Colleges, Departments and Faculties

The responsibilities of colleges, departments and faculties extend to teaching and learning activities, including reasonable adjustments where appropriate to examinations and assessments, accommodation, welfare, collegiate social and sporting activities as appropriate.

While collaboration is a key theme supporting the Common Framework, it is important to note that overarching responsibility for decision-making in respect of reasonable adjustments rests with the appropriate body legally responsible for meeting the requirements of the Equality Act; colleges in matters relating to college provision, and the University in matters relating to departments and faculties. Disability Advisory Service recommendations are made in order to support colleges and the University as they consider their obligations to make reasonable adjustments.

Division of responsibilities between colleges, departments and faculties

The responsibility for the implementation of any necessary reasonable adjustments will be set out in the following way to ensure that systems and processes for supporting disabled students are clear and accessible.

  • Colleges will co-ordinate and monitor the provision for undergraduate students (non-matriculated students are covered elsewhere in the Handbook), taking the lead responsibility for the dissemination of information about reasonable adjustments for undergraduates across the collegiate University and maintaining a watching brief throughout the student’s studies.
  • Departments will co-ordinate and monitor provision for graduate students, taking the lead responsibility for the dissemination of information about reasonable adjustments for graduates across the collegiate University, and maintaining 'a watching brief' throughout the student’s studies. However, in respect of the services they provide, colleges will also be proactive in ensuring that appropriate provision is made for graduate students.
  • Where complex cases arise the lead body will call a case conference to plan co-ordinated provision across the collegiate University involving all relevant parties, with further cross-body work as necessary to resolve any emerging issues. Such a case conference might be requested by other sections of the collegiate University directly involved in supporting the student.

Principle of collaboration

All matriculated students belong to both a college and a department. Whilst primary responsibility for organising provision will lie with one or the other, it is likely that students will require adjustments in both areas of their academic life. Therefore a positive working relationship between colleges and departments is integral to ensuring that reasonable adjustments are implemented smoothly.

This relationship is particularly important in the case of students who require complex provisions. Where a student requires complex or uncommon adjustments, the body with primary responsibility will normally call a case conference with all relevant parties. This will usually include the student and representatives from the college, the department and the Disability Advisory Service. This group will work to establish appropriate provisions for the student in all aspects of their experience at Oxford. They may continue to liaise if there are any difficulties in implementing adjustments for the students, or if the student’s needs change.

In some cases, a body that does not normally take the lead in providing for a particular student may nonetheless identify that the student has more complex needs than are currently being provided for. In such an instance, that college or department should proactively liaise with the lead body to ensure that appropriate provisions are put in place as soon as possible.

Resolving issues with provision

If a student has any queries or concerns regarding the provision for their teaching or learning in relation to their disability in any part of the university, then he/she will be encouraged to contact the Disability Coordinator in their lead body, either their college or department. The Disability Coordinator will endeavour to resolve any issues that arise, in conjunction with the Disability Lead where necessary.

If a student under the lead body’s remit raises a concern in regard to an area beyond its normal scope, the Disability Coordinator will liaise with the Disability Advisory Service, relevant teaching staff and other disability contacts in order to resolve the issue, rather than re-directing the student to other staff. If the problem persists, the issue should be referred to the lead body Disability Lead and the Disability Advisory Service for resolution.

Admissions and recruitment

All University Admitting Bodies (colleges in the case of undergraduate admissions, and departments/faculties for graduate admissions) are responsible for ensuring that their admissions processes support disabled students by encouraging applications from disabled candidates and making adjustments to the application processes where necessary.

Adjustments might need to be made to the interview process so that candidates with disabilities are not disadvantaged, such as providing information in different formats or allowing extra time during assessments.

Physical Access

Colleges have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled students have access to residential accommodation (including dining rooms, laundry facilities etc.), teaching rooms, libraries, administrative offices, JCR/MCRs. Departments have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled students have access to teaching and meeting rooms, laboratories, communal spaces and other facilities necessary for their participation in the course. Where direct access to a particular space or service is not immediately possible a management plan should be in place to ensure disabled students are provided with alternative access to comparable resources to a reasonable standard normally offered to all students in the college or department. Development plans might include reference to these situations so they can be pre-empted in future.

In order to avoid making adjustments at short notice that can disrupt disabled students’ arrival, colleges, departments and faculties should anticipate common access needs in advance so that alternative arrangements are put in place. To facilitate this anticipatory action, colleges and departments senior management bodies might, if appropriate, consider undertaking an access audit, or updating their existing audit if it is more than five years old, to review the ease with which their buildings and services are accessible to people with disabilities. Such audits can provide recommendations to support long term planning. Furthermore, examples of possible adjustments that might be made to students’ accommodation are available on the Oxford Students website (this is not an exhaustive list as individual circumstances might require an alternative response). Examples of adjustments to teaching rooms will soon also be available.

Colleges and departments/faculties should also ensure that their accessibility information is complete and up to date, and can be easily located on their website. An online access guide is currently being developed that will provide comprehensive information on physical access to all parts of the University.

