A Case Study exploring Student Engagement with DSA Funded Provision Pre and Post Pandemic at a small, land-based University

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Abstract

Student support is often a metric cited in Higher Education (HE) quality estimation using surveys such as the National Student Survey (NSS) and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The awarding gap for students with a disability is also centrally placed in the Access and Participation agendas, placing a high demand on Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to meet their student needs and those of legislation. The Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) funding preferred in-person delivery prior to the pandemic, however, revised criteria have afforded a more flexible, personalised legacy.
The aim of the current study was to explore a case study approach to DSA provision pre- and post-pandemic at a small, land-based institution. The study employed a positivist, questionnaire-based study to describe staff and student support behaviour and preferences over this time period. Anonymous student (n=101) and staff (n=10) questionnaires were completed at the end of 2021–22 using MS Forms, and attendance data from DSA provision was analysed from 2018–19 to 2021–22.
Results showed DSA declarations had increased by over 30% accounting for student number increases, with mental health increasing at an even greater rate. Both staff and students valued the flexibility that onsite/online provision afforded but students preferred a mixed model, whereas staff showed a preference for a consistent model. Staff highlighted their concern over missed sessions, however at 5-10% attendance is much greater than at taught sessions.
In the current financial and political climate, the results can be used to inform a more flexible approach to student support for DSA and all students, encouraging engagement, confidence, and a sense of belonging. HEIs should continue to monitor student and staff preferences and their own demographics to reduce the risk of an achievement and access gap. Our own institution needs to further explore why the number of hours per student has reduced and whether this is a student or infrastructure directive.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Apr 2024

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