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University and college, including exams

Disclaimer – please read
This page does not apply outside Great Britain.
Last updated 13th March 2019 (part update 6th October 2019).

The main part of this page is a very brief overview of the Equality Act 2010 rules on further and higher education, which apply to universities and various other bodies.


This page, indeed this website, focuses on the law. However, to put things in perspective, it should usually be possible to resolve issues to do with stammering at university or college without any recourse to legal rules.

If one wants support on stammering, or just to talk things over, there should be people one can talk to such as the university’s Disability Office, or one’s personal tutor. See Resolving issues at university or FE college, which also discusses other support available and ways to take a problem further if necessary.

STUC at www.stuc-uk.org supports student and staff in higher education who stammer. On uni disability services see Don’t be afraid of the student disability service (stamma.org), and Do not ride your uni education, steer it (stamma.org), both 2019, and there is a link to articles on being a student with a stammer in the links below.

Universities and FE colleges are subject to the Equality Act

By and large, the Equality Act applies to higher and further education institutions in the normal way. Accordingly the rules cover unfavourable treatment related to a disability, and harassment. Exams and assessments (below) are also subject to the Equality Act.

There is a duty on the university or college to make reasonable adjustments. Working with students who stammer (pdf on archive of De Montfort University website) gives some examples of adjustments for students who stammer.

How the Equality Act applies to university and college services generally is discussed on my page University and FE college – more detail. However there is a separate page about exams:

Exams and assessments

Examinations and assessments are again subject to the Equality Act. The rules are modified a bit to allow universities to apply the same competence standards to everyone. Even so, competence standards have to be justified if they disadvantage disabled people. Also the way standards are assessed is subject to the reasonable adjustment duty.

See Oral assessments, and assessed presentations for examples of adjustments related to stammering, and an outline of the rules.

There are somewhat different rules which can apply to Professional exams – but here again all aspects of the exams (including competence standards) are subject to the Equality Act.

Work experience

Both universities/colleges and work placement providers fall within the Equality Act as regards work placements. However, in some cases the education provisions of the Equality Act will apply, rather than the employment provisions. The main difference if the education provisions apply is that claims go to the County Court rather than the employment tribunal. See further Work placements.

Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)

Various education bodies including universities are subject to both the ‘general’ and ‘specific’ duties under the PSED. The ‘general’ duty obliges the university etc to ‘have due regard to’ various things such as promoting equality of opportunity. More on the Public Sector Equality Duty…

Other education providers

This section summarises the Equality Act 2010 rules on further and higher education. The rules apply to publicly funded universities. They also cover further and higher education generally, as well as some other bodies. They do not cover:

  • schools in respect of provision to their pupils, even pupils over 16. They are covered by the specific rules for schools; and
  • private colleges and training providers. They are likely to be subject to the general rules on provision of services.
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