Closed petition Require Universities to Train Staff on Neurodiversity

I often hear stories of autistic students being let down by reasonable adjustments not being granted, or staff treating them in a discriminatory manner. Through my research I found there is a lack of training. I'd like to see mandatory training for university staff at all universities.

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Research has previously found that around 2.4% of the student population in the UK have autism - and less than 40% of these individuals complete their course at University. Those on the spectrum are nearly 10 times more likely to drop out of University. These statistics do not even consider those that are put off from applying to University. We believe universities still fail to truly cater for the needs of neurodiverse students. These statistics, and heartfelt stories, show that training and awareness is urgently needed.

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Government responded

This response was given on 10 July 2023

Universities are autonomous institutions, responsible for their own decisions on staff training. They should provide a safe and inclusive environment, including for neurodivergent students.

Universities are autonomous institutions, independent from government. They are therefore responsible for their own decisions, including on the training and development needs of staff.

However, this government believes it is important that all students, including those who are neurodivergent and/or have a disability, receive an appropriate level of support wherever and whatever they choose to study. The government is committed to ensuring that all students receive the support they need to enable them to study alongside their fellow students on an equal basis.

Higher education (HE) providers must fulfil their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 by making reasonable adjustments for students with a disability, if they would otherwise be put at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with non-disabled persons. Therefore, disabled students who are neurodivergent should expect to have reasonable adjustments made by their HE provider to ensure that their needs are met through inclusive learning practices.

Where students are concerned that the appropriate support is not available, we expect student complaints and appeals processes to be operated flexibly, accessibly and sympathetically by providers to resolve any concerns. If the student is not satisfied with the provider’s final response to their complaint, and the provider is in England or Wales, they can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider the complaint.

In terms of funding, Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is available in addition to the standard support package, to help students with the additional costs they may face in HE because of their disability, including long-term health conditions, mental health conditions, or specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

DSA is not means-tested and does not have to be repaid. It is available to full-time and part-time students at undergraduate and postgraduate level, alongside support available from HE providers, and in line with the recommendations of the student’s DSA Needs Assessment. There is no list of approved disabilities: to receive DSA, a student must be eligible for the main support package and disabled in line with the definition in the Equality Act 2010.

In addition, disabled full-time undergraduate students who qualify for Personal Independence Payment or Disability Living Allowance are entitled to higher rates of loans for living costs.

Students with disabilities may also be eligible for additional funding through non-Government sources. For example, students with a disability-related study cost may be eligible for a grant of up to £5,000 through the Snowdon Trust. Further information can be found here:

Similarly, the Student Health Association operates the Student Enablement Fund which helps students with disabilities keep up with their studies. Eligible applicants could be awarded up to £500. Further information can be found here:

The Strategic Priorities Grant (SPG) is funding supplied by the government on an annual basis to support teaching and students in higher education, including expensive to deliver subjects, such as science and engineering, students at risk of discontinuing their studies, and world-leading specialist providers. The total recurrent Strategic Priorities funding to be distributed by the OfS for the 2023/24 academic year is £1.4 billion. This includes £276 million of student premium and mental health funding to support successful outcomes for disadvantaged students.

As part of the £276 million, we have asked the Office for Students (OfS), the HE regulator in England, to distribute £15 million in SPG funding in the 2023/24 academic year so support can be targeted towards students who are starting university for the first time. This funding will also enable effective partnerships between providers and local NHS services so students can better navigate the pathways for mental health provision.

The £276 million also includes £41m in disabled students’ premium funding in the 2023/24 academic year. This funding enables providers to support successful outcomes for disabled students.

The mental health and wellbeing of young people more broadly is a high priority for the government. Our approach to supporting student mental health is focused on three pillars: funding and resourcing vital services, spreading and implementing best practice and clear responsibilities for providers and protection for students. The Department for Education is working closely with mental health charities and the HE sector to promote and fund effective practice to support student wellbeing and mental health.

Department for Education