Written by Amandi Thenuwara – member of the SEND Project
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, otherwise known as SEND, recognises some of the challenges faced by children and young people who require additional support in their education due to a disability or learning impairment. Several universities have followed the lead of schools and started offering a variety of programmes to support students with disabilities. Some examples of these developments include assistive technology, counselling and academic assistance. However, there are still many ways in which universities can improve their facilities further to enhance the quality of their services and better support individuals with SEND.
Universities currently don’t acquire any funding from the government to help facilitate these circumstances, instead they rely on internal finances to fund support for students with SEND.
In contrast, students typically have more access to resources at schools including specialised staff, equipment, and facilities due to funding from the government. Additionally, schools are mandated to periodically monitor and evaluate the progress of pupils with SEND and are held accountable by local authorities to maintain this support. On the other hand, universities have less accountability in this area, therefore it can be overlooked in many instances. As a result, one-way universities can upgrade their facilities is through increased state funding to assist with accessibility improvement and extra services.
Furthermore, schools are required to develop individualized education plans (IEPs) for students with SEND, which outline the specific support they will receive, whereas universities typically do not have a similar requirement. As a consequence, if more emphasis was placed on providing more targeted help for students with SEND, such as academic coaching, one-on-one tutoring, and regular counselling, this could help ease students into university life and gradually help them overcome any obstacles they may encounter to ultimately succeed academically.
How can we improve the experience of those with SEND at universities?
Universities can trial different methods including additional training and education for staff and students on issues surrounding individuals with SEND. For example, this could consider how we can try and support them in the best way possible whether that be physically, mentally, or emotionally in order to alleviate some of the burden’s these students face and demonstrate progress within our institution.
As a result, this is an area being acknowledged as an issue that requires more attention, therefore, measures are now being taken to overcome this. For instance, by collaborating with regional and national organisations that help support those with disabilities, we can begin to foster a culture of tolerance and respect for all individuals as well as provide a supportive network for those students involved and allowing them to interact with others who are going through similar experiences.
Similarly, universities should also continue making changes to their infrastructure and grounds to make them more accessible for people with physical disabilities, even if this means constructing ramps at each entrance to give wheelchair users equal access to the building without forcing them to take a different route, as this may make them feel overlooked by the university and that their personal needs are not being prioritised. On top of this, implementing a variety of different teaching methods will allow a more inclusive environment in order to address all the different learning types that students may have.
In conclusion, while schools and universities have policies in place to support students with SEND, there are differences in the nature of the support, the methods of assessment and the funding. In order for students with SEND to achieve their full potential, it is critical that both schools and universities are aware of their responsibilities and offer the necessary support to enable these individuals to reach their full potential. As a result, universities should continue to work alongside their students to maintain a welcoming environment that is inclusive to all and allow those with disabilities to thrive and reach their full potential.
If you need any further information or advice, drop us a DM on Instagram @thesendporject_uol or email our co-directors:
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The SEND Project