David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, has announced measures of “modernising the current system” of Disabled Students Allowance. This could spell cuts to the support granted to students in need of extra help.
In a statement that has led the NUS to claim that Mr Willetts is “arrogant and out of touch” he pledged to keep current support of paying for high-cost computers for student with complex disabilities. However, support for standard computers, warranties and insurance will stop under the new rules for 2015, possibly leaving students with such things as dyslexia and dyspraxia without additional support from the DSA.
Mr Willetts, has stated that the gap in support should be filled by higher education institutions, in what he has claimed to be an attempt to “rebalance responsibilities between government funding and institutional support”. With a 40% increase in the number of students registered to have dyslexia in higher education in just five years, it is questionable whether Universities will be able to bridge the gap, or indeed want to.
Although there are moves to try and standardise support for students, current level of services available to support students with dyslexia differ vastly in different UK institutions, with some only recommending DSA services to those able to claim, and other institutions offering further services or mirroring the DSA services available for their international students or UK students who are currently waiting to be approved for DSA; some institutions are choosing to foot the bill for these extra services, whereas others are charging up to a £150 contribution fee.
Campaigners against the cuts claim that these cuts could lead to: a reduction in access to higher education for students with disabilities and dyslexia ; a reduction to successful outcomes with less support meaning lower degree classifications; a reduction in employment prospects; an increase in drop out and failure rates; and most importantly, leading to further inequality within society. It is for this reason that many are calling for the cuts to be stopped, asking people to support their call by signing the e-petition calling for this stop.
The petition can be signed here at:http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63748