Access widens as student-with-disability numbers more than double

July 2, 2009

Universities are improving participation rates and achievement levels among students with disabilities, a study suggests.

An analysis of the enrolment and graduation of students with disabilities between 1998-99 and 2007-08 found that number rose from 11,052 to 26,531 over the period.

The study, by Peter D. Pumfrey, visiting professor at the University of Worcester's Institute of Education, also found that the proportion of students with a declared disability achieving first-class honours rose from 7 per cent to more than 11 per cent.

"The challenges of making higher education in the UK more inclusive are apparently being constructively addressed," Professor Pumfrey's paper concludes.

However, the study also says that questions remain about the variation in achievement and participation evident across different academic disciplines.

Barbara Waters, chief executive of Skill, a charity that campaigns on behalf of disabled students, said that the growth in participation, although welcome, had been "fairly gentle. I would have expected it to go up a bit faster than it has."

She added that the growth may have been driven in part by a rise in the number of students willing to ask their university for help.

She said: "People should be more confident in declaring their disability. Universities now have staff to make sure support is in place."

Ms Waters added that there was evidence that more high-achieving disabled graduates were going on to postgraduate study.

"Those who are getting good degrees are seeing academe as a destination, which is good news," she said.

hannah.fearn@tsleducation.com.

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