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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 11th August 2021).

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.

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.

There is the Stamma helpline (stamma.org). Also 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. Supporting students who stammer in higher education by Stamma and STUC give 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 in which standards are assessed is subject to the reasonable adjustment duty.

See Oral assessments, and assessed presentations for examples of adjustments related to stammering, and for an outline of the legal rules. Also there is a (non-legal) guide for universities by Stamma and STUC: Supporting students who stammer in higher education.

Somewhat different rules can apply to Professional exams – 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. 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 to the employment tribunal. 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. More: Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).

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. Those are likely to be subject to the general rules on provision of services.
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