The government has announced its plans to reduce funding for disabled students in higher education, with universities now expected to foot the bill. Minister for Education and Science, Jo Johnson, has announced that from September, cuts to the Disabled Students Allowance will mean funding will no longer be provided for non-medical support staff, while funding for specialised computers and accommodation will also be reduced.
The government had initially planned for the cuts to come into effect last year, but opposition from the NUS on the basis that smaller institutions with a higher proportion of disabled students would be heavily affected.
It is expected that the cuts to DSA will save the government £30 million, with Mr Johnson declaring in a written statement, “The increasing numbers of disabled students entering HE is to be celebrated, as is the increasing numbers of those declaring their disability. However, it is possible that the continued provision of DSAs may have removed the urgency of some higher education providers to expand provision for all disabled students.”
Speaking to The Gryphon, Gemma Turner, Leeds University Union’s Diversity and Equality Officer, said: “The recent cuts to Disabled Students Allowance will mean limited funding from the government, with universities now being responsible for funding technology, non-medical support, extra accommodations costs as well as other aspects. Disabled students should not have to pay more for the same university experience as the rest of the student body would receive. This is why I have been working with the University to make sure the recent cuts to the DSA don’t affect disabled students’ time at University.”
She added, “Being a disabled student myself I was constantly reminded in life of how much money I’m costing, and I don’t think that should be an issue for students to their education. It shouldn’t be a barrier for new students coming to university. I hope the data [of new students coming] doesn’t decrease, but if funding isn’t available then it could do.”
The reduction in funding to the Disabled Student’s Allowance is the latest in a series of cuts to higher education, with George Osborne announcing in his Autumn Statement last week that student nurses will see their bursaries cut in favour of a tuition loan system despite an £8 billion increase in funding for the NHS.
Speaking to The Gryphon third year student nurse at Leeds University, Joe Murphy said, “Some people argue that taking away the bursary will discourage less committed students from applying, but I worry more that many mature, poorer and postgraduate applicants will now be prevented from a vocation they would have excel in.”