As an organisation we strive to be…
Inadequate oversight and knowledge
In the context of the poor access we have seen here it is perhaps unsurprising that disabled students in England are more likely than others to make a complaint to their ombudsman, the Office of Independent Adjudicator (OIA) and to have their complaint upheld. However, the OIA can only look at individual cases, and only after the issue has already occurred. As such they do not help universities take the anticipatory steps required by law. What is needed is a body that holds universities accountable to have certain structures in place which would allow them to provide adequate access. There is currently one body in England that has this power, but they are not using it.
Office for Students (OfS) collects and publishes information about only 4 key measures and does not provide comparisons between universities. Despite a framework that specifies that their members must follow the law and provide an equitable experience, we have yet to see a case where OfS has implemented consequences for a university that has had inadequate access. In fact, OfS does not evaluate the accessibility of the universities, despite annually feeding £40 million into universities for access alone.
A recurring theme here is that universities, as well as oversight bodies, fail to have structures in place which would give them access to the insight of disabled students and would allow disabled students to hold their universities to account. The lack of student surveys, accessible complaints processes, and other forms of student’s voices creates a self-reinforcing vicious cycle where the university and oversight bodies are unable to understand the problem and put adequate structures in place. This causes disabled students to be unable to raise issues around inadequate accessibility and so the cycle continues. In this way, the current system blocks disabled students from holding their institutions to account and prevents improvements from taking place.
The idea behind DSUK was always to create a platform for disabled students to use their voices rather than speaking as a sole representative. For those who want to get more involved and commit some time to the organisation each week, there is the option of becoming a volunteer. As volunteers, we all have lived experiences of issues in accessing our education. Most have years of experience as activists at our university, mobilising the disabled student body, creating information campaigns or influencing decision-makers. This gives us unique insight into the issues and solutions associated with HE accessibility.
Too often, disabled student activists crumble under expectations that they should do activism in the same way as non-disabled activists. At DSUK, we have a disability-informed structure that builds on strengths, supports weaknesses and allows contributors to participate at the level they have the capacity for at the time. For one, all of our work is performed online, and we do not have fixed working hours. We emphasise accessibility, collaboration and clear communication around limitations and ask volunteers to write down essential access requirements when they join us.
Read more about becoming a volunteer.
As with any other company, the directors of a CIC occupy an important position of trust and general company law imposes on them a range of duties to the company and other responsibilities. The directors are also responsible for ensuring that the company meets its statutory and other obligations. In addition to these general responsibilities CIC directors (and, when they take collective decisions about the company, members) are also responsible for ensuring that the company is run in such a way that it will continue to satisfy the community interest test. In practice, this will mean having regard to the interests of the community the CIC is intended to serve, and in some cases giving more weight to those interests than to generating financial returns for investors in the company.
Read more about the current Directors on the Our Team page.
Legally DSUK is a non-profit Community Interest Company (Company no. 13326995). Being a non-profit means that any profit that we make is reinvested into the business rather than extracted by our board members. The advantage of being a CIC is it allows us to start making an income, which in turn makes it sustainable for the organisation to be run by disabled people.
Our governing documents
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