HUNDREDS of disabled students could be prevented from studying for a degree if changes to benefits go ahead, university bosses have warned.
The government is planning to cut the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) budget, which pays towards extra computer software, travel costs and non-medical helpers for people with specialist needs.
But the government has said from next September it will not fund “standard specification computers” — traditionally given to dyslexic students to help with their studies — or cover additional costs of specialist university accommodation.
Sara Burgess, head of library and student service at the University of Bolton, warned the proposals will have “significant implications” for the organisation.
The university currently has 1,200 disabled students — a higher proportion than other institutions thanks in part to its accessible campus.
Ms Burgess said: “My own personal view is these changes will probably be a deterrent to disabled students.
“The DSA was created to create a level playing field for disabled students but if it is going to be more difficult for them to get support then that is likely to impact on their decision-making.
“We are already looking at how we can best meet what we anticipate to be the resulting shortfall in support funding for students needing specialist disability services.
Currently, students who suffer with a long-term health condition, mental health problems or a specific learning difficulty, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, can apply for grants.
Up to £5,161 is available for specialist equipment, as well as £20,520 to pay a non-medical helper, including sign-language interpreters or scribes.
MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi said while Oxbridge universities could afford to subsidise disabled students through their own funds, poorer universities like Bolton would struggle.
She said she would campaign against any cuts, adding: “The value of the DSA can be seen in the stories collected by the National Union of Students.
“Many say that they would not have been able to finish their degrees without the assistance of the DSA and cite it as essential.”