Westminster Higher Education Forum

Latest developments in supporting disabled students - widening participation, accessible campus design, and enhancing the student experience

Morning, Monday, 14th October 2019

Central London


This seminar will examine priorities for improving support for disabled students in English universities.

It comes with the Universities Minister calling for greater action by higher education institutions to further increase the number of disabled students attending university, to address high rates of non-continuation among these groups, and to improve degree and post-graduation employment outcomes.

It also follows the publication of the Office for Students’ new approach to access and participation, which set out long-term sector-wide targets aimed at eliminating the gap in entry rates at leading universities between the highest and lowest represented groups, and tackling high non-continuation rates and gaps in degree outcomes.

In light of these new targets, discussion will focus on the practical steps that can be taken by providers to deliver higher rates of disabled student participation, retention and success, as well as considering what further steps Government could take to support the sector in achieving these aims. 

The agenda also focuses on recent reforms to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA), in particular the impact so far of measures including the transfer of financial responsibility for some non-medical help provision to HEIs and the wider expectation of HEIs to offset removals of DSA funding by providing reasonable adjustments, along with further reported issues and concerns related to a perceived lack of clarity for students over eligibility, availability and application.

This includes looking at examples of best practice in moving towards a more inclusive curricula through improving learning and teaching environments, particularly in relation to assessment; improving academic staff understanding of inclusive approaches to course delivery; and more widespread adoption of assistive technologies.

There will also be discussion on the transition to employment or further study, assessing support available for students moving towards graduation, such as internship schemes and tailored carers guidance.

Delegates will also consider the future of inclusive campus design and latest thinking on improving the accessibility of existing - often historic - university estates.

We expect discussion on the utilisation and integration of latest assistive technologies and wider services and facilities, such as sensory rooms, to improve campus accessibility for both those with hidden and/or physical disabilities.

Further sessions consider the processes for making and responding to student complaints, including tensions in the application of reasonable adjustments and compliance with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator’s Good Practice Framework.

Keynote Speakers

Paul Higgs

Student Finance Directorate, Department for Education

Gregory Boone

Team Leader, Disabled Students' Allowances, Department for Education


Dr Lisa Cameron MP

Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability


Rabia Lemahieu

Disability and Skills Manager, Disability Rights UK

Dr Nasser Siabi

Chief Executive, Microlink

Professor Val Williams

Emeritus Professor, Noah Fry Centre for Disabled Studies, University of Bristol

Steve Tyler

Director of Assistive Technology, Leonard Cheshire

Christine Child

Adjudication Manager, Office of the Independent Adjudicator

Professor David Green

Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Worcester

Amy Norton

Manager, Equality and Diversity, Office for Students

Liam Proudlock

Inclusive Design and Access Consultant, Proudlock Associates

Dr Gail Hopkins

Associate Professor and Disability Liaison Officer, School of Computer Science, University of Nottingham

Rohan Slaughter

Subject Specialist (Network, Technologies and Infrastructure), Jisc

Elaine Colquhoun

Chief Executive Officer, Whitefield Academy Trust, London

Professor William Leahy

Vice-Provost, Students, Staff and Civic Engagement, Brunel University London