further & higher education

Supporting Disabled Students Throughout Higher Education

further & higher education

08:45 - 16:10

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Central London

This Forum provides attendees with an opportunity to discuss the latest changes to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) funding and how higher education institutions can create an inclusive teaching and learning environment for disabled students. Participants will hear from leading policymakers including the Department for Education and Office for Students as they discuss updates to the DSA and how to create an inclusive environment for disabled students. In addition, leading Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) will share guidance on creating inclusive curricula, implementing comforting measures in accommodation and discuss innovative methods to ensure that disabled students have a positive experience in higher education.


This Forum is specifically designed for Higher Education. Typical job titles will include:

  • Heads of Disability Services
  • Heads of Disability Advisory and Support Services
  • Heads of Student Services
  • Heads of Disability Resource Centres
  • Heads of Student Wellbeing
  • Directors of Student Experience
  • Disability Advisors
  • Senior HEP Managers
  • Directors of Academic and Student Services
  • Student Engagement Managers
  • Senior Lecturers
  • Support Managers
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Managers
  • Dyslexia Coordinators
  • Heads of Accommodation and Estates

This Forum is also open to the Voluntary and Private Sectors to encourage debate.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Gregory Boone, Team Leader, Disabled Students’ Allowances, Department for Education (DfE)
  • Amy Norton, Equality and Diversity Manager, Office for Students
  • Alistair McNaught, Subject specialist – Accessibility, Jisc
  • Lesley O’Keeffe, Deputy Director, Academic and Student Services, Brunel University
  • Phil Scarffe, Head of Student Welfare, De Montfort University (DMU)
View the agenda and additional speakers

According to a recent January 2019 report by the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA), 94,120 new students with a disability enrolled at university across England in 2017/18 – an increase of more than 6,000 on the previous academic year and a 38% increase since 2013/14. However, students with declared disabilities still only represent 13% of students in higher education, which is still significantly lower than the proportion of working-age adults with a disability. In response, the Department for Education announced that they will be increasing the maximum amount of allowance that postgraduate students can claim through the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) for the academic year 2019/2020. 

Chris Skidmore, Universities Minister, released a statement in January 2019 praising the support that the DSA provides to disabled students, stating that more than half of students who receive the DSA said they would not have felt confident about completing their degree without it. Although the total number of students with disabilities attending university has risen to over 94,000 since 2017, there is more to be done in terms of breaking down the barriers that prevent disabled students from accessing and flourishing in higher education.

It is vital that universities are finding effective methods of widening participation in higher education for disabled students as well as providing the best teaching and learning environments they can for all students.

Lesley O'Keeffe, Deputy Director, Academic and Student Services, Brunel University

Lesley has worked in Higher Education since 2001 starting her career managing student accommodation. Since 2012 she has worked in Student Services after discovering her passion was linked to supporting students through their education. Lesley’s current position is Deputy Director Academic and Student Services and has a wide remit taking on day to day responsibilities and strategic direction for both Academic and Student Services. Over the past 3 years Lesley has led a strategic change at Brunel where she has moved all support services to a one stop shop model and has introduced a whole university approach to mental health and wellbeing.


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Nona McDuff OBE, Director of Student Achievement, Kingston University (CONFIRMED)


Morning Keynote: Understanding the Landscape of Support for Disabled Students Across Higher Education

  • Highlighting how encouraging disabled students to claim Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) can help to increase retention rates through providing adequate support
  • Sharing guidance on how universities can work with DfE to ensure that the DSAs work better with the support that is provided by HEIs
  • Discussing the increase in DSA for postgraduate students for 2019/2020 and how this will aim to increase the number of disabled students undertaking postgraduate studies
  • Improving the quality and sustainability of DSAs goods and services through having direct contractual relationships with providers of those goods and services

Gregory Boone, Team Leader, Disabled Students’ Allowances, Department for Education (DfE) (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Creating an Inclusive Experience for Disabled Students Though Structural Changes

  • Outlining OfS’s new approach to regulating access and participation in higher education, including activity to support the participation and success of disabled students throughout the whole student lifecycle
  • Understanding the important role that institutions play in improving the student experience for those with disabilities including more inclusive curricula
  • Examining the benefits of inclusive practice for HEIs including opening a potential pool of students who may not be accessing HE already
  • Highlighting how HEIs can adopt a strategic approach to make changes that provide disabled students with the same access to resources, experiences and benefits as that of non-disabled students

Amy Norton, Equality and Diversity Manager, Office for Students (OfS) (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Reducing the Need to Declare a Disability by Providing Outstanding and Inclusive Services for All Students

