The government has announced it is pushing ahead with cuts to funding for disabled students in higher education from next year.
Universities themselves rather than taxpayers need to take "primary responsibility" for a number of areas of support, minister for universities and science Jo Johnson said yesterday.
The decision follows consultations on how to better spend resources allocated for disabled students' allowances (DSAs), which are grants given to disabled students to help them cover additional costs.
From the next academic year, non-medical support staff such as note-takers and readers, funding for specialised computer equipment and adapted accommodation will be reduced.
Johnson said that in 2012-13, DSAs cost the government £145.8million funding 64,500 students. The cuts are designed to save £30millon.
Johnson's statement was particularly badly timed to coincide with the UN's International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is supposed to highlight the "many barriers to inclusion in key aspects of society" faced by the world's estimated one billion disabled people.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has criticised the decision, claiming that smaller universities or those with higher proportions of disabled students could have trouble meeting the additional costs.
Speaking to the Guardian, NUS disabled students officer Maddy Kirkman said:
All disabled deserve to have the support they need to access higher education. The NUS is concerned the government’s response to the consultation will impact the consistency of the support available and place a huge financial burden on some institutions. To make higher education accessible, the government needs to work with students and institutions and take our views into account, not brush them aside.
In a written statement, the universities minister said:
These changes will ensure that the limited public funding available for DSAs is targeted in the best way and to achieve value for money, whilst ensuring those disabled students most in need continue to get the help they require.