Cuts to funding for basic equipment for disabled students are “deeply unfair” and “out of touch”, the National Union of Students (NUS) has warned.
In a searing critique of changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), student leaders have branded universities minister David Willetts as “arrogant” in seeking to cut funding.
Mr Willets has pledged to pay for high-cost computers needed by students with the most complex disabilities – but said that support for standard computers, warranties or insurance would be withdrawn under new rules in place from September 2015.
NUS disabled students' officer Hannah Paterson said: “The prospect of deeply unfair cuts to support for disabled students should concern us all.
“It is arrogant and out of touch to assume that disabled students can access ‘basic’ equipment or that universities will accept the new responsibilities ministers are seeking to place on them”.
The NUS has said that the funding gives a vital life-line to students who need support for computer equipment to aid their studies – and warned that the costs for specialist kit may not be met by DSA because of its high cost.
Mr Willetts said that the changes will “rebalance responsibilities between government funding and institutional support”, but insisted that the funding will only be given to those needing “the most specialist” support.
“We are changing our approach to the funding of a number of computer equipment, software and consumable items through DSAs that have become funded as ‘standard’ to most students,” he added.
Total government funding for DSA varies from year to year, but the maximum funding per student is £5,161 for specialist equipment, £20,520 per year for the non-medical helper allowance (per year) and £1,724 per year for a general allowance.
In 2011-12, the bill for DSA came to £124 million, covering 53,000 undergraduates.