Published on May 9, 2013 | by Janette Loughlin0
UCU claims cuts to funding will disable student support services
Disability and dyslexia services across UAL face cuts that could lead to an inadequate assessment of students’ needs.
Staff jobs are also at risk in a plan to centralise the service to High Holborn, and move it away from the colleges, according to the lecturers’ union, the UCU.
UAL management denied this and said the university is not cutting services but instead investing £300,000 to improve the student experience.
As staff called a university-wide meeting to discuss these proposals, UCU chairman Gary Horne, said: “The changes are based on a flawed report with no sourced or costed evidence and without involving the UAL’s own staff experts who run the service.
“Their proposals will reduce 1:1 support for some students, and replace specialist academic staff with lower paid support workers, providing an inferior service to students.”
Many academic support staff are also afraid that hourly tuition rates will be cut with the jobs being downgraded, which will not match incoming funds that pay for these services.
Currently, support for dyslexic and disabled students is provided in the colleges but the plans are to centralise the service out of UAL headquarters at High Holborn.
A briefing paper on disability and dyslexia support set out the proposals, which now has the backing of the executive board.
However, UCU is angry that the people who produced this report are not as well qualified and do not understand the day-to-day needs of students, as the specialist staff in the colleges, who were not consulted.
Shelly Asquith, the incoming SUArts president, said: “From what I can see this is a cut to the services dressed up as a restructure.”
There are fears current academic staff who are in student support roles will be downgraded, which means that if they do not accept the new terms they lose their jobs.
In response, Mark Crawley, the dean of students at UAL, said: “This is not a cost-cutting exercise. We are investing £300,000 in improving services to help us deliver a high-quality and equitable student experience.
“By creating a single new UAL-wide Disability and Dyslexia Service, a unified approach to meeting students access and support needs will be achievable.”
However, Asquith said: “A centralised system would be impractical, impersonal, and inaccessible, and would cut the number of crucial support staff available to students.
“One of the best things about this current service is that it is localised: each of the dyslexia tutors is familiar with the different course structures at each college and they get to know the students they see each week.”
Henry Fry, 25, a journalism student at LCC, has previously received support for dyslexia during his time at Wimbledon College of Art.
He said: “I think the cuts are quite short-sighted. There are many students at UAL who benefit from the support available. Considering the price of going to art school these days, it seems counter-productive to reduce the help that would help many of these students excel.”
Dyslexia: the facts and figures of a common problem
- Dyslexia, a language-based learning disability, can affect people’s use and processing of letters, numbers and symbols.
- Dyslexia difficulties include: learning to speak, learning letters and their associated sounds, spelling, reading quickly enough to comprehend and learning a foreign language.
- The difficulty a dyslexic person has varies from person to person, dependent on their inherited differences in brain development and the type of teaching they receive.
- At least half of students who receive academic support are assessed and find out about their dyslexia through testing at UAL.
- Dyslexia is genetic and can run in families.
- Famous people with dyslexia include: Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Tom Cruise, Cher, John Lennon, Salma Hayek, Albert Einstein, Cath Kidston, Jamie Oliver, Steven Spielberg and Ozzy Osbourne.
- There are 2,500 disabled students at UAL, 9.5 per cent of them have dyslexia.