their disabilities and what adjustments should be put in place. This leads to a Disability Support/Needs Assessment which essentially forms a contract between the Student and the University to implement the reasonable adjustments in that assessment.

According to Disabled Students UK’s latest Access Insights Report,

“Disabled students made up 19% of home student enrollments in 2021/22 (HESA), a proportion that has doubled since 2010. If this growth trend continues, by 2033 disabled students will make up more than a third of home students. At the same time disabled students are the second least satisfied group responding to the National Student Survey.”

Communication is often a problem.

In the cases I’ve handled the problem is primarily that the adjustments identified asd reasonable are not communicated to those doing the teaching, or that those doing the teaching are not properly trained on the reasons for and importance of their implementation.

Again, the Disabled Students UK report identified that,

“Currently 36% of students who have had any support approved by their university have all that support put in place. This figure is particularly low among students from a low socioeconomic background (29%). 70% of students state that they go without agreed adjustments because it takes too long to follow up and ensure it is implemented.”

This is borne out by the cases I see for students who are seriously disadvantaged both in terms of grades and life chances, and in terms of mental health consequences.

Case Studies

Students with less visible disabilities are some of the more frequent cases I have helped with.

Examples have been:

-Students with Anxiety and Depression facing increased pass marks after time off, to ensure

similar academic pressure.

-Failure to provide quiet spaces for exam rooms for students with ASD.

-Failure to provide slides and information in advance of lectures for students with Dyslexia.

-Bunching deadlines for assignments.

-Failure to provide assistive technology, or assistive support by note takers or BSL


What to do about it before it goes wrong

It can be difficult to complain when you’re complaining to the same people marking your papers but it is important to email concerns to the Disability Services team referring to your DSA and communicating the impact.

A well worded expression of concern is important, and we can help you with that without taking it ‘legal’. A concerns is better than being directed down the Complaints Procedure route which is very administrative, is likely to distract from studies, and will be time consuming.

Warning on Timelimits

The time limit to enforce rights under the Equality Act in these situations is 6 months less one day from the act of discrimination. A University will try to start this timelimit as early as possible and complaints processes contribute to many cases going out of time, removing legal rights in the process. Whilst using the internal complaints procedures is important, yo should seek legal advice at the same time.

What if it has already gone wrong? Remedies.

Section 119 of the EqA provides that the remedies that can be obtained at court are those that can be awarded by the High Court – a declaration of discrimination, an Order from the Court making the University make the adjustments identified as reasonable and damages, including for injury to feelings.

In addition, there can be awards of compensation for breach of contract, return of course fees, costs of living and student loans expenses for re-sit years and delayed entry into employment. Those aspects of compensation are often subject to expert reports but can include loss of earnings, pensions and employment.

Making an Effective Complaint

We have free template complaint letters for you to use which include the relevant legal framework if necessary, together with a guide as to how to make an effective complaint and a template Data Subject Access Request. If you need help after this, we can offer formal legal assistance with a variety of funding options.

For further information on this please contact Chris Fry.

Chris Fry – Disability Rights

Subscribe in a reader

Connect with us: Facebook – Inspire Legal Group Twitter – @InspireLegal_ Instagram – inspirelegalgroup LinkedIn – Inspire Legal Group