On the 6th March 2017, Baroness O’Neill tabled an amendment to the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill at its Report Stage, to strengthen the requirements on universities to take account of the needs of disabled students. The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in support of the amendment, though it was subsequently not put to a vote.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I add my voice in support of Amendment 7 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the two related amendments—Amendments 94 and 98—proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Addington.
Disabled young people are about half as likely to hold a degree-level qualification as those without a disability. True opportunity of access needs to make certain that everything possible is done to ensure that every student who wishes to partake in further study is able to do so and to succeed to the fullest of their potential with reasonable adjustments being made for them. Some institutions make excellent provision for disabled students but there are many cases where the ordinary pursuit of their studies entails many obstacles and challenges. The amendments would help to ensure that provision was present and excellent in every institution, including those that may be new, small or highly specialist, and that disabled students had the same wide level of choice in their education as all other students.
Viscount Younger of Leckie: I turn now to Amendments 7, 48, 87 and 94 to 98, on equalities, access and participation. I understand and share the intent behind these proposals: where particular groups face additional barriers to accessing and participating in higher education, they should of course be supported appropriately and protected from discrimination. But I fear that the practical application of these amendments risks imposing additional burdens and constraints on the OfS that might not guarantee better outcomes for students. My noble friend Lord Lucas suggests specific ways of evaluating access and participation. I thank him for this and appreciate his engagement, but we do not see it as necessary. Providers already evaluate these activities and we expect this to continue.