I'm severely disabled. Under Outcomes and length of arrangements:

If your condition is long-term and unchanging, the Personalised Assessment [henceforth PA] Arrangements Committee (PAAC) will approve arrangements for the duration of your programme, meaning you do not need to reapply each year.

Under 3) International student:

You can apply to sit your examination at an alternative venue [henceforth AV] if you are either:

a) Taking a resit and/or replacement examination and you are a non-attending student. You can only apply to sit in your home country.


b) Taking a resit and/or replacement examination and you are applying to take the examination during the August exam period. You can only apply to sit in your home country.

I asked King's College London (KCL)'s Exam Services why AV can't be approved permanently (for the duration of my degree), like PA. But the Head regurgitated without explanation that this is possible only for PA, before harshly alleging that this matter was closed.

How can I challenge them? Can the Equality Act 2010 help?

Additional Argument, in addition to inability to live alone long-term.

Requiring me to reapply each year throws my life into uncertainty, thwarts me from planning how long to rent my apartment, and and forces me to rent for longer than needed. How?

Option 1: I lease until June, as I wouldn't know if AV'd be approved this year when I sign a lease. But if I learn that I'm approved for AV no earlier than Jan. or Feb., then lease payments from Mar.-Jun. would be wasted as I'd fly home.

Option 2: I lease until Mar. 2019. But the risk is lacking residence in London, if my AV is denied and I need to write exams in London in June.

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    Not familiar with British law, but I suspect that schools in many cases want to establish the need for and use of arrangements before going through the process of setting up accommodations on a permanent basis. It might be easier to get a first PAA, and then request a permanent extension of the original.
    – aeismail
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 6:12
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    I feel completely at sea on this, being so completely unfamiliar with procedures in the UK. But in general, there are several approaches to getting the accommodations one needs: (1) gradually work your way up the chain of command with informal conversations with administrators. This may require building positive relationships with various assistants and secretaries. Keep a log. (2) study the published procedural documents (both at the institution and from the government). Write letters (emails, really), pointing out what appears to be required, and asking how the problem can be resolved... Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 1:28
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    Keep a paper trail of your communications. Note that even while you're doing (2), it's also possible to season your main dish with a bit of (1). If the published procedural documents are not complete (for example if there are no instructions for how to file an appeal), then ask what procedure you should follow. (3) Hire a lawyer to do the whole thing for you. (4) Find an advocacy organization that will support your self-advocacy, with knowledge, moral support, free legal advice, etc. (5) Hire a lawyer for maximum one hour's work, advising you about next steps that you can take for yourself. Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 1:31
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    Sometimes this option involves the lawyer advising you on a tactical move or ghostwriting a letter for you. If you try the ghostwriting option, edit the draft so that it reflects your own writing style. (7) Find allies, such as a calm, well spoken student who's a good listener and a good note-taker to buddy with you to attend all your meetings with you, whether planned or unplanned. Another important type of ally could be a professor. Note, in general it is extremely helpful to have a medical provider backing up what you are saying, not just by writing a strong letter and letting you ... Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 1:36
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    I wouldn't say "soothe." I would say that without the permanent approval, you would have to plan for possible non-approval, and this would create a hardship for you. They I would bullet several ways it would be a hardship: financial, psychological (because you would feel discriminated against and unsupported by your university), and academically (because it would take a great deal of energy to relocate -- or something like that). Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 0:27

2 Answers 2


A quick review of the link you've shown suggests that the two classes you've listed, personalized assessment and alternative venue, are open to two completely different groups:

  • Personalized assessment is for students with recognized learning or physical disabilities;
  • Alternative venue is for international students.

You're effectively trying to conflate the two types of accommodations, by requesting an alternative venue as a means of handling your disability. Based on the response of the chair of the committee, they are proceeding according to this distinction. For this to be successful, you need to be able to explain medically why you need to be at home for the exam period. Raising financial costs as a reason will not be a sufficient reason—by that rationale, you're no different from any other applicant wanting an alternative venue.

  • "For this to be successful, you need to be able to explain medically why you need to be at home for the exam period." I've done so. They accept my severe medical disability. The financial risks are a secondary argument.
    – user13306
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 5:02
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    The issue is that the kind of accommodation you’re requesting is based on where you live. What if that situation changed? Testing time changes or an assistant is not a change that would need to be revisited, but living arrangements are. That’s probably why they don’t want to give a permanent change in venue.
    – aeismail
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 21:01

Let's see if I've understood. At your institution, the exam occurs several months after the semester ends. You would like to vacate your London apartment when classes end, and then take your exam at an Alternate Venue because keeping the apartment for the extra months would involve extra expense, which I am guessing is more expensive than housing would cost for non-disabled students, and because with your significant disability you can't just pop into London for the day to take your exam as non-disabled students can (you'd need to get established in London several days before the exam in order to stabilize your condition before taking the exam), and therefore taking the exam in London would involve significant extra expense for you. So you are requesting permission to take your exam at an alternate venue, as several classes of students, including international students, are permitted to do. Did I get that right?

I found the text of the Equality Act 2010. I confess I found it hard to read.

However, I found guidance designed to be read by education administrators, which was easier to read and generally more helpful for me. Here are some quotes. (I've done some simplifying and bolding.)

The object of the reasonable adjustments duty is to avoid as far as possible by reasonable means the disadvantage which a disabled student experiences because of their disability.

The duty requires you to take positive steps to ensure that disabled students can fully participate in the education and other benefits, facilities and services provided for students....