  • Outlining the steps taken by the University of Kent to provide an inclusive environment by anticipating the needs of students to reduce barriers to learning for all students not just those that declare a disability
  • Highlighting how the OPERA (Opportunity, Productivity, Engagement, Reducing Barriers, Achievement) scheme identified over 2000 possible adjustments that could be made to ensure an inclusive learning environment, such as campus accessibility 
  • Exploring the importance of ensuring accessibility for all students by implementing inclusive practice by design rather than making individual adjustments 
  • Sharing guidance on creating an innovative student-focused scheme, such as the Opera project, in order to transform disability services within higher education 

Alison Dean, Associate Dean for Social Sciences, University of Kent and Chair, OPERA Working Group (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Changing attitudes within Higher Education to Better Support all Students

  • Exploring the importance of implementing site wide licences for assistive technology to ensure students do not feel the need to declare a disability 
  • Understanding how the University of Plymouth promotes their assistive technology to ensure that all students are aware of what services are on offer 
  • Highlighting how the University of Plymouth has provided mental health first aid training to over 5000 staff to ensure they are able to support all students 
  • Outlining how training staff about the impact of mental ill health can help to change attitudes towards mental health across higher education
  • Assessing the impact that training has had on improving the confidence of staff when approaching situations where students may in danger or not want to disclose a problem they are experiencing

Karen Hocking, Disability Services Manager, University of Plymouth (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Interactive Workshop: Implementing an Effective Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to Improve Teaching Standards for Disabled Learners

  • Exploring how technology can create an inclusive learning and teaching environment for disabled students, such as the ASPIRE project which provided advice to HEIs on how to improve the accessibility of library resources
  • Understanding the importance of training staff to improve digital skills which leads to better support for students and help them to acquire digital skills to improve independence
  • Highlighting how VLEs can be used to build complex ideas by uploading materials prior to lectures and the positive impact this can have on disabled learners
  • Encouraging creativity through resources on a VLE to help students to better understand content through active tasks and how this can be extremely effective at engaging students with ADHD or dyslexia
  • Discussing how Jisc worked in partnership with the University of Kent to implement the award winning OPERA Project to improve accessibility by adopting a proactive approach that anticipates student requirements

Alistair McNaught, Subject specialist – Accessibility, Jisc (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Creating Outstanding Support for Students Through Specialist Services

  • Exploring how Brunel University implemented their Disability and Dyslexia Service to support students by making adjustments to assessment criteria, providing support in lectures  and ensuring library resources are easily available
  • Sharing guidance on how this department worked with academics to adapt exam and assessment criteria to ensure they were a fair test of knowledge for all students
  • Discussing how Brunel introduced their Assistive Technology Centre to effectively support and advise disabled students on utilising technology to improve their learning experiences
  • Highlighting how Brunel works with the West London Assessment Centre to provide assessments for students applying for DSA so that these studies can be better supported in their studies

Lesley O’Keeffe, Deputy Director, Academic and Student Services, Brunel University (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Utilising Technology to Provide Outstanding Support for Autistic Students

  • Discussing the European-funded research project Autism&Uni, part of the Lifelong Leaning Programme which aims to support Autistic students in Higher Education
  • Exploring the unique challenges that Autistic students face wen entering higher education such as a lack of appropriate support and not understanding he demands of university studying
  • Highlighting how the Autism&Uni online toolkit aims to provide support and guidance to autistic students by making all information clear to students
  • Outlining the IMAGE strategic partnerships which aims to address the employability gap for autistic students by helping these students to develop their employability skills

Dr Marc Fabri, Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media, Head of Technologies for Health and Wellbeing Research Group, Leeds Beckett University (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Improving Student Experiences Through the Creation of an Inclusive Environment

  • Adopting a strategic approach to providing outstanding support for disabled students through the use of guidance such as the Equality Act 2010 Technical Guidance on Further and Higher Education
  • Exploring how De Montfort University implemented the Disability Enhancement Programme (DEP) aimed at improving the experiences of disabled students through developing a disability assessment centre and reviewing specialist accommodation provisions
  • Discussing how the university created a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) initiative to ensure teaching and learning is inclusive for all students by creating a consistent framework across all disciplines
  • Examining what measures can be put in place to establish quiet themed accommodation for autistic students and how this positively impacts their university experience
  • Highlighting the importance of implementing a lecture capture policy that requires all academic staff to capture teaching content to support disabled students learning

Phil Scarffe, Head of Student Welfare, De Montfort University (DMU) (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*programme subject to change

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