Applicants with disabilities need earlier support to transition to higher education in the UK, according to a report by UCAS in partnership with Pearson, the leading digital media learning company, and the Disabled Students Commission.
UCAS is calling for the journey of disabled students to higher education and apprenticeships to be made easier and earlier through the extension of Adjustment Passports, which currently cover the transition from higher education into employment, plus earlier engagement with university and student support, including the Disabled Students’ Allowance. The recommendations come in the UCAS report Next Steps: What is the experience of disabled students in education? published on 1st July 2022.
The report includes: •
- detailed analysis of the record number of applications (83,220) made by people with disabilities between September 2020 and the start of the academic year in Autumn 2021;
- the results of a survey of almost 5,000 UK people who applied to UCAS by its January 2022 deadline and shared details of a disability on their application
The survey revealed only 17% say they have access to inclusive extra-curricular activities at school or college. However, there is real excitement about progressing to higher education, with 44% expecting the social aspect of life at university or college to be ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Yet despite this optimism about life in higher education, UCAS’ analysis of its data from the previous cycle shows students with disabilities are 28% more likely to defer. The deferral rate for disabled applicants rose from the pre-pandemic 7% in 2019 to 8.2% in 2021 (compared to a 6.4% deferral rate for non-disabled applicants in 2021). The steepest increase was seen for those with social, behavioural or communication impairments (for example, an autistic spectrum condition), making them 11% more likely to defer than non-disabled applicants.
The report shows that early engagement is key. Not only are these students more likely to defer, but 56% researched available support before applying, with these students commonly looking at the general and educational support available, and facilities and physical adjustments on campus.
Clare Marchant, Chief Executive of UCAS, said:
‘A key takeaway from our research is that students need earlier support to avoid deferring and so we are recommending the extension of Adjustment Passports, which currently only cover the transition from higher education into employment, to make it easier for students to progress to university, college or an apprenticeship, meaning more students can take that next step along with their peers.”
The foreword to the UCAS report was written by Professor Geoff Layer, Chair of the Disabled Students Commission. He said:
‘This is a ground-breaking report which provides a rich analysis of the accessibility of higher education for disabled students and most importantly it differentiates on the basis of the barriers that students face. I welcome it on behalf of the Disabled Students Commission as it adds further weight to our arguments that we as a sector need to reflect on some of our approaches.’