AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.


AHEAD Release Report on Students with Disabilities Engaged with Support Services in Higher Education in Ireland 2021/22

AHEAD are excited to release our figures on numbers of students with disabilities participating in Higher Education in Ireland in the period 2021/2. This research is undertaken annually and has taken place since 1993. A key finding is that a significant percentage of new entrant students have a disability but do not disclose and register for support. Our Changing Landscapes research indicated that some of the barriers or factors that informed nondisclosure included fears about career prospects, stigma, and a lack of awareness of support services, (AHEAD, 2023).

The report includes general statistics on numbers of students with disabilities as well as breakdown by disability profile, fields of study, exam accommodations, a postgraduate/undergraduate breakdown and much more.

This is our most comprehensive report yet, following engagement and discussion with participating disability support service members, a number of changes have been made to our research methodology;

  • We now explore additional disabilities (as opposed to using primary disability only) to engender a more accurate disability breakdown of students registered with DSS in their institution.
  • The number and percentage of students who are not financially supported by the Fund for Students with Disabilities is now examined.
  • Apprentices now registered for support services are now analysed.
  • Individual exam accommodations have been updated to include a range of extra accommodations that enable a broader examination of the process.
  • The merger of Institutes of Technology to Technological Universities is now included in almost all cases. However, due to the complexities of merging data, some HEI’s chose to provide separate data for different campuses.

There are now 18,097 students with disabilities registered for disability support services in higher education in Ireland, representing almost 6.9% of the total student population.  Other Key findings at a glance include:

  • 273% rise in number of students with disabilities registering for support in the last 13 years.
  • Postgraduate participation rate rising steadily, but students with disabilities remain significantly underrepresented in postgraduate study.
  • Significant increase in part-time participation rate.
  • Number of students with sensory disabilities growing at significantly slower rate than other disability categories.
  • Participation rate of students with disabilities registered for support on apprenticeships notably lower than at undergraduate level.
  • More than 1 in 10 students registered with services not eligible for the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD).
  • Vast majority of students with disabilities were recommended exam accommodations as part of their needs assessment.
  • Ratios of students to support staff remain steady year on year stalling a long-term rising trend.
  • Two thirds of institutions do not have a structured approach to evaluate the work/impact of the disability support services, and over half do not monitor the implementation of supports approved/recommended in needs assessments.

Download the Report Now>>>

Get the Summary of Key Findings & Recommendations>>

Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

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