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For many young people with M.E./CFS, the thought of going to University can be overwhelming, with so many questions buzzing around in your head… Will I manage on my own? Have I the energy to study? How will I cope with ‘freshers' week? Do I tell others about my M.E./CFS?... and so many more.
However, with the right planning and support, it is more than possible to go to University and study your chosen degree. The information below should help in making your choices. In AYME's experience, universities can be more than accommodating when supporting students with a disability such as M.E./CFS.
PLANNING TO GO TO UNIVERSITY FROM SEPTEMBER 2016?
If you need support to help with your studying, you need to apply for your Disability Student Allowance (DSA) as soon as possible. The amount of help and funding available is changing, which may affect the services/support you will be able to access. The DSA form is available at http://www.yourdsa.com/dsa/
Do I tell the university about my M.E./CFS?
Yes! Telling the university about your condition opens up the discussion and makes it easier to put support systems in place from the start. Think about how you can turn your experience into something positive on your application form. For example, if you can say it has given you empathy, that you've shown determination by battling to get your qualifications, or that it's made you more motivated. You can also mention any involvement with AYME as a volunteer.
Do I tell the university about my M.E./CFS?
If you need an individual arrangement for a course tests or University exams you should visit the disability team in the students' office of your chosen University. They can give advice on the kind of arrangement needed (e.g. to cover long term illness, an injury or a disability) and the information you will need to supply in support of your application. Examples of individual arrangements include extra time, a small exam room or use of a computer or scribe for your exam.
Make sure you apply early; you may need to provide medical evidence as to why you need individual arrangements.
Disabled students allowance
Disabled students' allowances provide extra financial help if you have an impairment, health condition (including mental health conditions) or specific learning difficulty like dyslexia. They are paid on top of the standard student finance package and don't have to be repaid.
When thinking about your chosen university, make contact with the Admissions Officer and talk to them about your suitability to your choice of courses; have they any understanding of M.E./CFS - are there any other students with M.E./CFS you could talk to about how they have managed the course?
- Think carefully about making visits to your chosen university – it may be extremely busy on the designated open days, so think about asking for an individual appointment
- Apply for DSA early to get the necessary assessment and support in place before you start university – think about what you may need in order to maintain your education
- Make contact with the university disability team when you start university – they are the people who can ensure that you have the necessary support in place and guide you to your entitlements
- If you are struggling – tell someone straight away as they may be able to put more support in place for you or look at other options such as extensions, taking more time to complete the course etc
- Don't be afraid to tell the people you are studying/living with about your M.E./CFS – they may be able to offer you help and support and be more understanding when you can't always go out
- Finally, ENJOY…..you have earned your place to study and deserve to have the university experience, even if you can't take part in everything
If you would like to talk to another AYME member who is already at university or has been to University, then please get in touch with us and we will add you to our university buddy database!
For more details and to be added to the database, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Universities and the Disability Discrimination Act
Disabled people should have the same opportunities for accessing education as non-disabled people (and ME/CFS is classed as a disability). This means a university cannot refuse you admission just because you have ME/CFS. They are obliged to carry out two core duties which are:
- To make reasonable adjustment so that you are not put at a substantial disadvantage
- Not to treat a disabled person less favourably than other students.
Provided you can demonstrate the academic capability to complete your course, the university cannot refuse you on the grounds of your condition. However, it is still right for students to be realistic about their physical ability to live and study independently with appropriate support.
The two core duties continue to apply once a disabled student is registered on a course. Universities also have a duty to modify their buildings so that there is good access for disabled students and wheelchair users.
For further information, visit the Disability Rights Commission website or call 0845 604 6610.
There is also a student helpline managed by Disability Rights UK, offering information and support.
Call 0800 328 5050 (Tue 11.30am-1.30pm and Thu 1.30-3.30pm), or email email@example.com