In october 2018 I enrolled myself on a master’s degree. I won’t name the institution at this juncture. This is due to my hopes of a resolution, though they are fading even as I write.
In 2012 I enrolled in my bachelors degree. It was at Middlesex university london. Middlesex was not perfect by a long chalk but there support services were first rate. When I joined I had no idea what support was available. I had been diagnosed dyslexic in the mid nineteen eighties and on the strength of that, and at the suggestion of one of my tutors I spoke to the assessors. It was then nigh on the christmas break. Their initial tests suggested not dyslexia but dyspraxia. A condition I had never heard off. And they swiftly arranged for me to have a full educational assessment. The doctor agreed with their diagnosis after much testing and also noted ‘signs of autism and A.D.H.D.’
This was the turning point in my fight to get an autism diagnosis. But more importantly by February of 2013 I had my equipment and support in place.
When I signed up to my current masters I thought to hit the ground running. I had met with the tutors and explained my difficulties along what I wanted to got out of the course they were running. It seemed ideal then. It still seems ideal now.
I then contacted this university’s DSA dept and let them know of my difficulties and the support I would need.
I was reassured they could help.
On enrolment day I spoke to them again. After having a meltdown because I had forgotten a document.
Again I was reassured that everything would be ok.
Two weeks later,( late october) I had a discussion with the DSA assessor in charge of my case. I provided all the previous assessments and I was asked what sort of help I needed.
“Well firstly,” I said with a smile, “At Middlesex I had a memo from my assessor which i attached to all my work so whoever was viewing or marking it would could take my disabilities into consideration.
“Oh… we don’t do that here.” She replied
My heart sunk like a stone.
I asked how outside assessors would know of my difficulties and was told they would see it on the uni’s I.T. system. (Providing they looked)
However at the time of writing the uni’s I.T. system still shows no details about my disabilities. So that’s just awesome.
I then went through the other things I’d need, and an appointment was made to fill in the forms.
Two weeks later that appointment came and went and I awaited a decision. It came mid november… which was good. It did not mention equipment which was not.
I contacted the DSA dept at the uni and the dsa dept a student finance and after a few more weeks of emails it transpired that due to the corporate nature of the current education sector. That only the assessors from my old uni, which is over a hundred miles away could do this. And simply popping round to see them was not something I can just do.
Now this situation is not the fault of my current uni. However, considering how many times I explained to them the support I have had previously. That nobody forewarned me that this would happen is shocking.
It was then left pretty much to me to sort out. My current uni’s DSA unit went quiet. As I find phone calls and social situations difficult. It was not until the end of january. That I finally got confirmation that funding for equipment was granted… yay?
By this point I had already had to produce my first assignment on my mobile phone. I was not happy with what I handed in but I had little choice.
It was now that they decided to let me know that due to a change in the law in 2015. There is now a £200 surplus which the student had to come up with. I simply don’t have it.
If I had been told back in september when I first mentioned the need for equipment i could possibly have saved for it. I certainly would have been prepared for it. But to tell me only NOW?
These people are supposed to be assisting autistic people. Not driving us half mad.
I stopped eating to try to raise the money. For weeks I was (and still am,) on the edge of a meltdown 24/7
How can someone learn in an environment like that.
I was then told there was a fund at the uni that might be able to help. I asked about it and had to wait another week for a reply. The forms are complicated beyond my current capacity. The evidence they want is far beyond anything student loans ask for and also beyond my capacity to supply, and even if they I could, it would take up to 5 weeks to process and theres no guarantee I would be accepted. By that time there will be nothing of the academic year left.
I have looked into leaving. I clearly can’t be expected to do my best work under these conditions. However ive been told that they will still charge me £2000 and it will be impossible to get funding to retake.
The only other option appears to be my partner getting herself into debt and paying the surplus.
So im now having to contemplate giving up on my studies, possibly forever. Or having my partner get into debt.
If I had been given ALL the information when I first contacted the DSA dept at my university I would have been prepared.
If I had been given all the info in october I would have found a way.
But now it’s almost 5 months in and im out of time and options.
Had the DSA dept been competent we could have dealt with all of this in a single day instead of this nightmare.
But not only either incompetant or negligent (possibly both.) They are heartless. Nobody has appologised for putting me through this, nobody (outside of my tutor.) Has shown any compassion at all.
Had I been made aware of this before I had started there is no way I would have signed up.
Stage two Of the complaints process has concluded with a one page document in which they blaim the conduct of their staff. The state of their own I.T. system and there own internal policies, on the Student finance company.
I’m taking it to stage three and actively looking for somewhere else to finish my masters.