Greg Clark, the universities and science minister, made a written ministerial statement on DSA this morning announcing that changes to non-medical help will be postponed until 2016-17.
David Willetts, the former universities and science minister who unveiled the proposed changes in April, was branded “arrogant and out of touch” at the time by the National Union of Students over the “unfair” cuts.
The changes, originally planned for 2015-16, were intended to make universities take greater responsibility for the costs of DSA.
DSA can pay for assistance including specialist equipment such as computer software; non-medical helpers, like a note-taker or reader; or extra travel costs. Mr Clark says that in 2011-12 DSA “provided support of over £144 million to 61,000 students, funded from the higher education budget”. Vice-chancellors have made clear to the government their unhappiness over the changes.
Mr Clark says that “concern was conveyed that some universities may not be able to meet their obligations in full by the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, given their need to invest in additional support for their students”.
He adds: “Accordingly we have agreed to give higher education institutions until the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year to develop appropriate mechanisms to fully deliver their statutory duty to provide reasonable adjustments, in particular non-medical help, and to improve the processes by which disabled students can appeal against a higher education institution’s decision that an adjustment would not be reasonable.”
Mr Clark says that for 2015-16 the government will continue to provide DSA “to help with the additional cost of a computer and assistive software if needed solely because of the student’s impairment”, but students will have to pay the first £200 themselves.
On accommodation, he says: “Funding will remain available towards the additional costs of specialised accommodation for disabled students, other than where the accommodation is provided by the institution or an agent of the institution.”
Mr Clark adds that all changes are subject to an on-going “equality analysis” that BIS is bound to undertake following such proposals.
The minister said in a comment issued by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills press office: “I am determined to ensure that a university education is open to everyone who can benefit, including disabled people. Where disabled students need support, they will have it – whether from universities discharging their statutory duty or through the Disabled Students’ Allowances, which I have decided to retain.”