‘I am so passionate about higher education for disabled people because it levels that playing field’ said Purple CEO, Mike Adams in his keynote speech to senior university academic staff at Wolverhampton University.
Purple was invited to present at the Formulating Excellence in Inclusive Learning and Teaching Practice conference which took place on Friday 16 February 2018. The conference explored current issues around inclusivity with the aim of empowering academic staff to incorporate inclusivity in their teaching.
Mike Adams presented on Creating an Inclusive and Disability Confident University, discussing the importance of access to higher education for disabled people in order that they have the opportunity to realise their aspirations. Prior to becoming CEO of Purple, Mike worked for 10 years in the higher education sector so brings a wealth of knowledge of the sector, as well as his own personal experiences of being a disabled person wanting to access university education. He says:
‘I wanted to undertake a Business Studies degree but was told no university would take me on a course, and particularly one which also required a work placement. My careers advisor said my only option was a straight three-year degree so I chose Economics at Coventry – the only university we called who would accept me on a course. My degree got me on the job ladder and it was access to higher education which enabled me to get to where I am today. The world is a different place in 2018, but there is still much more we can do to ensure disabled people have the same access and opportunities’
From 2010-11 to 2015-16, 56% more students with a known disability accessed higher education, and 220% more students with a known mental health condition had places on degree courses. However, whilst the outcomes for students in receipt of Disabled Students Allowance are broadly in line with those of students with no known disability, outcomes are typically worse for disabled students who are not. The non-continuation rate for students with a declared disability, but not in receipt of DSA, was 3.2 percentage points greater than that for students without a disability and almost four percentage points greater than that for students in receipt of DSA. This gap has persisted throughout the past decade. Disabled students not in receipt of DSA are also less likely than their peers to achieve a first or upper second-class degree*. Mike Adams says:
‘The statistics tell us this is about more than just physical access to a university. It is about the support disabled students are able to access once on their course. In 2018 it cannot be right that disabled students are less likely to feel able to continue with their higher education than students with no declared disability. My message to universities is that together we can change this narrative’
Purple supports organisations, including those in the education sector, to increase their disability-related knowledge and ensure their services are accessible to the widest consumer base possible.