Improving the experience of disabled students

The focus of Go Higher West Yorkshire’s (GHWY) Disabled Students Network – which Jo Mitchell (University of Huddersfield) and I currently Co-Chair – has been to work collaboratively with our members to improve the experience of disabled students.  

This started with addressing the difficulties around transition and accessing support within the Higher Education (HE) sector.  

For many disabled students and their supports, making the move to HE can be a daunting, confusing and stressful experience. The systems by which students access support are different, and processes largely engage with the individual student and not their supporters. While this is right, as they will be over 18, it does not take into consideration the preparedness of the student, or the skills they do or do not have to manage this process for themselves.   

As such the Network has spent time sharing good practice, knowledge and skills to ensure there is a clear understanding of how the various aspects of accessing support work in HE, how these link to the processes within Further Education, and identifying knowledge and skills gaps.   

This work resulted in the Network putting together a transition pack to support all disabled students make the transition to HE. The pack gives practical guidance and information to help both students and supporters as well as outlining basic processes, roles and responsibilities. This has then been shared with organisations who are supporting students into HE, and will be updated as and when there are changes in the support environment. 

Read the disabled learners’ transition pack. 

Our next focus will be building on the work of the transition pack to identify and address common misconceptions about support, including the encouragement of self-disclosure at application stage. This is still an issue with students being fearful of disclosure in case this impacts their application.  

We will also be turning our attention to how we support students to have reasonable expectations of support in HE, and how support is reviewed and managed. This is unlikely to have the same tangible outputs as the transition pack, with the focus more on the sharing of good practice and collaborative working.   

The Network has found huge benefit in regular contact, and an opportunity for a safe collegiate space to share ideas, talk through issues, and seek support in what can often be a high-pressure space, with legal and moral obligations, but not necessarily all the resources that might be required to meet those demands.  


Simon Morris, Assistant Head of Student Support, University of Leeds