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United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

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Overview United Kingdom (England)

Contents

United-Kingdom-England:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

United-Kingdom-England:Historical Development

United-Kingdom-England:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

United-Kingdom-England:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

United-Kingdom-England:Political and Economic Situation

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-England:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

United-Kingdom-England:Lifelong Learning Strategy

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Private Education

United-Kingdom-England:National Qualifications Framework

United-Kingdom-England:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

United-Kingdom-England:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

United-Kingdom-England:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-England:Funding in Education

United-Kingdom-England:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

United-Kingdom-England:Higher Education Funding

United-Kingdom-England:Adult Education and Training Funding

United-Kingdom-England:Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-England:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-England:Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Types of Higher Education Institutions

United-Kingdom-England:First Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-England:Bachelor

United-Kingdom-England:Short-Cycle Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Second Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-England:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

United-Kingdom-England:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

United-Kingdom-England:Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Distribution of Responsibilities

United-Kingdom-England:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

United-Kingdom-England:Main Providers

United-Kingdom-England:Main Types of Provision

United-Kingdom-England:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

United-Kingdom-England:Teachers and Education Staff

United-Kingdom-England:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Management and Other Education Staff

United-Kingdom-England:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

United-Kingdom-England:Management Staff for Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Educational Support and Guidance

United-Kingdom-England:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

United-Kingdom-England:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility and Internationalisation

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

United-Kingdom-England:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in School Education

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

United-Kingdom-England:European Perspective

United-Kingdom-England:Legislation

United-Kingdom-England:Glossary

As autonomous organisations, higher education institutions (HEIs) are largely free to determine what measures they implement to support learners who are disadvantaged. However, they must comply with the Equality Act 2010, (Chapter 2 of the Act refers specifically to further and higher education), which provides a single legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. The Act specifies a number of ‘protected characteristics’, which are discussed in more detail under the sub-heading ‘Target groups’ below. 
 
In addition, HEIs must follow the Quality Assurance Agency’s Quality Code for Higher Education which sets out the expectations that providers must meet if students are to receive appropriate and effective teaching, support and assessment. The Quality Code emphasises the principle of inclusivity throughout.

Higher education is considered an important vehicle for increasing social mobility in the UK and for this reason widening participation and ensuring fair access to higher education for students from disadvantaged and under-represented groups has been seen as a priority by successive governments. One of the aims of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is to provide an opportunity to anyone who can benefit from learning at this level to participate and successfully complete their course. Additional funding is made available to institutions for widening access activities through the Student Opportunity Allocation. This funding is intended to cover the additional costs of recruiting and supporting disabled students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It also provides extra funding for HEIs to carry out work to retain students who may be less likely to continue their studies. For information on how the widening access policy objectives are conveyed to HEFCE through the annual grant letter, see the Higher Education overview article.

In 2004, an independent public body, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) was set up to help safeguard and promote fair access to higher education in the context of the introduction of a new tuition fees regime from 2006. The November 2015 Green Paper, Higher Education: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice proposes that, as part of a restructuring of the architecture of higher education, the duties of the Director of Fair Access should be moved to a new body with wider responsibilities, referred to as the Office for Students.

A number of other organisations support higher education institutions in widening access to disadvantaged groups, particularly in the areas of disability, race and gender.

  • Action on Access is a consultancy organisation which works with HEIs to help them ensure fair access, combat educational inequality and lower the barriers that prevent learners from successfully completing higher education. 
  • The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) is a registered charity which receives core funding from UK higher education funding bodies and works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education. 
  • Higher Education Academy (HEA) is a registered company owned by the two representative bodies for higher education, Universities UK and GuildHE. It supports institutions and individuals in improving the quality of teaching and learning, focussing on key strategic initiatives such as student access, retention, attainment and progression. 
  • Disability Rights UK, is a national pan-disability organisation led by disabled people. 

Definition of Target Groups

The Equality Act 2010, which brought together a range of earlier legislation into a single legal framework, makes it illegal to do discriminate, either directly or indirectly, against people with regards to the following ‘protected characteristics’:

  • age  
  • disability  
  • gender reassignment  
  • pregnancy and maternity  
  • race  
  • religion or belief  
  • sex  
  • sexual orientation.

The National Strategy for Access and Success in Higher Education, published in 2014 produced by OFFA and HEFCE on behalf of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, reinforced earlier policy initiatives, and expressed the Government’s desire for the ‘student population to better reflect the rich diversity of the general population by creating a system where age, ethnicity, gender, disability and/or social background present no barriers to them accessing and succeeding in higher education and beyond’.  The Strategy interprets widening access to mean ‘ensuring that any barriers to students from lower income and other under-represented backgrounds entering and successfully completing higher education are removed’. The Strategy defines under-represented groups as those that have participation rates significantly below average, for example:

  • students from lower socio-economic groups and neighbourhoods in which relatively few people enter higher education; 
  • students from some ethnic groups or sub-groups;
  • students who have been in care;
  • disabled students. 

In its November 2015 Green Paper, Higher Education: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, the new government which took office in May 2015 reinforced the message that ‘anyone with the talent and potential should be able to benefit from higher education’ and stated its intention to ‘continue to push for better access, retention and progression for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented groups’. It proposes that the Director of Fair Access should in future focus on the progression and success of particular groups in higher education, such as white males from disadvantaged backgrounds and black and ethnic minority students (BME). The government has made a commitment in the Green Paper to double the percentage of people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education by 2020, compared to 2009, and increase the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) students going into higher education by 20% by 2020.

The Equality in Higher Education: Statistical Report (ECU, 2015) provides an analysis of the gender, ethnicity, disability and age profiles of higher education staff (Part 1) and full and part-time students (Part 2) during the 2012/13 academic year.

