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What learning support can you get at university if you have dyslexia?

There's no reason why having dyslexia should hold you back from applying to university. Here's the lowdown on what kind of support is available, and how you can get it.

Dyslexia is a recognised disability under the Equality Act 2010, so any university or college offering degrees should be offering appropriate support. The level of support available can vary, but generally speaking if you're a dyslexic student, you may be entitled to:
  • Accommodations in exams (for example, extra time allowed to finish)
  • Extra time for completion of assignments
  • A learning support tutor.

Questions to ask before applying to a university

It's worth contacting a university –  or perhaps speaking to them in person on an open day –  to find out more about:

  • Examination criteria: whether poor spelling / grammar will be penalised.
  • Whether assistive technology can be used for exams, such as a text reader, or voice recognition software.
  • What format the exams will take, and whether these are likely to be those which many dyslexic candidates find difficult (e.g. multiple choice, particularly on screen, or having to track between hard copy pages). 
  • Accommodations which can be offered to dyslexic candidates for different styles of test.
  • If you are choosing joint honours, what opportunities there are for ensuring that assignment dates are staggered.
Look for the logo: it's also worth looking for the British Dyslexia Association's Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark in a university prospectus or on its website. This indicates it meets the British Dyslexia Assocation's standards on dyslexia practices and policies. You can call 01344 381551 for more information.

Applying for extra support

If you have dyslexia you can apply for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) through your student finance funding body (for instance, Student Finance England or the Student Awards Agency for Scotland). 

What the DSA covers

The allowance provides you with specialist equipment and support worth up to £5,212 for the whole of your course. Support comes in the form of IT equipment, assistive software (and associated training), aids such a digital recorder; and other types of help like study skills support from a specialist dyslexia tutor, and allowances for books and photocopying.

Get an assessment report

As part of the application you'll need to provide a diagnostic assessment report from either an educational psychologist with a HPC (Health Professional Council Practising Certificate) which costs around £400, or a specialist dyslexia teacher with an Assessment Practising Certificate (this will be less costly). The NHS and (most) schools and colleges won't fund an assessment. It may be possible to get an assessment funded by a university, but you will normally need to be already on the course.

What you need

When your application has been accepted by Student Finance, you will then need to arrange a 'needs assessment' with an Access Centre where a disability specialist will look at what support and accommodations will best suit your needs. Once their recommendations have been approved by Student Finance, you and your university’s disability office will be able to organise equipment and appropriate help.

Apply early

Be warned –  since the process of applying for the DSA is lengthy (it can take up to four months), it's a good idea to get your application in and approved ahead of you starting university. You can apply as early as the January of the year you hope to start your degree, on the basis of a provisional offer of a place on a course.

Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from the British Dyslexia Association (BDA), a not-for-profit organisation working to ensure that all people with dyslexia fulfil their potential.
 

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