Guidance for staff on student administration and support
Study abroad is an exciting and positive experience, and there is evidence to show that students who have an international study experience achieve better academic and employment outcomes, through fostering their personal development and understanding of the wider world. Study abroad also represents a very significant undertaking that requires detailed pre-planning and careful thought by all students about what opportunity will be most suitable for them.
Living and studying abroad for a period of time represents a significant transition for students. Disabled students face the same challenges, and also need to plan ahead to ensure that their needs and requirements relating to their disability will be met by their hosts. Staff can support students by providing information about how to plan for study abroad, and also (if required) to liaise with the host institution to ensure that reasonable adjustments are put in place.
Undergraduate students considering study abroad opportunities should consult the Disability Coordinator in their college at an early stage, whose role it is, alongside their personal tutor, to provide support in planning study abroad.
The Disability Advisory Service can provide advice and support as a student plans their study abroad, especially in terms of recommending the study support and reasonable adjustments that will be needed, and provide information on this for the prospective host.
Those taking up an opportunity to study or work abroad should contact their prospective hosts/employers well ahead of an application deadline to discuss what adjustments and support may be needed, and whether these can be provided.
For those planning for a mandatory year abroad as part of their degree, planning should begin early in the academic year before (so early in year 2 for those who will be studying abroad in year 3). Those travelling as part of the ERASMUS+ scheme should notify their departmental Erasmus Coordinator about the need for reasonable adjustments as soon as possible, so there is time for liaison with the partner institution department to ensure needs will be met.
In exceptional cases a student may require dispensation from a mandatory overseas placement on disability grounds, but all efforts will be made to make a study abroad opportunity possible. In those circumstances, students may pursue alternative arrangements, such as study or a placement in a context where the relevant language is used in the UK.
Those undertaking an ERASMUS+ opportunity may be able to apply for additional funding to support the extra costs of living abroad associated with the disability, e.g. extra travel costs. They should contact the University of Oxford ERASMUS Coordinator for further details. If applying for other funding, students should check at an early stage what costs relating to their disability will be eligible for funding.
In deciding on a study or work abroad opportunity, students should be guided to consider:
Some issues that the student might particularly want to consider when choosing an opportunity:
Students should prepare themselves for cultural differences – depending on where they go, they may encounter cultural differences around diversity issues, including disability, in terms of the level of understanding, awareness, attitudes, acceptance and the provision of support. It is worth remembering that students have already experienced a significant life transition in coming to University and integrating into student life at Oxford. Students should be guided to think about what worked well about managing this transition and what they would do differently next time.
Planning will need to begin whilst student are still abroad:
Widening participation in outward student mobility – This toolkit may be useful for disability leads in planning how to ensure students who are underrepresented in study abroad schemes can be supported to take up these opportunities.
The Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages has a Weblearn page to support planning for the year abroad, which may have useful information for staff who are beginning to put in place support for study abroad in other departments.
Staff involved in arranging field trips and fieldwork should anticipate the needs of disabled students to ensure that these activities are accessible, or, if there are no reasonable adjustments that can make the activity feasible, that an appropriate alternative activity is offered. Accessibility extends not only to the practical tasks undertaken, but to wider aspects such as accommodation and transportation during the activity. The University needs to satisfy itself that appropriate provision can be made to support disabled students working away from the University.
Field trips are often an important part of many programmes of study, and it is important that organisers think carefully about how all students can be given an equal opportunity to get the most out of these activities.
In addition, adjustments should be put in place for individual students depending on their needs. It is important that the field trip organiser works with the student and the relevant disability coordinator well ahead of the trip to ensure that appropriate adjustments will be put in place. Some examples are adjustments are:
The University has a policy on safety in fieldwork.
In summary, organisers of fieldwork:
Every effort should be made to enable those with specified medical conditions or disabilities to participate fully in fieldwork, through following inclusive work practices and via individual reasonable adjustments. However, it may sometimes be necessary (after discussion with the Disability Advisory Service, and college tutors) to make exclusions or to provide an alternative activity.
Staff involved in arranging placements that take place away from the University should anticipate the needs of disabled students to ensure that the placement is accessible, and that reasonable adjustments are provided.
Accessibility extends not only to the practical tasks undertaken but to wider aspects such as accommodation and transportation during the placement. The University needs to satisfy itself that appropriate provision can be made to support disabled students working away from the University on placements.
There is guidance on competence standards and making adjustments for disabled students on teaching placements on the Advance HE website. If a PGCE student is likely to require non-medical help (human support) whilst on placement, it is particularly important this is considered well in advance as support workers would need DBS checks in place, which can take a number of weeks.
There is a wealth of guidance and resources available on the General Medical Council’s Welcomed and Valued webpages, on supporting disabled learners in medical training. This is also available as a downloadable pdf. In addition the GMC has also produced guidance on supporting medical students with a mental health condition.
Student perspectives are invaluable for those planning ahead to provide anticipatory adjustments for students. The GMC has also put together disabled student stories relating to their experiences of placements.
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The information on this page is available for you to download as a pdf
Disability Advisory Service