Whistleblowers: Disabled student paid settlement by UCLan

December 7, 2001

A blind student with one leg has been given an out-of-court payment to settle his claims of disability discrimination against the University of Central Lancashire.

The university has admitted that it failed to properly support mature postgraduate Peter Nicholson when he began a diploma course at the university last year. UCLan also accepts it failed to follow correct procedures, causing unnecessary distress and preventing an amicable conclusion to the case.

Staff at UCLan are to be given disability awareness training as a result of the debacle.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind, which supported Mr Nicholson, this week said his case illustrated "the widespread discrimination that blind and partially sighted students face in education and training".

Mr Nicholson, 55, retired as an entrepreneur when he became blind and wheelchair bound after the amputation of a leg. He began the diploma course in counselling at the School of Health Studies in September last year, but withdrew prematurely early this year after a breakdown in his relationship with his tutors.

Reporting the results of an internal investigation into Mr Nicholson's complaints, head of department Maureen Robinson said in February: "It is clear that there was some regrettable delay in arranging appropriate support in the early stages of the course and there is a need for us to learn from this for the future."

But she added: "It does appear that, following these early problems, the course team and other university staff offered a reasonable level of learning support to meet your needs."

After protracted negotiations, the university agreed in October to make a payment to Mr Nicholson, without accepting liability. Business school director Alan France, who investigated the case, accepted that university staff involved "did not exhibit the most appropriate behaviour", but he also said this criticism applied to Mr Nicholson too. He said that the university's "process was not complied with". He said staff would be trained.

UCLan said it has "some of the best support services in the country" and supports "20 or more students with impaired vision at any one time". The university has worked with the RNIB for many years to help students get the most out of their time at the university.

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