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Guidance and Procedures

What is a reasonable adjustment?

The duty to make reasonable adjustments is a cornerstone of the Equality Act (2010) legislation and applies where a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with people who are not disabled. In these circumstances the Higher Education Institution (HEI) must make reasonable adjustments to remove that disadvantage without allowing any advantage, in comparison with peers. Making reasonable adjustments could include:

  • changes to practices or procedures
    e.g. Provide a blind or partially sighted student with a personal assistant to take notes during lectures and tutorials and read materials to the student. This enables the student to listen to the lecturer without trying to take notes at the same time.
  • changes to physical features
    e.g. Provision of lifts and ramp access to university premises; this enables a wheelchair user to access premises independently
  • changes to how learners are assessed
    e.g. Make individual arrangements, based on need, for a student to word process their answers using a computer with specialist assistive software.
  • providing extra support and aids (such as specialist teachers or equipment)
    e.g. Provision of assistive technology programs, Study Skills Tutors, transcription services; this is currently funded by Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) for most students and is assessed according to individual needs

How an adviser determines reasonable adjustments

  1. All disability advisers employed by Manchester Met Disability Service are members of the National Association for Disability Practitioners (NADP) and, as such, work according to professional standards of practice within Higher Education. Manchester Metropolitan University internal documents underpin and guide decisions in order to ensure parity of recommendations between students.
  2. Reasonable adjustments are made in accordance with Manchester Metropolitan University’s Regulations and in line with the disability adviser’s professional judgement of the student’s needs. A recommendation cannot be made on solely on student preference.
  3. The disability adviser determines what reasonable adjustments are required based primarily on the medical evidence provided, but also in discussion with the student. The likely impact on other students and cost may contribute to the disability adviser’s decision making.
  4. Every institution has its own policies and procedures in place. Manchester Metropolitan University’s regulations and procedures may be different to those of other education providers, but they are applied fairly so it may be possible that students are not recommended the same support they had at a previous institution. At Higher Education level there is an expectation that students work towards developing effective study strategies, to correspond with the principle that students work to develop valuable employability skills, support is available to help develop these skills. Another factor the Disability Adviser has to take into consideration is the competency standards and learning outcomes of the course
  5. Recommendations made in a Study Needs Assessment for the purposes of Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) are recommendations only; they may not be included in a PLP if they conflict with Manchester Met Assessment Regulations, policies and procedures or if the disability adviser deems they are inappropriate/not justifiable.
  6. All students are expected to have a level of English that is at least to the level of GCSE English Grade C, or its equivalent; adjustments will not be made to compensate for inadequate knowledge of the English language. However, support is available within the university to help with written English.
  7. A Personal Learning Plan (PLP) may need to be revised if there is a change in the student’s impairment or if the student develops additional health conditions; the student will be required to provide medical evidence of this to help the adviser to determine any necessary changes to PLP recommendations.
  8. Occasionally it may be necessary to hold a review meeting to discuss issues such as the student’s support; such reviews may be requested by the student, staff or the disability adviser.

Competence standards and exam arrangements

All Manchester Metropolitan University courses have clearly defined competency standards, which are defined within the Disability Discrimination Act (2005) part 4 (SENDA) as:

“An academic, medical or other standard applied by or on behalf of a [HEI] for the purpose of determining whether or not a person has a particular level of competence or ability.”

Competence standards have particularly wide application to all requirements, assessments and standards that are applied to a student’s performance throughout their time at university. This means that universities must have genuine competence standards in place to ensure that all candidates can demonstrate their ability in a particular area. However, there is also a requirement on universities to ensure that all entry, course and exam criteria are genuine and not discriminatory.

Whilst there is no duty to make reasonable adjustments in respect of the application of a competence standard, there is a duty to examine the process by which competence is assessed. Therefore, the university must consider whether or not a reasonable adjustment could be made to some aspect of the process by which it assesses a competence standard and any process by which an individual is assessed against that standard. Examples of this include:

  • allowing a dyslexic student extra time in an examination.
  • allowing a student who has illegible handwriting due to disability to use a scribe in an exam.
  • allowing a student who had very poor motor skills to produce a video of a piece of work rather than a written dissertation.
  • allowing a disabled student extra time to complete an assignment; however, it would not be reasonable for them to miss out pieces of work altogether.

Also see Practical Arrangements for Examinations