Access Agreement with OFFA
Oxford continues to exceed its HEFCE benchmark in relation to students with disabilities, with 5.9% of full-time undergraduate students being in receipt of Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) in 2012/13. As part of the University’s 2015/16 agreement with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), which sets out the measures it intends to put in place to promote fair access, the following measures to support and encourage disabled applicants are highlighted:
- A common system of flagging applications has been adopted by all courses to enable tutors to identify candidates who have experienced educational or socioeconomic disadvantage, who are disabled or who have been in care;
- Pre-application and preinterview contact is available with the Disability Advisory Service for relevant candidates and the Disability Advisory Service advises on reasonable adjustments to the admissions process. This ensures that applications from these groups are given especially careful consideration at the short-listing stage;
- The University proactively encourages applications from students with disabilities. Upon acceptance at Oxford, all offer-holders who have not disclosed a disability in their UCAS application are encouraged to do so and to make contact with the Disability Advisory Service to discuss their needs so that the appropriate support can be provided prior to their commencement of study;
- The University has increased its investment in the Disability Advisory Service to facilitate the creation of new roles, including a dedicated disability adviser for students with SpLD; in-house diagnostic and needs assessment; an enhanced mentoring service; and greater links with the University Counselling Service. This resulted in higher rates of disability disclosure during 2012/13, and increased opportunities to encourage students to obtain support from the Disability Advisory Service.
QAA Quality Code
The UK Quality Code for Higher Education sets out for each chapter of the Code the Expectation that all providers of UK Higher Education are required to meet and which will be used by the QAA as the basis for Higher Education Reviews (formerly Institutional Reviews). The University will be reviewed in 2015 and will need to demonstrate that it is meeting the Expectations of the Quality Code and taking account of the relevant Indicators of good practice. Several Expectations and Indicators are relevant to provision for disabled students:
- Recruitment, selection and admission policies and procedures adhere to the principles of fair admission. They are transparent, reliable, valid, inclusive and underpinned by appropriate organisational structures and processes. They support higher education providers in the selection of students who are able to complete their programme [Expectation for Chapter B2]
- Higher education providers [...] articulate and systematically review and enhance the provision of learning opportunities and teaching practices, so that every student is enabled to develop as an independent learner, study their chosen subject(s) in depth and enhance their capacity for analytical, critical and creative thinking [Expectation for Chapter B3].Learning and teaching activities and associated resources provide every student with an equal and effective opportunity to achieve the intended learning outcomes [Indicator 2 for Chapter B3]
- Higher education providers maintain physical, virtual and social learning environments that are safe, accessible and reliable for every student, promoting dignity, courtesy and respect in their use [Indicator 6 for Chapter B3]
- Higher education providers produce information for their intended audiences about the learning opportunities they offer that is fit for purpose, accessible and trustworthy [Expectation for Part C]. Higher education providers make available to prospective students information to help them select their programme with an understanding of the academic environment in which they will be studying and the support that will be made available to them [Indicator 3 of Part C]
Equality Act (2010)
The Equality Act was introduced in 2010 to consolidate and replace a range of anti-discrimination laws, including the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA,1995), which made it unlawful to discriminate against people due to disability in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, transport and education. It makes it unlawful for any part of a higher education institution (HEI) to discriminate against a person throughout the student lifecycle, including in the admissions decision and terms, the provision of education, in access to benefits, facilities and services and in the conferral of qualifications. The Equality Act provides additional protections to disabled students by making it unlawful to treat a student unfavourably for reasons that arise in consequence of that student’s disability, where the treatment is not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. In order to prevent discrimination due to disability, the Act allows disabled students to be treated more favourably and includes a provision for making reasonable adjustments in order to bring a disabled student’s experience in line with the norm. The application of the Equality Act to HEIs is set out in the Technical Guidance, which explains in detail the Act’s requirements in relation to the provision of education and access to benefits, facilities or services.
Data Protection Act (2018)
The Data Protection Act (DPA) applies to any data about an identifiable living person, protecting their right to privacy with respect to their personal data. Particular protections are applied with respect to ‘sensitive personal data’, which includes information relating to an individual’s physical or mental health or condition. Sensitive personal data cannot be disclosed apart from in specific circumstances, such as if the individual gives their explicit consent or because it is necessary for medical purposes. Subject to some exceptions, the DPA also gives individuals the right to ask that their data is not processed, if doing so is likely to cause damage or distress. More information is listed out in University Policy on Data Protection