Dyslexic student refused grounds for appeal in fight to stay at university

A former student of Sheffield Hallam University is taking his case to the Secretary of Education after losing his appeal to continue on to his second year of study.

Oliver Dawkins, 19, of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, was diagnosed with dyslexia in August after failing two modules earlier in the year.

After it was confirmed that Mr Dawkins had a severe form of dyslexia, he requested a re-mark of the two failed modules in respect of his status changing to that of a disabled student.

The Academy of Sport and Physical Activity refused to re-mark the modules with Tessa Borg, Student Support Officer for the department, explaining in an email to Mr Dawkins: “Unfortunately, work cannot be remarked in light of the Learning Contract being put in place.”

Mr Dawkins then went through the university’s appeals and complaints system, requesting a re-mark of the two failed modules in light of the discovery of his disability.

The appeal lasted 30 days, by which time the application period for other universities had expired, leaving Mr Dawkins unable to apply to another university this academic year if his appeal was unsuccessful.

On Friday 30th September, Sheffield Hallam university sent Mr Dawkins an email stating that he had no grounds for appeal, due to being diagnosed with dyslexia after the assessments had taken place.

The university offered him the option to take a year out of his degree, costing £3,000, to complete the two previously failed modules and pass them.

He would then be able to continue through on to the second year of his degree the year after, however Mr Dawkins declined this offer.

He said: “I believe I have been treated very unfairly by the university. It is as if they do not realise or care that this is my life and my future that they have decided upon with barely a seconds thought or consideration for how this has affected me. It has completely shattered my confidence.”

Mr Dawkins is now launching a complaint with the Secretary of Education about his treatment and experience, and has stated that he will not be returning to the university to complete his degree.

Gary Dawkins, father of Oliver, commented: “I simply cannot believe that the university have turned around and said that we have no grounds to appeal the marks given on the assessments. Just because Ollie was diagnosed with dyslexia after the assessments took place clearly doesn’t mean that he did not have dyslexia before the diagnosis was given.”

Sheffield Hallam University said that they were unable to comment on individual cases.

Mr Dawkins’ experience draws further attention to the mounting pressure on universities to provide adequate support and help for disabled students during their studies.

According to the Equality Challenge Unit survey, 9.6% of English students are studying with a disability, however only one third of institutions provided financial support in the form of scholarships and bursaries.

Mr Dawkins is one of around 200,000 disabled students that have reported struggles or had problems during their university experience.

This continues to raise questions about what support is actually available to disabled students, and whether enough is being done by universities to help them during their studies.

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