Guidance for disabled applicants | University of Oxford
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Students in the Junior Common Room of Lady Margaret Hall. (Image credit: PS:unlimited / Oxford University Images).

Guidance for disabled applicants

We welcome applications from students with disabilities, including dyslexia, dyspraxia, and other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs). Our admissions decisions are based on academic merit alone and our Disability Advisory Service currently has over 3,500 students registered. Over 1,000 of these students have declared a specific learning difficulty (SpLD).

Whether your disability is seen or unseen we can provide the support you need at all stages of the application process and for the duration of your studies at Oxford. 

Come and see us

We strongly recommend that you visit Oxford on an Open Day if you can. There are three main Open Days each year: two at the end of June or beginning of July and one in mid-September. Open Days are the best opportunity to meet tutors and admissions staff, and to talk to current students. You will also have the chance to visit departments and colleges, which should give you a a good idea about the accessibility of our buildings and other services, and their proximity to where you will be living and studying. Information about studying at Oxford with a disability or SpLD can be obtained from any of the departments and colleges you visit, or from the Disability Advisory Service who are based at the Open Day Information Centre.

We recommend contacting the college(s) and/or department(s) that you wish to visit in advance if you have particular access requirements or you would like to meet the college or department disability co-ordinator. You can find out more about our Open Days here

If your disability means that you cannot attend an Open Day, you can also contact the Disability Advisory Service directly who will be happy to coordinate an individual day visit to the college, department and libraries you will be most likely to use. You can also find out further information on independent visits here

You may also like to refer to the University Access Guide for information on buildings around Oxford, and to explore an interactive map of the city centre. Detailed information about access to specific buildings is also available from individual colleges and departments.

Tell us about your disability

Whatever your particular circumstances, the earlier we know about your individual requirements then the sooner we can begin to meet them. We only ask you to tell us so that we can offer support if it is needed and make reasonable adjustments to facilitate your access to your course and our University.

Please follow our guidance on declaring your disability on your UCAS form. UCAS also has further advice about how best to do this.

You might also want to contact the college you're applying to and let them know; check our college pages for their contact details. 

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Admissions tests

If you need to take one or more of our admissions tests as part of your application, you can be considered for whatever alternative arrangements you usually have for public exams (that is, your GCSEs and A-levels, or other equivalent qualifications). For example, this may be extra time, or a large print copy of the test paper. Lots of students do this, so please don’t miss out: make sure you mention your access requirements to whoever is registering you for your test or tests.

Your school Exams Officer, or open centre administrator can apply to arrange alternative provisions for you, so please let them know about your requirements as early as you can. Please note, the deadline for ordering modified test papers is earlier than the deadline for general registration. All other special consideration requests are made through an online form (open from September).

Please see more information on Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing’s access arrangements page or more detailed notes are available on their useful documents page.

Interviews

If your application is shortlisted, you will be invited to come to Oxford for an interview (arrangements may be different for international students). Please see our interview pages for general information on how to prepare for your interview and what you can expect.

It's a really good idea to contact your college before your interview if you will need specific adjustments, for instance materials in alternative or accessible formats, extra time for reading written work before an interview, or adjustments to the interview timings.

If you need to go to several locations across the city, allow plenty of time. There will be current students working in the colleges during interviews, so if you need any help or directions, please ask. That is what the student helpers are for. It’s quite common for student helpers to accompany candidates to the right place for their interview, not just those with a disability or SpLD. 

Having a mental illness has always made me doubt the prospect of my university success, academically or otherwise. Thankfully, my tutors and fellow students make me feel valued and respected, which allows me to truly flourish in Oxford.

Anna

During the interview:

  • Tutors understand that anyone might feel nervous about their interview. They will want to help you relax, so that you can do your best.
  • It’s fine to ask the interviewer to repeat any question.
  • If you prefer, take in a pad on which to note key points of questions, so you can address each one.
  • Take your time. If you need to think about an answer for a few moments, that is entirely acceptable.
  • If you are asked to read something aloud, ask if you can read it quietly to yourself first to get an overview.
  • If you are asked to write, but know your handwriting is sometimes difficult to read, offer to read it back to interviewers.
  • Most importantly, do not worry. Tutors will be aware of your particular circumstances if you have made them clear on your application. Remember that many students with disabilities and SpLDs have been to Oxford before. The interviewers are looking for your strengths and your potential to study here, not to pick out the things you find difficult.

Receiving an offer: what next?

Arranging study support

If you are offered a place at Oxford, please contact the Disability Advisory Service as soon as possible. There is no need to wait until your examination results are announced. It will help you to plan properly and get things in place before your arrival, so you can get on with enjoying student life and all it has to offer.  

You can visit our Disability Advisory Service webpages to find out about the range of support that is available at Oxford.  Study support is developed around your individual circumstances, which means that you have a say in what equipment or study support will be most helpful to you, but you also have responsibility for thinking about and letting us know what you might need.  This can be difficult as it is not always easy to know what life at the University is going to be like before you get here.  However, there are a lot of people who can help you through the process and contacting the Disability Advisory Service is a good starting point. 

The unimaginable has happened - I have been awarded a degree with distinction and a prize for best dissertation. I was able to do an amazing amount of work and edit my dissertation very fast with the assistive technology you recommended and put in place. For once I was able to do a vast amount of work without it impacting on my health.

Sabena

Funding for disability support

If you are a UK student we also strongly recommend that you make an early application for the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA).  It can take several months from the point of application before full support is implemented, therefore the earlier you apply the better. Please note that you will need to provide evidence of your disability to be eligible for DSAs (or for alternative exam arrangements at Oxford). Our Disability Advisory Service will be happy to assist you with making your DSA application if necessary.

Students who are not eligible for a UK Disabled Students' Allowance should, in the first instance, seek funding from their own country, funding body, sponsor, research council or other source. However, if there is no funding available, the University makes provision for students who require disability-related study support. Please contact the Disability Advisory Service for more information about accessing this support. 

College allocation

If you have been allocated a college which presents difficulties due to your disability, the Disability Advisory Service will work with you and your college to establish whether reasonable adjustments can be made to accommodate you. If the situation cannot be satisfactorily resolved you should contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office to request a change of college.  Such changes are made only in exceptional circumstances and you will be required to provide supporting medical information about your disability.

Accommodation

All colleges provide rooms for undergraduates in their first year, and many can also accommodate students for some or all of the remaining years of their course.  Most colleges have a limited number of accessible/ground floor rooms with ensuite bathrooms.  You may need arrangements made for a carer, or require an adjustable desk and ergonomic seating.

If you wish to live in college we recommend that you organise a visit to look at the accommodation to establish whether any adaptations (temporary or permanent) are necessary.  This should be arranged via the Disability Advisory Service as soon as possible because adaptations can take a while to organise. It may not always be possible to adapt a room to meet all your needs, but colleges are always willing to look at the possibilities.

The University Accommodation Office provides information about accommodation in the private sector for all students.  Students with partners or dependent children should contact the Office as soon as they have been accepted as University-owned accommodation may be available.

Students with disabilities talk about their experiences at Oxford

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