Disabled postgraduate research students
Being a disabled postgraduate research student is different from being a disabled undergraduate and we understand that it could raise some complex issues.
Whether you need information or guidance about disclosure, disability support funding or the transfer and viva process, our Disability Team can help, guide and support you.
We are committed to supporting disabled students and providing all students with an inclusive and supportive University environment.
We understand that as a postgraduate research student disclosing information about your disability can be hard. You may be concerned about how well handle your information or worry that you will be treated negatively. Perhaps you feel that you are not disabled or that you have developed robust coping strategies for managing your disability and that you don't need additional support. We are here to help, guide and support you.
We recommend disclosing because:
- It is a positive, proactive step.
- We can offer you specific support for your academic studies to help you reach your full potential while at Leeds.
- It will give you access to the expert and specialist support, guidance and advice through the Disability team.
- Your academic department will be able to work with you more effectively.
- You will be covered by the Equality Act 2010 which will give you further legal protection.
How and when to disclose
You only need to disclose to the University once. Any personal information relating to your disability will be kept confidential and will be shared on a "need to know" basis only with those people directly responsible for teaching, supervising or supporting you.
There are two opportunities to disclose before you start on your course:
- On your application form.
- During the online Registration process.
You can also disclose at any time during your studies by telling someone in your department or by contacting us in the Disability team.
- If you undertook your undergraduate study at Leeds and disclosed at that time, we may have information about you on file. However, we won't know that you have returned to undertake postgraduate study unless you disclose on your application form or at Registration, or you inform us separately.
- The Disability team should receive copies of the application forms for all disabled postgraduate research students. However, this is not always the case, so we may not know about you unless you make contact with us directly.
What happens after disclosure?
The Disability team will invite you to come and talk to us, to tell us more about yourself and your disability so that we can look at what support arrangements we can put in place. With your permission, we may also contact your academic department so that they can make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your disability-related requirements.
If you disclosed a disability at the point of application you will be sent an information sheet with your offer letter, advising you to contact the Disability team. If you have informed the Disability team in advance that you are coming to the University to start postgraduate study, we will begin to work with you before your arrival. We will send you information about the support you may be entitled to and the sources of funding for that support. We encourage you to make an appointment to see a disability coordinator when you first arrive at Leeds. You will be assigned a named disability coordinator who will set up and manage your support throughout your University career in consultation with you and your academic department.
Funding for postgraduate disabled students is different from funding as an undergraduate. You may find it useful to work with the Disability team to identify and secure funding for your disability-related academic support.
Disabled Students' Allowances
Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) is funding to enable you to access your studies. As a disabled postgraduate research student you may be entitled to receive funding from Student Finance England or from a research council. The processes for application, assessment, invoicing and reclaiming the cost of support differ.
Disabled Students Allowances - Student Finance England (Government-funded): Government-funded DSA from Student Finance England is non-means tested and you do not need to repay it. You can also keep equipment you have bought with your DSA once your course has finished.
Application and eligibility: you can apply for DSA at any time from Student Finance England and do not need to wait for a confirmed place. The process can take at least three months between application and final award so its a good idea to apply early.
You are eligible for DSA if you are:
- a home-rated student. (International students are not eligible for DSA.)
- doing a postgraduate course (including a distance-learning course) that is:
- full time and lasts at least one year
- part time and does not take more than four times as long to complete as an equivalent full-time course.
You are not eligible for DSA if you are:
- eligible for an NHS Bursary (you can apply for equivalent help through the NHS Bursary Scheme).
- a postgraduate research student getting research council funding.
- getting an NHS Social Work Bursary that includes equivalent support.
- receiving funding from your university or college that includes equivalent support.
You should contact your funding provider for advice on any extra support you may be entitled to because of your disability or condition.
The amount of DSA available to you as a postgraduate research student is usually less than the amount you may have received as an undergraduate. You can receive new equipment through the DSA, but any equipment you already own will be taken into account.
For many disabled postgraduate research students, the DSAs amount per year falls short of the amount of support you need. This is especially the case for students who are blind or partially sighted, and who require transcription services, and for students who are deaf or hearing impaired, and who require sign language interpreting.
If you exceed the maximum DSA limit, the Disability team will look for alternative sources of funding with you. Students who exceed their DSA will continue to receive support during their studies at Leeds.
Disabled Students' Allowances - Research Councils UK: if you are funded by a Research Council you can also apply for DSA by contacting your graduate school for more information. The process and amount of support available to you may vary from Student Finance England.
Other funding sources
If you are not eligible for DSA and are not funded by the NHS or a Research Council then the Disability team can help you find other sources of funding from charities, trusts and awards. As a last resort, the Disability team can provide funding for students who cannot obtain funding from any other source.
You may be able to access a range of support services, subject to availability and suitability, without applying for additional funding. These include:
- pre-arrival and induction support and information
- receiving handouts and lecture presentations in advance
- access to campus-based computers with assistive technology (including text-to-speech, mind-mapping and magnification software)
- the loan of equipment (for example, digital voice recorders)
- adaptations to University accommodation
- modified assessment arrangements (including transfer and viva)
- extended library loans
- information and support from the Disability team.
To access a range of other support services, you are likely to need to apply for additional funding, such as DSAs. These services include:
- an assessment of academic support needs
- one-to-one learning strategy support
- transcription services for blind or partially-sighted students (to convert academic information into accessible formats, including braille, large print, e-text and audio)
- specialist mentor, personal assistant, notetaker support
- sign language interpreters.
If you have applied for DSA funding (either directly or through your Research Council) you will usually undertake a needs assessment as part of the application process. This is an individual assessment which takes into account your disability and the requirements of the course you are studying. The assessment generates a detailed report called the needs assessment report which includes a list of recommendations for support, as well as advice for academic departments. A copy of the needs assessment report is sent to the Disability contact in each department and should be made available to any departmental staff who are responsible for supervising or supporting you.
If you are not eligible for DSA then you can have a meeting with a Disbaility Coordinator to find out what your needs are and communicate with your school about this
Support in schools and faculties
Disability team contacts in schools and faculties will liaise with members of the Disability team and relevant staff members to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place for you within your department.
Viva and transfer process
We are experienced at supporting disabled postgraduate research students through the transfer and viva process. This is always done on a case-by-case basis, with you and your academic department. You and your department are encouraged to contact the Disability team at the earliest opportunity as it can take many months to put in place suitable arrangements.
Some examples of reasonable adjustments we have made in the past include:
- allowing regular breaks
- providing materials in alternative formats
- providing interpreters (e.g. British Sign Language)
- providing a Specialist Mentor to assist communication
- consideration of which examiners, plus advance briefing
- training for those involved with the viva.