MPs have called on the government to spend hundreds of millions of pounds over the next four years to make universities and colleges more accessible to disabled people, writes Alan Thomson.
An education and employment select committee report, Opportunities for Disabled People, says that physical barriers to further and higher education are still a major problem and cash is needed to adapt buildings.
The report recommends that the government makes sufficient funds available to improve access by 2004. The Further Education Funding Council for England has estimated that this could cost Pounds 150 million. The Higher Education Funding Council for England is likely to need a similar sum.
Committee members recommend the extension of part three of the Disability Discrimination Act to cover education and training.
The MPs want the HEFCE, Quality Assurance Agency and the Institute for Learning and Teaching to set and monitor standards for the inclusion of disabled students in higher education institutions. Disabled students should be actively involved in the processes, they say.
They recommend the extension of the disabled student allowance to postgraduates, part-timers and those on work placements, and say the application process should be simplified. Standards in colleges for young disabled people should be set and monitored by Ofsted.
The proposed independent inspectorate for adult learning should monitor standards for disabled adults.