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What is the experience of disabled students in education?

01 Jul 2022 | Piers Wilkinson With the release of Next Steps: What is the experience of disabled students in education? a new report by UCAS in partnership with Pearson, the leading digital media learning company, and the Disabled Students' Commission, on disabled student experiences, Student Voice Commissioner for the Disabled Students’ Commission, Piers Wilkinson shares their thoughts on the three areas that stuck out to them.

The Disabled Students’ Commission (DSC) welcomes the latest UCAS Next Steps: What is the experience of disabled students in education? report which focuses this time on the experiences of disabled students. Not only does this report have a wealth of insights into the current experiences of disabled students, it is one of the first sector reports which goes beyond the surface of summarising disabled students.

Excitingly, one of the first aspects of this report that stood out was the stepping away from the use of “disclosure” to describe individuals sharing their impairment type and personal circumstances, and instead more aptly describing the process as “sharing”. Alongside the revised UCAS application question for 2022-23, it is a cause for celebration that the sector continues to improve the culture and language used, improving trust (which the report does touch on) and building towards better conversations between disabled students and institutions.

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Additionally, for me, the report considers the intersectionality of impairment types alongside the traditional intersections of areas of multiple disadvantage (such as social economic background, route into HE, other protected characteristics etc). For instance, the report highlights that disabled students are twice as likely to identify as LGBTQ+, but especially for those of us sharing social, behavioural, or communication related impairments – rising to 22%.

However, the take home message in my opinion (but please do read the report here) is that disabled student decision making is still influenced by the support available in a higher education institution. As we at the Disabled Students’ Commission continue to support HEIs on reducing disparity and improving disabled student experiences, the sector must recognise that one of the key decision making factors for disabled students is an institution’s available support and reputation for equality, diversity and inclusion.

As a sector we must continue working towards the moment where it is not the availability of access and inclusion that tops the decision making for how disabled students choose their next steps.

Read Next Steps: What is the experience of disabled students in education?


Piers Wilkinson is the Policy and Campaigns Lead for Diversity and Ability, and is one of the Student Voice Commissioners for the Disabled Students’ Commission, the independent and strategic group which takes responsibility for advising, informing and influencing higher education providers to improve support for disabled students.

Find out how can you improve your institution’s support for disabled students with the Disabled Students’ Commission’s Publications and Guidance.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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