Student Life: Further and
Higher Education
What were your main reasons
for going to college/university?
• “To improve my “job prospects”, to meet
other people and to generally do
something with my life. Most people say
they go to university because they want to
learn, but learning is not something I need
a university to do.”
It’s not the same as school!
In FE and HE, students are adults
No expectation of family involvement
Management and organisation
Free time
Social life
What influenced your choice of
• “Primarily the fact that it was near my
home. If it wasn’t a good university I would
have possibly had to put more effort into
the decision but it is, so I didn’t.”
• “I wanted to be somewhere no one knew
me and I didn’t know anyone else, as far
from my parents as possible.”
Home or Away?
• A fresh start when school or home has
been an uncomfortable place to be, or
• Too much change all in one go?
• Studying whilst living at home seems to
work better for most people but...
• it can be better to choose a college that
can work with the student’s specialist
Getting there
Widening participation
Before fresher's week
Learner support: find out who the advice
and support people are and where to find
• Care plans and person centred plans.
Were there things that were not as you
expected? If so, what were they?
• “I can’t say that I remember being
surprised by anything per-se. I didn’t have
any wild expectations of what it was going
to be like so there wasn’t any
corresponding surprise when something
failed to meet them.”
Organisation and Workload
Home is home – structure the working day
Designated work space
Thinking about the academic staff and the curriculum, what
could have made your experience of college/university
• “I’m not sure if there is anything. The
main problems I had are social
problems. I suppose the group work
could have gone better but I’m not sure
how that could be facilitated.”
Practical stuff - survival
• Eating, sleeping, shopping, washing,
• Managing money
• Coping with the behaviour of others:
Lecturers not turning up, lectures being cancelled, people not doing
what they said they would do, students walking in gangs down the
corridor and in the middle of the road, sunbathing on the college
lawns, swearing, wearing flip flops and shorts in winter, going to
sleep in lectures, “borrowing” other people’s work.
• Finding your way around
Mental Health
• Getting organisation and survival right will
help the person stay in good mental health
• Expect rising anxiety around deadlines
and exams.
• Expect that high anxiety can/will tip into
Thinking about studying and exams, what were the
problems and difficulties you faced?
• “Neither were a problem.”
What were the best things about
• “Being able to spend time doing something
I enjoy. The sense of achievement from
getting good grades. Making friends.”
What were the worst?
• “Working in groups was difficult because they always
seemed to result in friction between me and the other
people in the group. I think this was because they were
focused primarily on getting along with the other people
or doing the least work possible, and I was focused on
doing what I thought was doing the best job possible.”
• “Being forced to go on an “outdoor pursuits”-type
weekend at the beginning was supposed to foster teamwork and help people get to know each other. I hated it
and it had the opposite effect for me.”
Moving on
• What advice is available?
• Do people on the spectrum know it’s
• If so, do they use it?
• Work placements need to be sustainable.
• Be honest about what is possible and
don’t raise false expectations.
The WAG task and finish group
• 3 specialist ASD colleges
• 12 further education colleges for people
with learning difficulties
• 14 mainstream colleges of further
• 8 higher education colleges/universities
• 37 responses in total
What do we know
• In Wales there are:
• 320 students in colleges of further
• 48 in specialist residential college
• 115 in higher education institutions
The T and F group looked for
evidence of:
a structured transition process
person centred planning
insight into good ASD practice
working with people’s interests
adjusting the environment
planning for the future.
We also found:
• suggestions for improvements to transition into
• suggestions for improvement post provision
• evidence of staff training
• suggestions for improvement during provision
• confusion over needs of ASD and dyslexia (or
specific learning disability)
• confusion regarding academic support/non
academic supportive roles.
• Raise awareness of the need for person
centred transition plans which are
underpinned by input from the prospective
student with ASD and knowledge of good
ASD practice.
• That institutions consider a range of
sustained transition options for students,
over and above an Open Day and
Fresher's week.
• Recruit support staff early.
• Improve systems for sharing information;
précis essential information about the
individual and circulate to all staff.
• Have a clear locus for keeping information.
• Move to a “strengths model”.
• Support sensory differences.
• There should be strategic guidance for
education professionals as to how to make
environmental adjustments, for example a
checklist and a “how to’ guide.
• There should be a consensus on the title,
location and scope of support assessment
and access across institutions. This may
need to differ between FE and HE but
should be uniform across type of
If you have finished your course, try to describe what you
gained from your studies, how do you now feel about your
experiences of college/university?
• “I’m glad I went because I felt it was an
important turning point in my life. Even if it
makes no practical difference, it’s nice to
have a degree.”
• ”Even though living away from home was
sometimes a disaster I learned a lot and I
made friends; my first real friends.”
If you were asked to give advice to students with
Asperger syndrome who are thinking about
studying at University, what would you say?
• “Identify the things you have trouble with
that may interfere and look for ways to
limit the effect they have on your academic
and social life. This could range from
taking advantage of support that the
university offers to just being self-aware
and not engaging with situations that
cause you distress.”
Mary Rendell
Ceredigion Social Services
Rhiw Goch
SA46 0DY
[email protected]

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