The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Students charged to take learning difficulties test

Manchester students pay ‘contribution’ in order to take exam to prove they have learning difficulties

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Students with ‘specific learning difficulties’ have to pay £100 to prove it before they can receive support from the University.

The money covers a test by a professional educational psychologist ordered through the University of Manchester’s Disability Support Office, for which there is no possibility of refunding.

“There is a charge for the test of £100, for the full assessment of specific learning difficulties,” a clerical officer at the DSO. “The University covers most of the cost but there is a remainder of £100, which has to be paid by the student. There is no opportunity for students to gain full funding for the test.”

It is believed that this is common practice at universities across the country.

The tests cover specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, and are carried out by professional educational psychologists.

If the tests are not done through the University they would usually cost in excess of £300, said the clerical officer at Manchester’s DSO.

“There is no real funding towards the actual cost of the assessment,” continued the clerical officer. “Students can apply for the Access to Learning Fund, but it is more towards general hardship.

“Obviously when a student comes to our office and they are saying for example I have this kind of disability or this kind of condition, without any proof on paper we are unable to start the process, we need something on paper confirming it.”

“There are many students who come in with previous proof, for example that has been done at college. The only thing is that they usually have been done before they were 16 years old.

A test from before the age of 16 can sometimes be sufficient for the University to get extra time in exams, for example, but not enough for support from the government, said the clerical officer.

He added, “If students are applying for the Disability Support Allowance from the government, they have to have taken a test after the age of 16.

“Even if they have proof from a proper assessment from an educational psychologist, but it was done when they were 15 years old and six months it will still not be accepted [by the government] so they will have a new test done.

Third-year Classical Studies student Anthony Organ told The Mancunion that he had to pay for the test despite already having proof.

“I had a diagnosis from an occupational therapist when I was 15, but that wasn’t good enough, Manchester wanted updated proof,” he said. “So I paid the hundred pounds and had to spend two hours with a psychologist, he tested me for dyslexia but I knew I didn’t have dyslexia.

“In the end I was diagnosed with dysgraphia, a specific problem with my handwriting.

“The hundred pounds was a lot of money. Luckily I had been working full-time the year before so I had some money saved up, but I didn’t really have a choice, I needed to be able to type my exams. If I didn’t have the money from the year before, I wouldn’t have been able to do the test.”

Sophie, a fourth-year History and Spanish student, said she had not taken the test because she could not afford it.

“I don’t think I will take the test now,” she said. “The real reason is I don’t have any money left.

“It was my fault really, but it’s got to the point when I’m prioritising money and I don’t have enough to take the test.

She added she thought the cost was probably a good thing, “I don’t think it should be free, but I wish it was free.

“You would get people not taking it seriously and it helps to weed out people who might take advantage of it.

“If it were free you would probably get loads of students just thinking they could do it and get a free laptop.”

In response, the University said in a statement, “Students who are in hardship can apply for an Access to Learning Fund grant, which can be used to fund the cost of this assessment and such grants via Access to Learning Fund are significantly larger than the £100 contribution.

“Students who are not eligible for the Access to Learning Fund can still be assessed for hardship in the same way, and if a grant would have been provided, then the fee is waived by the DSO.

“In common with many other universities, the University of Manchester does ask for a contribution towards the cost of an Educational Psychologist assessment, and has done for several years.  The contribution is £100.

“Private assessments would cost students significantly more than that, and the University pays the remainder of the cost over 50% of the full cost is borne by the University.”