Disability Support for Doctoral Students


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The Disability and Dyslexia team provides support for all students at the University of Brighton and recognises that the needs of postgraduate researchers (PGRs) often differ from those of taught students. Below you’ll find a post from the team outlining their services, how their provision relates to doctoral students, and ways you can contact them.

What do the Disability and Dyslexia team do?

The Disability and Dyslexia team offer guidance and support on a range of disability related issues, and are very closely linked with other wellbeing teams within the university, including SSGTs and counselling services. If a student feels they are impacted by a long-term health condition, physical disability, mental health condition or learning difference, they should contact the Disability and Dyslexia Team. All institutional support available to undergraduate and postgraduate students is also available to support students undertaking doctoral study.

Each campus provides its disability support from the Student Centre but can also be contacted centrally via disability@brighton.ac.uk or 01273 643799.

Support is coordinated by a team of eight Learning Support Coordinators, operating across all campus, and an administrative team.

The earlier you speak to us, the earlier we can arrange support. A disability can be disclosed at any stage of your study – there’s no time limit.

We most commonly offer support for:

  • Specific learning differences such as dyslexia. Please also tell us if you think, but aren’t sure, that you have a specific learning difference. We can book you in for a free screening.
  • ADD or ADHD (attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
  • Long-term mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia, psychosis and eating disorders.
  • Long-term illnesses such as diabetes, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, cancer, HIV, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome or multiple sclerosis.
  • Autistic Spectrum Conditions including Asperger’s Syndrome.
  • Physical or mobility differences
  • Visual conditions
  • Hearing conditions
  • Multiple disabilities, or any condition that lasts for 12 months or more and has an adverse effect on your studies
  • Temporary injuries that prevent you from carrying out your everyday functions, e.g. a broken ankle
  • Pregnancy-related issues

Why tell us?

We can support you in a number of ways, depending on your funding eligibility, status as an employee, or sponsorship. This includes:

  • Assistance applying for the Disabled Students’ Allowance, or liaising with your funding council about paid support
  • One-to-one mentoring or study skills tuition
  • Advising your supervisors or managers on the impact of your condition on your studies and how to accommodate this
  • Coordinating academic support you need
  • Arranging, with the Doctoral College or supervising School, the loaning of equipment such as recording devices, computer equipment or assistive software, ergonomic aids and book stands

Accessing Support

Once a student contacts the Disability Team, we will request that they complete a Consent Form and agree to our Disability and Dyslexia Privacy Statement. This discussion can be confidential, but complete confidentiality will limit the amount of support that we can arrange.

We will also require evidence that confirms the impact of the condition or disability. For a learning difference, this may be an Educational Psychology report, or for a medical condition, this may be a letter from a GP or specialist. If you are unsure how to obtain evidence, or whether your documentation will be suitable, you can speak to us beforehand.

Once we have your evidence and consent, a Learning Support Coordinator (LSC) will arrange a meeting with you to discuss the effect that your disability has on your studies and university life. We can meet remotely via Microsoft Teams, in person, or via phone call.

With your permission, the LSC can then make recommendations to the Doctoral College and your supervisors about adjustments that can be made to your teaching, learning and assessment. This might include extra flexibility around submission deadlines, recommendations for supervisory tutorials to be conducted in a certain way, or requests for you to be provided with additional equipment.

We acknowledge that the standard recommendations provided at undergraduate level often do not apply to doctoral students. This is more so given the protracted nature of research degrees, low contact hours, teaching commitments and varying external pressures faced by PGRs. However, a support meeting will be conducted in the same way as any other, with staff providing far more contextual information than usual as part of their recommendations. The recommendations are sent in a document called a Learning Support Plan (LSP)

During this process, we will also ascertain how your research degree is funded and therefore who will be providing any additional equipment, software or 1-1 support. We understand that the nature of PGR study can mean that funding routes can vary significantly. As a result, we will coordinate the management of any costs for your support with the appropriate Doctoral Studies Lead (DSL) and Research Student Administrator (RSA).

The RSA and DSL will liaise directly with the appropriate supervisors about any LSP recommendations. They can help facilitate conversation, consider extended timeframes for submissions, recognise research areas that repeatedly cause problems, and help adjust supervision methodology for future students. They are a key part of ensuring internal recommendations and funded support are put in place. PGRs should familiarise themselves with their relevant DSL and RSA.

At this point, if you are an employee (e.g. PT lecturer, technical demonstrator), we will also encourage you to liaise with your line manager and the university’s Human Resources department. The support HR provide will be separate from those academic-related recommendations in your Learning Support Plan, and will instead include recommendations for reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

Disabled Students’ Allowances

Most students studying at doctoral level in the UK, with a disability, should be eligible to receive Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA). Students must adhere to the same eligibility criteria as undergraduates but may be supported directly by a funding council, rather than a student finance funding body such as Student Finance England. Regardless of the funding body, DSA recommendations remain the same as at undergraduate level.

DSAs recommendations can include the following:

  • specialist equipment, for example a computer if you need one because of your disability
  • non-medical helpers
  • extra travel because of your disability
  • other disability-related costs of studying

Students will usually be eligible to receive DSAs if they are:

  • Legally qualified as disabled (the disability team can help determine this)
  • Ordinarily resident in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland before beginning their PhD or EdD – usually for 5 years
  • Not receiving equivalent funding from another source
  • On a course lasting more than one year with a study rate of 25% or higher. Note: all doctoral research degrees, PT or otherwise, are defined as 33% or above at the University of Brighton

International and EU students are not entitled to DSA, and should speak to the disability team about other funded support routes.

Once eligibility has been determined a student must apply for DSA support from their respective funding body. This can be a complex process and should be discussed in conjunction with the Doctoral College, Student and Disability Team.

Funding bodies can include:

  • Government bodies such as Student Finance England or Student Finance Wales
  • NHS
  • Research councils
  • Philanthropy and engagement
  • Individual sponsors
  • Other external agencies not governed by UKRI

Once support is determined and provided, it will usually continue for 5 years or the duration of the research degree, whichever is sooner. During this time, your Learning Support Coordinator will be able to provide support, consultation and adjustment as necessary.

For most students, academic recommendations in conjunction with funded allowances can make a significant difference to their research and learning experience. For doctoral students in particular, the processes involved are more complex that at undergraduate level but it is important to note that all institutional support available to undergraduate and postgraduate students is also available to support students undertaking doctoral study.

For more information about disability support please email disability@brighton.ac.uk or speak to your local Learning Support Coordinator.

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