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What support can I get at university?

Photo: Researching your options and speaking to a careers advisor will help you choose what to study

University, sometimes called higher education, is where you study a particular subject or two subjects to get a degree. You might need a degree if you want to go on and do a certain job. There are a wide range of subjects you can do degrees in so you could try something new, that you weren’t able to do at school, or you can focus on a favourite subject you feel passionate about.

University can bring new experiences and give you more independence. It can also give you opportunities to meet new people, travel and live away from home.

Talk to a careers advisor and research courses and universities to understand your options and find out what grades and subjects you may need to get into university.

Disability Rights UK Into HE 2019 guide has information for disabled students on everything from choosing a course, getting support and after you arrive. Disability Rights UK also have a Disabled Students Helpline who can give personalised advice.

If you are looking for advice relating to your deafness or are a deaf student who isn’t getting the right support, please contact our Helpline.

How will I know if a university and course is right for me?

With so many options available, deciding on a university and course can feel overwhelming. Careers advisors are there to help and you can also find information and tips.

  • Prospects have guidance on how to choose the right degree
  • The Complete University Guide have a Course Chooser to help you narrow down your search
  • UCAS have written guidance and videos (including BSL) about choosing a course and open days – see ‘how do I apply for university’ below.

Universities hold ‘open days’ during the year for new students where you can visit and get a feel for the university before you apply. You will usually get to meet existing students and staff and have the opportunity to ask lots of questions. Before attending an open day it can be a good idea to contact the disability support service at the university. They can help with arranging any support you might need at the open day itself. It can also be useful to meet with one of their disability advisors before you apply to discuss what support you could expect as a deaf student if you end up there.

Open days aren’t the only opportunity to visit a university and you may prefer to meet with the disability support service on a separate day.

Aside from choosing the right course, one of the big decisions can be where you want to live. It may be important to you to be near friends and family or live at home. Alternatively, you may feel ready to move out and want to live on your own, in student accommodation or with friends. Visiting the university on an open day or at another time can be a good opportunity to scope out if it is the right place for you and if you can imagine yourself living there for the duration of your course.


Our tips for making decisions also apply to choosing a university and course.

How do I apply for university?

UCAS is responsible for dealing with all university applications in the UK. Visit their website to see what you have to do.

UCAS has a series of videos in British Sign Language (BSL) about applying for University and also lots of written advice about applying.

To find the BSL specific content, enter 'BSL' in the show me videos search box. There are seven BSL videos available, with information ranging from writing personal statements, to open days and how to apply.

What support can I get at university?

Universities have the same responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Discrimination Act (Northern Ireland) as all other service providers. Understanding your rights and how they apply to education can help you to ensure you receive the support you need at university.

Disabled student services staff are responsible for ensuring disabled students at the university are not discriminated against and receive the support they need to have the same opportunities as other students who don’t have disabilities. Making contact with disabled student services early on can help make sure you get the support you need from the start.

University is a different environment to school and college so the support you get at university might be very different to what you’ve had before. Disabled student services have disability advisors who are trained and have experience working with students with all kinds of needs. You could ask if they have an advisor with particular experience working with deaf students. We also have a booklet Supporting the achievement of deaf young people in higher education: for higher education staff which you could share with your disability advisor.

Disability advisors can help you with applying for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) and arrange for any recommendations and reasonable adjustments to be put in place. Not all adjustments require financial support through DSA and there are some things DSA may not cover but your university would be expected to.

Examples of reasonable adjustments at university:

  • Extra-time for assessments
  • Access arrangements for exams, for example extra-time or a separate room
  • Tutors providing handouts or course materials in advance
  • Manual notetakers (not covered by DSA in England)
  • Technology
  • Study support
  • Adjustments in student accommodation, such as fire alarms and doorbells
What are Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)?

We have a whole page about Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) with further information. Only around a third of deaf students claim DSA as many aren’t aware of it. Disabled students who receive DSA tend to do better in their course and are less likely to drop out.

What do I do if I'm not getting the support I need at university?

If there are problems with your support or you feel you are struggling at university, discussing it with your disability advisor can be the first step to solving the problem.

If there continue to be problems you may want to make a complaint. Disability Rights UK have guidance about how to make a complaint, which could help.

If you think you are being discriminated against by your university, see our information about your rights and for independent advice and further help please contact our Helpline.

I'm thinking of dropping out of university, what should I do?

University can be a big adjustment and it can take time to settle in. We have guidance for what you can do if you think you’ve made a wrong decision. Whatever your reasons may be for thinking of dropping out, discussing it with the people you care about can be a good first step, as well as raising it with your course and disability advisor. Career Hacker have step by step guidance on what you can do if you are considering dropping out of university and deciding what to do next.