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University and college, including exams

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This page does not apply outside Great Britain.
Last updated 2nd April 2022.

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, FE colleges and some other bodies.

Introduction

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.

For example there is the Stamma helpline (stamma.org). Also STUC at www.stuc-uk.org supports student and staff in higher education who stammer. On university 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 are 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 further and higher education institutions in the normal way,

There is a duty on the university or FE college to make reasonable adjustments. Supporting students who stammer in higher education by STAMMA and STUC give many examples of adjustments for students who stammer. It should not be forgotten that the other types of EqA claim also apply, including unfavourable treatment related to a disability, and harassment.

I have separate pages dealing with Exams and assessments (below). Otherwise I have a page giving Examples of adjustments for university students, and a more technical page on the legal rules at University and FE college: the rules.

Exams and assessments

Examinations and assessments are also subject to the Equality Act. The rules are modified a bit to allow universities etc to apply the same competence standards to everyone. Even so, universities etc have to be able to show their competence standards are justified if these disadvantage disabled people. Competence standards can be challenged under both ss.15 and 19 EqA. Also the way in which competence standards are assessed is subject to the reasonable adjustment duty.

I discuss this on Oral assessments, and assessed presentations, which includes Examples of how assessments can be altered. There is more on the technical rules at Oral assessments at university: the rules.

Again the (non-legal) guide for universities by STAMMA and STUC Supporting students who stammer in higher education gives various examples of possible adjustments.

Somewhat different rules can apply to Professional exam bodies – but here again all aspects of the exams (including competence standards) are subject to the Equality Act in some way.

Work experience

Both universities/colleges and work placement providers fall within the Equality Act as regards work placements. There can be an issue of whether a particular claim should go to the County Court (as happens if the education provisions of the Equality Act apply), or to an employment tribunal (if the employment provisions apply). See further Work placements related to education courses.

Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)

Many 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. However this general duty gives public bodies a lot of discretion – it does not oblige them to achieve a particular result. More: Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).

Other education providers

This section of the website discusses the Equality Act rules on further and higher education. The rules cover publicly funded universities. They also cover further and higher education generally, as well as some other bodies (University and FE college: the rules>Technical note: What institutions are covered?). They do not cover:

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