The Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) has seen a 200% increase in the number of students benefitting from its funding in the past ten years, according to a report published by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
Since 2008, over €70 million has been allocated through the fund to help over 38,000 students pursue further and higher education. The number of students availing of the funding has grown from 3,800 in 2008 to almost 10,500 last year.
The aim of the fund, which has allocated €9.6 million so far this year, is to ensure that institutions have the facilities necessary to ensure a high standard of education for students with disabilities, which they aim to achieve through funding assisted technology, academic support, and exam support among other measures.
The report, the result of an independent review carried out by RSM UK Consultants, outlined 14 recommendations it had for the fund in the future. These recommendations included the provision of funding to part time students, increased accountability and assurance in the new funding model, and an increase in annual funding.
The results were positive overall, with 73% of students saying that the support they received was “about right”. However, 19% stated that the support was “insufficiently adequate to meet their needs”. Some students stated that there was not a wide awareness of the FSD and that more communication is needed between disability support services and lecturers. In addition, students also reported that there is a lack of clarity on eligibility.
However, the report states that the FSD has had a “positive impact” on students’ decisions to progress to higher education. 56% of respondents believe that the availability of support strongly influenced their progression to higher education.
The Chief Executive of the HEA Dr Graham Love commented on the report’s findings today, saying that the findings demonstrate that the fund plays a “vital role in supporting the evolution of services and supports for students with disabilities in Irish higher and further education”.
“The implementation of the recommendations will lead to improvements in the management and allocation of the fund and support more students with disabilities in realising their potential through further and higher education.”