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Transition Guide: To University (by NASEN)

Going to university!

When a young person with an EHC plan takes up a place in higher education, their EHC plan ceases. Local authorities have a responsibility to plan a smooth transition to the relevant higher education institution (HEI) and, where appropriate, to the new local authority, before ceasing to maintain the young person's plan.

Once the young person's place has been confirmed at the HEI, the local authority must, at the earliest opportunity and with the young person's permission, pass a copy of their EHC plan to the relevant person in the HEI.

Choosing a course

  • Choose a university based on what you think is the best course for you. Most subjects can be studied by anyone with the qualifications, skills and dedication.
  • Research courses extensively.
  • Start your research early – one or two years in advance. The sooner you know what you want to do, the more time you have to get a good understanding of the facilities at your top choices.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and with university websites and prospectuses. Each website should have information on the support services available, including disability services.

Interviews 

  • If you are invited to an interview at a university, be sure to inform the institution of any special arrangements that you require. The interview provides an opportunity for you to discuss and ask questions about the adaptations and support that you will need to study successfully.

Access

  • Visit as many of your shortlisted universities as possible. You might want to go on a general visit with your peers first before making a second visit to universities you really like. Have a good look round and make a list of any concerns to discuss with relevant staff. If you can't visit or if you need more information, ring and ask questions.
  • Make appointments with course tutors and the university's disability support team to talk through your list of concerns. Every university should have a disability support unit to help liaise with the academic and accommodation departments whenever accessibility is an issue. The disability support team should offer to take you on a guided tour of the academic rooms, leisure facilities and accommodation – make the most of such opportunities. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask what services are available to you, such as notetaking in lectures.
  • Under the Equality Act 2010, universities and colleges must make reasonable adjustments to their premises to make them more userfriendly for disabled students. Universities have to ensure that lecture halls, student unions, libraries, ICT suites and halls of residence are accessible. Once you have your place, see if you can get hold of your timetable as soon as possible so that you can make sure that you can access all your lecture theatres or seminar rooms. Make sure your subject faculty knows you are a student in their department so that they can get to know you and ensure that your classes are scheduled to take place in accessible rooms.
  • Visit the DisabledGo website, which has carried out detailed surveys of the facilities and support available at many UK universities – www.disabledgo.com/

Social life

  • Check out the accessibility of venues and bars before you arrive.

Accommodation

  • Decide whether you would rather stay at home, on campus or off campus.
  • If you decide that you want to stay in university accommodation, look into the range and size of the rooms available and see as many as you can before selecting one.
  • Make a list of all the equipment you will need in your room, kitchen and communal areas and let the university accommodation and disability teams know.
  • If you need additional rooms for personal assistants, or if you need adaptations to be made to kitchens or communal areas, speak to a member of the disability team as early as possible, so that adaptations can be in place when you arrive.

Financial support – Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

  • Make sure that you have access to all the financial support that you are entitled to.
  • DSA is paid on top of other student finance. You don't have to pay it back. The amount you receive depends on your individual needs, not on household income.
  • You are eligible for DSA if you have a disability or long-term health condition, a mental health condition or a specific learning difficulty, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia.
  • You must also be an undergraduate or postgraduate student, qualify for student finance from Student Finance England (SFE), be studying on a course that lasts at least a year and have a condition that affects your ability to study.
  • DSA can help with the costs of: − specialist equipment, for example computer software − non-medical helpers, for example notetakers or readers − extra travel costs that you incur because of your disability − other costs, for example photocopying.
  • You can apply for a form to claim DSA when you apply to UCAS and fill in your main student finance application. On the form you will need to provide information about your disability, how it affects your study and the support you will need. Fill in the form as soon as possible, as processing applications can take some time.
  • Once your eligibility for DSA is confirmed, SFE will ask you to attend an assessment centre to work out what help you will need. Following the assessment, you will get a report listing the equipment and other support you can get for your course.
  • Money is paid either directly into your bank account or to the organisation providing the equipment and services for you.

Personal care plans

  • Many disabled students will require personal care while at university. Personal care needs may be greater when a young person is living away from home than when they are living with their families.
  • Personal care assistance is funded by the local authority of your 'permanent residence'. So, if your family lives in Manchester and you want to study at Surrey University, the local authority in Manchester will pay for your living needs.
  • You will need a care assessment before you go to university. This is your right and is carried out by social services. If your needs change once you are at university you should talk to your disability adviser.
  • You may have the option of managing your care through direct payments. If you already receive direct payments, book a reassessment before you start university to make sure you receive enough to pay for personal assistants.
  • There are a number of options if you need personal assistance and require direct payments:
    • Working with local care agencies – look at prices and flexibility, and meet those who might be helping you.
    • Employing people privately – you will then become an employer, so look into what that will entail.
    • Community service volunteers, who provide young care workers and personal assistants from overseas.

Clearing

  • Like other students, disabled students who don't get the grades they need for their preferred university can either take a year out or go through clearing.
  • If you have complex needs, it may be challenging to get the funding, support and adaptations that you require set up in time; however, for many disabled students, going through clearing is not impossible.
  • Where universities are already highly accessible, clearing may be easier
  • Make contact with the disabilities team at universities that have potential, and find out about the support that the university can offer in the short- and longer-term.
  • Be realistic – gauge whether it is possible for essential adaptations to be made at short notice.
  • Be prepared – have information about your DSA and needs assessment ready.

©nasen 2014 The right of nasen to be identified as the author of this book has been asserted by them in accordance of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. All rights reserved.

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