Adapting to university

These tips will help you adjust to university if you have a disability or require additional support.

We are currently offering workshops for any post-16 person considering university. The workshops can be delivered on campus or in schools/colleges/remotely by Dr. Melanie Thorley and/or our STAART Ambassadors. All of the workshops are interactive utilising Mentimeter software.

Discover new names for services

Where schools have special educational needs coordinators (SENCO), universities tend to have disability advisors and dyslexia tutors. Such roles are usually located in departments called Student Services or Student Support.

Some universities also have a specific team for deaf and hard of hearing support. Universities without specialist staff will know how to arrange for notetakers, interpreters and communication support workers (CSWs).

Check out university websites to find out what support they offer.

Visit the universities you're interested in

It helps to visit a university campus to see how big or accessible it is. Some are big sites with lakes and parkland as well as classrooms and accommodation. Others are smaller and more compact.

You may need to consider the size when you are making your decision, especially if you get tired easily or if you have difficulty moving around.

Open Days at Greenwich

Visit disability, D/deaf and dyslexia staff

Try to meet the staff who are responsible for supporting disabled students to get an idea of what support you can expect if you enrol. This is particularly important for students who are deaf or hard of hearing as you may need notetakers, CSWs and interpreters during your studies.

Some universities use other students to provide support whilst other universities try and employ qualified staff only. You may also want to know if the support staff have any knowledge of the subject you want to study. An engineering student taking notes for a sociology degree may not be very successful.

Most universities have access to specialist dyslexia tutors, who can help dyslexic students access and understand what they need to do when they are studying. Tutors can also support with essay structure, revision techniques and organisational skills.

Mentoring schemes are also becoming more popular. This usually involves having a student mentor who may be able to provide tips on university life that you may not get from a member of staff.

Specialist equipment and exam arrangements

Most disabled and dyslexic students are entitled to a variety of support, such as technology or specialist software. A blind or partially sighted student may benefit from voice activated software while a dyslexic student may benefit from a digital recorder for lectures.

Students may also benefit from more time in exams, either because they require a scribe or because they prefer to use a computer instead of writing by hand.

These things can be discussed with the disability and dyslexia staff when you visit.

Apply for Disabled Students' Allowance

This is probably the most important tip.

Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is the funding which pays for all the specialist equipment and support staff. The allowance provides up to £20,520 per year for support staff such as dyslexia tutors and interpreters and up to £5,161 for equipment, such as specialist software.

It is vital to apply for funding as soon as possible. Universities may still provide support if there is a delay to getting your funding. You can check this with the disability and dyslexia staff when you visit.


STAART is a unique model of transition for disabled university students.

We offer an online community and 1-2-1 Skype meetings to ensure post-16 disabled students anywhere in the world can access information and good practice regarding disability and higher education.

We want to enabled students to interact with each other and boost their knowledge of university life, which may enhance their self-esteem and/or their psychological wellbeing.

For disabled students who live close to our campuses, we have workshops on site on selected Wednesday twilight sessions and Saturday mornings. We hope to provide webinars of these workshops in the future to enable more disabled students to access our support.

Our long-term aim is to create a global community to share good practice on disability issues and higher education.