Where a practice places disabled students at a substantial disadvantage in accessing education, the higher education institution must take such steps as it is reasonable to take in all the circumstances to ensure the provision, criterion or practice no longer has such an effect. This might mean waiving a criterion or abandoning a practice altogether but often will involve just an extension of the flexibility and individual approach that most institutions already show to their students....

Where disabled students are placed at a substantial disadvantage by a provision, criterion or practice, the absence of an auxiliary aid or a physical feature, the institution must consider whether any reasonable adjustment can be made to overcome that disadvantage.

Institutions should not expect disabled students to suggest adjustments but where they do, institutions should consider whether they would help to overcome the disadvantage and whether they are reasonable. It is good practice for further and higher education institutions to work with students in determining what reasonable adjustments can be made....

What is the reasonable adjustments duty?

You are required to take reasonable steps to:

Avoid substantial disadvantage where a provision, criterion or practice puts disabled students at a substantial disadvantage.

Avoid substantial disadvantage, where a physical feature puts disabled persons at a substantial disadvantage; this includes removing the physical feature in question, altering it or providing a reasonable means of avoiding it....

What is a substantial disadvantage?

A disadvantage that is more than minor or trivial is called a ‘substantial disadvantage’. The level of disadvantage created by a lack of reasonable adjustments is measured in comparison with what the position would be if the disabled student in question did not have a disability.

A further or higher education institution will need to take into account a number of factors when considering what a substantial disadvantage might be, such as:

  • the time and effort that might need to be expended by a disabled student

  • the inconvenience, indignity or discomfort a disabled student might suffer

  • the loss of opportunity or the diminished progress a disabled student might make in comparison with his or her peers who are not disabled.

For Example:

A sixth form college has several sites and students are required to move between sites to attend different classes. This is likely to place a student with mobility difficulties at a substantial disadvantage as they may find it hard to move between sites and arrive late for classes as a result. This is likely to be a substantial disadvantage.

We can see at PERSONALISED ASSESSMENT ARRANGEMENTS: Alternative Venue Arrangements that KCL does allow exams to be taken at alternative venues by distance learning students, study abroad students, and international students, so perhaps you could make an argument that your institution already shows this flexibility to its students.

Another helpful document says

Factors to take into account

The following are some of the factors which might be taken into account when considering what is reasonable:

• whether taking any particular steps would be effective in overcoming the substantial disadvantage that disabled people face in accessing the education or other benefit, facility or service in question

• the extent to which it is practicable for the education provider to take such steps

• the type of education or other benefit, facility or service being provided

• the effect of the disability on the individual

• the financial and other costs of making the adjustment

• the availability of grants, loans and other assistance to disabled students

• the extent to which aids and services will otherwise be provided to disabled people or students

• the resources of the education provider and the availability of financial or other assistance

• health and safety requirements, and

• the relevant interests of other people, including other students

I also found a definition of indirect discrimination:

putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage. (https://www.gov.uk/discrimination-your-rights)

Note, in the US, the government guidance in this area explains that the published examples of reasonable accommodations (I think this is the same as the UK term reasonable adjustments) are not an exhaustive list. Educational institutions are supposed to consider what the student needs, not just what has previously been offered to students with a disability. The text I found seems similar enough to the US materials that I think it would be reasonable to extrapolate this to the UK.

I think there should be an appeals procedure at each university:

If the matter cannot be resolved through your internal complaints procedure, then there are various mediation and conciliation services that might assist you in resolving the dispute.

This paragraph suggests to me that there should be an internal complaint procedure at KCL. (It parallels what is required in the US under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.)

On that same page, it says

in England or Wales, a student can make a complaint that the university has discriminated against them to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). The student will usually have to have exhausted the internal complaints procedure.

I googled for Office of the Independent Adjudicator King's College and found three levels of appeal and deadlines for each. It looks to me like starting at level 2 might make the most sense.

If you haven't contacted these people, it might be worth a try:

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) Helpline

Information and advice about discrimination and human rights issues

Telephone: 0808 800 0082

Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm

Saturday, 10am to 2pm

I hope you'll keep us posted -- by writing updates at the bottom of your question.

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    The system with that big gap between end of semester and exam date makes no sense to me! Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 5:11
  • I've never heard of anywhere that does have that big a gap. In the UK. It sounds like OP plans to skip revision lectures. I can't see anything yet that explains why they need different treatment to everyone else, who are expected to stick around until the end of the academic year.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 12:37
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    @JessicaB - Perhaps it has to do with paying caregivers or with life in London being harder on the body and mind. I don't know, but if OP wants to advocate for the reasonable adjustment, obviously documentation would have to be submitted. I'm not in the position of evaluating the request -- my part was attempting to trace through the labyrinth of how the system works and the terminology. I just wish someone with direct personal experience would post an answer. I only have 504 experience (US) and every country is different. Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 15:23
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    @JessicaB - Trying to talk about academic calendars in the UK, I feel like a fish out of water but I just googled KCL's academic calendar (kcl.ac.uk/aboutkings/Academic-Calendar/index.aspx#Top) and found something. Teaching: Friday 12 January – Thursday 29 March 2018; Teaching/Revision: Monday 23 April – Friday 27 April 2018; Exam Period 2: Monday 30 April – Friday 1 June 2018. I have no idea how to interpret this. // Sometimes something that appears perfectly obvious to me as the parent of a child with a disability is inexplicably not obvious to others. To some extent it is... Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 17:05
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    @aparente001 Thanks a lot for all your feedback! Your factual outline is wholly right. I suggested an edit that will clarify this. KCL "students leave London when classes are out, and then travel briefly back for exam(s)." Bingo!
    – user13306
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 5:05

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