Specific Support Measures

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has produced guidance on the Equality Act 2010 for further and higher education providers. The Guidance explains how HEIs can ensure that the provision they offer does not discriminate against people with ‘protected characteristics’ (see the subheading ‘Definition of Target Groups’ above), and gives examples of what positive measures can be taken, including reasonable adjustments required by the Act, to ensure that education provision is inclusive. 

Similarly, the Quality Assurance Agency’s Quality Code for Higher Education (the Quality Code) provides guidance for HEIs. Chapter B4: Enabling Student Development and Achievement covers support for disabled students and is intended to help institutions ensure that these students have an opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of university life. It includes guidance and ‘indicators of sound practice’ for learning opportunities for disabled students. The Quality Code aims to assist institutions in ensuring that students with disabilities do not have a less favourable experience of higher education than their peers. 

Some of the issues addressed by the Quality Code include:

  • the physical environment 
  • information for prospective students, current students and staff 
  • admissions processes and policies 
  • academic support for disabled students 
  • access to student services 
  • learning and teaching. 

The National Strategy for Access and Success in Higher Education, published in 2014 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, aims to help the higher education sector build on previous achievements in widening participation to disadvantaged and under-represented groups. In particular, the strategy seeks to ensure that HEIs and stakeholders continue to make improvements in supporting students, not only at the access/admissions stage, but across all three stages of the ‘student lifecycle’:

  1. preparing to apply and enter higher education
  2. receiving study support and successfully completing the course 
  3. progressing to postgraduate education or employment.

The strategy envisages better cooperation at all levels and between all stakeholders, particularly within institutions, between widening participation teams, those developing the teaching curriculum, student services, and marketing and recruitment teams. 

The progress made by HEIs in securing increased access and success for students from disadvantaged backgrounds was examined by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in its 2015 report Delivering Opportunities for Students and Maximising their Success. The report also highlights the challenges that remain, particularly with regard to unexplained gaps in participation in different localities and the persistent unexplained differences in degree, employment and further study outcomes for students from ethnic minority groups, disadvantaged groups, and disabled students not in receipt of Disabled Students’ Allowance (see below).

Support for students with disabilities, mental health problems and intensive support needs

HEIs decide what types of support to offer disabled students and therefore provision may vary between institutions. However, a report for HEFCE, Understanding Provision for Students with Mental Health Problems and Intensive Support Needs (IES and REAP, 2015), found that nearly all institutions have moved to, or were moving towards, a centralised model where disability support is coordinated from a central support team, which in many cases is located alongside other student support services. Typically, this has involved the ‘creation of a highly visible, one-stop shop which acts as a gateway to the full range of student support services’ including:

  • health centre
  • counselling service
  • chaplaincy
  • welfare support
  • academic support.

Disability staff provide support for students with all kinds of impairments, giving advice and guidance particularly with regard to the types of reasonable adjustments students can expect to be made for them under the Equality Act 2010.

Disability Rights UK has published Into Higher Education 2015, a guide for students with learning, health or disability issues, which provides basic information about the types of support they might expect. More detailed help is given in a factsheet which describes general adjustments, general access arrangements and impairment-specific adjustments.

The Understanding Provision report for HEFCE also found that wider institutional services also had a role in providing support to students and noted that all the institutions examined in the case studies were working with external agencies, such as GP practices, NHS mental health services, and voluntary organisations. Estates departments are instrumental in improving physical accessibility. Accommodation teams play a significant role in supporting students, for example, in ensuring that students with mental health problems are placed in quiet accommodation blocks and that wardens in student residences are alert to any particular needs. Libraries provide practical assistance in finding and carrying books, and creating quiet spaces to help reduce stress. Chaplaincy staff play a role as a first point of contact and provider of informal support, particularly for international students. Finally, Students’ Unions and local branches of the mental health charity Mind also play an active role in supporting students through buddy initiatives and wellbeing campaigns.

Support for students whose first language is not English

In its 2012 guidance for higher education providers, International Students Studying in the UK, the Quality Assurance Agency suggests that HEIs provide clear guidance for prospective international students on entry requirements, including English language proficiency, for students whose first language is not English. HEIs should also have in place appropriate arrangements to enable students to cope with the demands of their programme in terms of the ‘continual development of their language skills’. The QAA is consulting on a new version of the guidance. Most HEIs with international students have language centres/departments which run courses in English for academic purposes (EAP), and may also offer study skills classes to help students become familiar with the requirements of academic life in the UK. 

BALEAP, previously the British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes, is the professional association for EAP lecturers. It supports their professional development to enhance the quality of the teaching of EAP.

Specific financial support for disadvantaged students 

Students in HE with a disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty may be eligible for the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), a grant provided in addition to standard student support which is not means tested and so does not have to be repaid. DSAs help meet the extra course costs students face because of a disability, such as paying for specialist equipment, non-medical helpers (such as a note-taker or reader) and/or extra travel costs or other costs (such as photocopying or printer cartridges).

Under-graduate students from low-income households may apply for a maintenance grant to help with living costs ─ further information is provided in the grants section of the ‘Higher Education Funding’ article. Extra funds may also be allocated by institutions according to need, but these are not intended to pay for costs normally covered by student loans. See the Gov.UK website for further information.

The Postgraduate Support Scheme (PSS) supports students progressing to postgraduate taught education. It focuses on students who are under-represented at postgraduate level and in subjects aligned with the Government’s growth strategies. Students apply for a PSS scholarship through their HEI. See also the section on Financial support for postgraduate students in the article on ‘Higher Education Funding’.

Information on legislation referenced in articles about England is available here. A glossary of terms can be found here.