Glen at university

Severe to profoundly deaf Glen, 21, tells us about why he decided to go to university, how he chose what to study, and the support he’s received during his degree.

Tell us about your deafness
I have severe-profound Deafness and use two hearing aids. I almost always require someone to repeat what they say, and it can make talking to strangers very difficult. Despite this, I don't let my deafness hold me back.

Why did you decide to go to university when you left school?
Because I love Science and History so the natural choice was to apply to university to continue learning about those subjects!

Was it hard to decide which courses and universities to apply to?
Yes – I had to think about a lot of factors. In the end I decided on University of the West of Scotland because it was close to home and my family and friends, which would make it easier for me.

Do you use any communication support at university?
I use a note-taker in university. Thankfully the Phonak Smartlink (bluetooth-enabled FM transmitter) I use is fantastic, and allows me to hear what the lecturer is saying, no matter where I sit. When combined with the notetaker, I can concentrate whilst not having to worry about taking notes.

Was it easy to get this support in place?
It was quite difficult. I had to ask my audiologist to provide a copy of my audiographs to prove my level of deafness, and I had to ask a previous Teacher of the Deaf to write a letter saying I needed the Phonak Smartlink system to function effectively in an academic setting. Due to these hurdles, I didn't have my vital Smartlink until the second semester of first year, almost 4 months after I first applied for Disabled Students' Allowance. It wasn't a positive experience for me!

Is the support you receive at university different from when you were at school?
Yes, previously I had a Teacher of the Deaf who would come into school on a regular basis to talk to me about how I was coping and help with my work. University is much more independent; you can have a notetaker, maybe an interpreter, but there's no-one to check up on you and make sure you're doing okay. It’s up to you to keep up and get the information you need for your studies and course.

Are your classmates, friends, tutors and lecturers at university deaf aware?
Very few people are initially deaf aware; there is a good chance that you're the first deaf person they’ve ever met. However, at University I find that people are very open and happy to learn about how to be more deaf aware. My lecturers have been great with my deafness; sometimes they’ve worked with a deaf student before, other times they haven't, but they are always helpful and make an effort to make sure I can hear properly.

What advice do you have for other deaf young people thinking of applying to university – do you have any top tips for things they need to bear in mind?

  • Don't be too daunted! It can be a hard transition from having lots of support at school to go to university where you're expected to be more independent, especially for a deaf person, but it’s definitely worth it!
  • Contact the disability support team for every university you apply for, even if you don't think you’ll go there – it’s best to sort out your support needs and apply for the equipment you need as early as possible.  
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help; talk to your lecturers and the disability team if you're struggling or having problems.
  • If there's a course at a university you really like, don't let your deafness hold you back. Go for it!  
  • Lastly, enjoy yourself! University has been a fantastic experience for me, and I’ll be sad when I graduate next year!

Watch Ruth talk about starting university

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