Deaf Student: Scything cuts: Review of adult education for deaf people in the last five years

Posted on May 19, 2015

This article was inspired by Ian Noon’s post reviewing the provision of education for deaf children over the last five years. Thanks Ian!

As Ian said in his post, it’s difficult to fully address changes that have been made over five years in the space of a single blog post.

With the election now past and the Conservatives back in power, issues like DSA, the changes to Further Education, and Tuition Fees will all remain critical.

Below are some of the changes to adult education which have affected deaf people in the last five years.


Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

Disability Students Allowance is a critical fund allowing many deaf people to attend university and compete on a level playing field against their hearing compatriots, providing both personal and technical assistance to help with studying.

This one most people will know about already due to the articles on the subject right here on the Limping Chicken.

After taking aim at benefits for disabled people, such as Access to Work and unemployment/disability benefits, the government next seemed to look at cutting DSA.

These were first announced in April 2014, and the NDCS have fought against them since. In January 2015 it was announced that Zanna Messenger-Jones was taking legal action against the government because of their proposed changes.

Last March, the news came that the government was backing down on the proposed changes  to hold consultations – a rare victory in the fight against cuts to disability and education funds.

Cuts to Adult Education

This hasn’t been so widely discussed on the Limping Chicken, but nevertheless, the government’s scythe has also been directed at Further Education.

The Association of Colleges has warned that 190,000 adult education places will be lost next year as FE colleges find their funding cut by up to 24%, with the adult skills budget (which funds non-university based education and training for people aged 19 or over) being cut by a whopping 40%.

These moves have been heavily criticised in the national media, by the BBC, the Guardian, and the Telegraph. A range of bodies connected with further education, such as the National Union of Students have publically criticised the plans and a campaign is under way to help stop these cuts.

But these are general cuts, not aimed at deaf people, so why is it important?

It won’t be a surprise to anyone reading here that many deaf people leave school with low levels of qualifications. Sometimes this may be because a school environment doesn’t suit someone well – but those people may then discover that a college environment is much better suited to them.

Others want to start a new career or take a qualification to keep up with their career, or that they may want to go to university for the first time in their lives, and need qualifications for that [and, I freely admit – I’m one of those]. Without further education colleges, all these people would have their chances for education denied.

Even more importantly, these cuts can and will cut the provision of BSL classes. This will have a direct impact on not just the eventual provision of professional people like interpreters, but also the number of people who know BSL at all, but also deaf people who may have come to BSL later in life.

Rise in tuition fees

Again, this may seem like something that is more general, not deaf-specific, but nevertheless it is important to discuss.

Tuition fees were first introduced in 1998, where students were required to pay up to £1,000 a year for tuition. By 2010/11 these had gone up to £3,290. A key element of the last election was the Liberal Democrat promise not to put up tuition fees. This pledge was subsequently broken.

They allowed universities to raise tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 per year. Once student loans are included (which cover living costs), it’s possible for a student to leave university owing more than £40,000.

While the repayment terms are generous and no repayments start until the student is earning more than £21,000 a year, it does mean that the average person may be put off attending university.

This is even more the case when you consider that a student’s deafness can impact on their eventual degree classification (especially if they do not get the support they need – see section one!) and that in turn will impact their earning capacity.

You can see from this that adult education for the deaf has been heavily impacted by the changes that the government has either made or wants to make.

As so many others have said, one of the measures used to determine a civilised society is how that society treats its most vulnerable members.

It’s a pretty depressing picture, and I really hope that things change in the future.

DeafstudentUK (Blogging at and @DeafstudentUK on twitter) is currently studying for a Masters humanities degree with the hope/intention of starting a PhD soon. The blog has been established to try to reach other deaf postgraduate students out there – perhaps eventually to have guest writers and a closed facebook group. Please feel free to get in touch with them via their blog.

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