Former Oxford student Sophie Spector claims she was forced out of the university due to her learning difficulties

She called the way she was treated by her college "callous"

Doug Bolton
Sunday 07 June 2015 07:07
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Sophie Spector claims she was forced out of Balliol College due to her learning difficulties
Sophie Spector claims she was forced out of Balliol College due to her learning difficulties

A former student at Oxford University claims she was forced out by her college due to her learning difficulties.

22-year-old Sophie Spector, a sufferer of severe dyslexia and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), studied philosophy, politics and economics at Balliol College, Oxford.

She started at the university in 2012, and said to The Daily Telegraph that the college denied her neccessary allowances, such as extended deadlines and reading given in advance, to allow for the extra reading time she needed due to her dyslexia. This meant she quickly began to fall behind.

She submitted a subject access request to the college, and they released internal emails that mentioned her and her learning difficulties.

In one February 2013 email from Douglas Dupree, then the college's chaplain and dean, to a university doctor, he requested that she be seen by a doctor "who can be straight and firm with histrionics and panic."

Mr Dupree then goes on to talk about the extra allowances that she would need to be given, saying she needs "the absolute maximum limit of whatever concessions are allowed", before asking: "Yes, why did we admit her?"

She went on medical leave in March 2013, and claims the college told her she would have to pass extra exams with higher pass marks if she was to return.

She calls the college's treatment of her "callous" and has not returned to the university.

Balliol College, Oxford, where Sophie Spector was a student

Speaking to The Telegraph, law firm Unity Law said it has been instructed to send a letter of claim to the university, setting out a challenge for disability discrimination, a breach of the equalities act and a failure to make reasonable adjustments on the grounds of disability.

In a statement to the paper, Balliol College said they are investigating a formal complaint, adding: "We cannot comment on that or on individual cases, but the College has a thorough and caring approach which is not fairly represented by selectively quoting from email correspondence.”

The university said it takes a proactive approach to disabled students, and works with them and the college to ensure the required support is provided.

A spokesman for the university said: “The decision to take medical leave is never entered into lightly. It is used as one option within a strong and caring support system, often with the student's agreement, which in many cases helps them to recover and resume their studies successfully.”

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