Using data to improve the disabled student experience
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Using data to improve the disabled student experience. UK research project undertaken by Skill for ECU, looking at how HEIs encourage disabled student disclosure and take up of support, and how data on the student experience is collected and used.

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Using data to improve the disabled student experience

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Using data to improve the disabled student experience

UK research project undertaken by Skill for ECU, looking at how HEIs encourage disabled student disclosure and take up of support, and how data on the student experience is collected and used.

Barbara Waters, Chief Executive (retired), Skill

Outline of session

  • Disabled students in the UK

  • Review of policy relating to disabled students

  • Description of research and findings

Equality Challenge Unit (ECU)

Equality Challenge Unit supports the higher education sector in all four nations to realise the potential of all staff and students whatever their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or age, to the benefit of those individuals, higher education institutions and society.

Disabled students in UK

  • In 2008/09, 2.4m students in HE

  • Of these, 176,030 students known to have a disability (7.35%)

  • Largest group have a ‘specific learning difficulty’

  • 8.3% of first-degree students -

    • compared to 4.8% postgraduates

Disabled students in higher education - Policy review

  • 1999 – HEFCE guidance produced on base-level provision for disabled students in higher education

  • 2009 – HEFCE/HEFCW review of policy

  • Outcomes for HE institutions:

    - need to better manage and use data on disabled student populations

    - encourage and support disability disclosure and take up of the entitlement to UK Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA)

    - understand the link between student progression and achievement and provision of adjustments/accommodations

Using data to improve the disabled student experience

  • Understand how data can be used to inform the structure and management of disability services

  • Understand gap in support and experiences between those eligible students disclosing disability status and those taking up DSA support

  • Improve compliance with the monitoring, gathering and data analysis element of the Disability Equality Duty in UK legislation

  • Support an improved and more inclusive disabled student experience

ECU project outputs

  • Phase 1

    • Analysis of disabled student data

    • Questionnaire survey

  • Phase 2

    • Disabled student interviews

    • Confidential institution reports

    • Guidance publication (Summer 2011)

Phase 1 Questionnaire survey topics

  • Information, advice and guidance for potential students

  • Collecting data on potential students and new entrants

  • Encouraging disability disclosure

  • Encouraging DSA take-up

  • Mechanisms for monitoring and managing data

  • Using data as evidence for change

Phase 1 – IAG Actions

  • Emphasis on the pre entry activities – website, prospectus, open days, brochures, links with feeder schools and FE colleges to advertise disability services

  • Followed by induction activities (first year students)

  • 62% of HEIs encouraged students to apply for DSA 6-11 months before starting their studies

Phase 1 Use of Data

  • Disability Equality Schemes legislative requirement

  • Identifying priorities and monitoring progress

  • Developing the business case for good support

  • Planning for the Equality duty

Phase 2 - early disability disclosure

  • Early messages work better if they are clear about about good reasons for disclosure and take up of DSA – better progression and academic results - rather than generic straplines

  • Use a wide range of pre-entry actions - friends and family still carry the most influence

  • Pay special attention to entry to science and health and other professional courses – talk about reasonable adjustments/accommodations

Induction (Year 1) opportunities for disclosure

  • Significant impact on student disclosure where student services and academic staff pro active and positive; are confident about reasonable adjustments

  • use disabled student ambassadors on induction and orientation, involve disabled staff

  • Students rate reasonable adjustments/accommodations highly, as well as DSA support

Reasons for non –disclosure by students

  • Potential for negative effect on their professional aspirations

  • Not regarding themselves as disabled

  • Or – not disabled enough

  • Stygma

  • Tutors would not think them worthy of a place at university

Take up of DSA

  • Work closely with feeder colleges and other post 16 providers

  • Offer practical help with filling in forms

  • Need to continue to repeat the information during induction, year 1 and onward at key study points including postgraduates

  • Work with disability champions in academic departments, use course handbooks,

  • Always Include disclosure and DSA in staff induction

Students who need most encouragement to accept support

  • Students with mental health difficulties

  • Students with autistic spectrum/asperger

  • Students with hearing impairments

  • Postgraduate students

  • International students

Impact of inclusive learning and teaching environment

  • Inclusive practice embeds reasonable adjustments such as time away from study, longer assessment deadlines, standardised IT with accessible software features switched on

  • Changing culture to entitlement not support

  • Use of Moodle/Blackboard (VLN) to upload course materials and lecture notes

  • Includes international students

Impact of inclusive learning and teaching

  • Developing role of disability champion

  • CPD for all staff led to greater confidence in decisions on reasonable adjustments

  • Linking mitigating circumstances (special) arrangements with potential disability disclosure

  • Important to monitor progression and achievement

Use of data to improve the disabled student experience

  • What are the mechanisms for recording and handling disclosure and DSA data between schools, ,student services and Central Registry?

  • Is disabled student progression and achievement tracked by Learning and Teaching Committees?

  • Opportunities for improvement when investing in new IT data systems

  • Need for training for staff on use of data and data retrieval

Maximising data collection and use

Cross organisation approach to monitoring progression and achievement supports inclusive practice and also equality duty and Quality Assurance code of practice

  • Equality and Diversity committees

  • QAA code implementation groups

  • Learning and Teaching committees

  • Central Registry

  • Involving disabled staff and students

Useful contacts

  • Equality Challenge Unit –


  • QAA (2010) Code of practice – Section 3 Disabled Students -

  • SPA guidance on admissions

  • HEFCE review 2009/40


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