For some students, arrangements for dealing with timetabling and travelling between teaching venues might be complex and so will be considered on a case by case basis. The Disability Advisory Service will, during its initial assessment, highlight potential cases where travel difficulties might arise and advise colleges and departments. Students might also raise concerns during the course of their studies. In such cases the lead body Disability Coordinator has responsibility for working to support and assist disabled students in anticipating, where possible, or responding to difficulties that may arise from lecture and tutorial scheduling. The Disability Advisory Service should be involved in discussions if any changes are necessary to the student support plan. While it is unlikely that all such conflicts could be removed, where Disability Coordinators note significant, substantial and common timetabling difficulties they should be raised with the appropriate Disability Lead so that issues might be addressed over the long-term.  

In cases where a student takes classes/laboratory practicals in departments other than their main department (eg where laboratory practicals are offered elsewhere), the disability coordinator in their main department is responsible for passing information to departments beyond their own. Disability Coordinators should arrange an early meeting with disabled students to gather information on the papers they are taking and to identify where this will involve inter-departmental liaison.

Staff involved in arranging placements, field trips, years abroad and other teaching and learning activities that take place away from the University should anticipate the needs of disabled students to ensure that these activities are accessible, or that an appropriate alternative activity is offered. Accessibility extends not only to the practical tasks undertaken but to wider aspects such as accommodation and transportation during the activity. The University needs to satisfy itself that appropriate provision can be made to support disabled students working away from the University on field trips, placements etc.

Teaching and Learning

Colleges, departments and faculties are responsible for identifying any anticipatory steps they could take to remove the need for individual adjustments and promote inclusive practice. The Oxford Learning Institute offers guidance and examples of best practice on creating accessible tutorials, lectures and laboratory practicals.

The Disability Co-ordinator in the student’s college (for undergraduates) or department/faculty (for graduates) is responsible for liaising with their student to check that the day-to-day provision is appropriate, and for maintaining broad oversight of the student’s provision throughout their course. Colleges and departments/faculties are responsible for ensuring that a student's study support plan, provided by the Disability Advisory Service, is communicated to the relevant staff (for example, the Tutor for Graduates or departmental safety officer, where this person is not also the Disability Contact). Where individual adjustments are necessary, responsibility for their coordination and implementation rests with colleges (for undergraduate students) and departments/faculties (for graduate students).

If it becomes clear that the contents of the SSP need adjustment, the college, department or faculty (as appropriate) should notify the Disability Advisory Service, who will consult with the student to recommend appropriate changes.

When a disabled student is admitted, colleges, departments and faculties will be asked to provide information to the Disability Advisory Service about the nature and extent of teaching and learning activities and assessment in order that the relevant bodies can support disabled students to meet the academic requirements of their course.

Adjustments to assessments and examinations

Colleges are responsible for making applications to the Proctors for adjustment to University examinations, for both undergraduate and postgraduate taught students. Departments are responsible for making adjustments to assessment for research students. For taught postgraduates, the college should liaise with the relevant department(s) to ensure that they request appropriate adjustments, and departments should be proactive in alerting colleges to potential issues relating to individual students’ examination arrangements.

Any examination and assessment adjustments agreed by the University should also be applied in college, department and faculty-based assessments. In some circumstances it can be beneficial for students to use collections to trial adjustments, with the permission of the college, to ensure that the most appropriate provisions are made for formal examinations. Staff responsible for organising transfer of status/DPhil vivas will also need to make reasonable adjustments where appropriate.

A range of standard adjustments to examinations and the process for applying for examination adjustments can be found in the University Student Handbook. However, in all cases individual circumstances might demand alternative approaches, and arrangements might need to be reviewed in light of emerging evidence. Where the nature of assessment varies over the duration of a course (for example, from timed examinations in the first year of study to coursework in the final year) the relevant Disability Co-ordinator has responsibility for ensuring that these changes are reflected in the students’ examination adjustments. This may involve making supplementary applications to the Proctors.

Disciplinary Procedures

Colleges will give due regard to the needs of disabled students, and make necessary reasonable adjustments, during the course of any disciplinary procedures and fitness to study procedures. As noted in the Common Framework Statement, the requirement to make reasonable adjustments applies insofar as they do not compromise the integrity of academic competence standards.

Staff Awareness

Colleges and departments/faculties are encouraged to provide ongoing staff awareness sessions on general awareness of disability, and the needs of particular students joining that college/department (with the student’s permission).This could occur through staff away days, support sessions, training and information provided by DAS staff, and promotion of the University’s Disability Awareness Week. Colleges and departments should promote a culture of awareness that extends to all types of disability, including hidden disabilities such as mental illness or chronic pain.

Specialist training for Disability Leads/Co-ordinators through the Oxford Learning Institute is under development and all staff in those roles are expected to complete this training.

Staff adopting more inclusive teaching practices may need practical support to develop accessible teaching resources. IT Services offer support and guidance both online and via taught courses. Help with recording audio and video material is also available.

Inductions and handover processes for administrative staff should include explanation of their roles and responsibilities with regard to disabled students.