[Kealie Mardell | Print Editor]
An Oxford University student has alleged that she was discriminated against due to her disabilities, by not being granted extra time in exams.
At this point in time, we can’t verify or deny these accusations. Instead, this response is a generalised comment on the treatment of students with disabilities, drawing on my own experiences over the last four years.
Firstly, if this student has been discriminated against, then I am truly shocked. Not only by the discrimination itself but by the university in question. The University of Oxford is ranked 3rd in the world, according to Times Higher Education. A university in such a prestigious position should be setting a precedent for others.
Every student deserves the opportunity to access education. For some students, like those with disabilities, some amendments are needed to make that access possible. This doesn’t just refer to physical accessibility of the university campus, but includes the vast array of physical, learning, and mental disabilities. Everyone has different learning styles and capabilities and these should be respected through teaching and assessment methods.
In my experience, I found our university to offer exceptional support. I had a study needs agreement in place which covered lectures, coursework, deadlines, attendance, exams and more. This changed throughout my time at Herts in order to constantly adapt to my needs. I also had the support of staff, including disability advisors, mentors, mental wellbeing advisors, and academic staff who were aware of my disability.
There were only two occasions when my needs were not met. One, was the unprofessional behaviour of an external examiner, who was reprimanded and made an example of. The other was an internal concern over lift accessibility, and the attitudes surrounding invisible disabilities, which was hastily resolved following my complaint. I saw these situations as a chance for my experiences to help make university a better place for others, and I hope that this was achieved.
I sincerely hope that I’m not one of the privileged few who had such a positive experience. What I experienced shouldn’t be a goal for universities to aspire towards, it should be the norm.
No student should ever suffer at university because of a disability, and no university should ever discriminate against a student because of their disability.
That seems so blindingly obvious that I can’t believe I actually just had to type those words!
With cuts being made to the Disabled Student Allowance, a grant in place to support disabled students in higher education, universities need to be doing more than ever before to ensure that everyone feels welcomed into their institution.
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Opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and are not endorsed by Trident Media or Hertfordshire Students’ Union.