Two students have spoken to The Gryphon about the detrimental effects of the cuts to the Access to Learning Fund.
A final year Zoology student, Lucy Perrins, applied for the fund at the end of her second year when she suspected that she may be suffering from dyslexia. She received a grant of £475 which covered the cost of test recommended to her.
She told The Gryphon that she “could not have gone through with a dyslexia test if it was not for this grant”. The cost of a dyslexia assessment can range from £300 to £500 depending on the region. The Access to Learning fund has now been cut to only £280, and Perrins has stressed that access to it is limited as only people who receive the highest amount of maintenance loan are eligible.
Perrins said that the support provided as a result of the fund provided immeasurable support and allowed her “grow in confidence” and “have belief” in her ability again.
Another student has stated that the cuts to the funding meant that she was hesitant about taking the test.
The student initially hoped to be funded by the University for a dyslexia assessment. She admitted that her lack of eligibility delayed her undertaking of the assessment, telling The Gryphon that “When I found out I was no longer eligible for funding for the test I decided I would not take it despite being recommended to do so by ‘Quickscan’ (a screening test the university offers) and by the disability team.” The student was eventually funded by her parents, but whilst speaking to The Gryphon, has stated her frustration and worry that students who cannot get support from their parents may decide against getting tested.
She added “Whilst I am partially supported by my parents while I am a full time student, this cut to the fund has prevented me from having any independence in my decision to take the test. I believe that this will deter so many students that think they may possibly be dyslexic from doing it.”
She also gave an insight into the shock that those who administer the assessment have upon hearing that university students self-fund their assessments. She said that “When booking my test the women that does the assessment was shocked to learn I would have to fund the test myself as her customers from other institutions around Leeds are still funded without these eligibility criterion.”
The cut to the funding is due to the government merging both the Student Opportunities and Access to Learning funds. This came after much campaigning from the NUS in order to prevent the Student Opportunities fund from being scrapped completely. However, the NUS claim that this merge has still caused £37 million worth of cuts. Rachel Wenstone, a former NUS Vice President for Higher Education, stated in 2014 that “[universities] have now been put in the position of choosing between supporting those from the most deprived backgrounds into higher education and the hardship support that makes it possible for many students to stay on the course.”