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Students: Autism

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what plans he has to assist young people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome to gain access to higher education. (180094)

The Government provide support for disabled people applying to higher education (HE) and while they are in HE, this will include young people who are on the autistic spectrum. The Aimhigher Programme, for which the Government have recently announced a continuation of funding for a further three years, provides outreach activities aimed at increasing participation among under-represented groups, including disabled people.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) provides funding to institutions to support disabled students through the mainstream disability funding stream—£12.9 million in 2006/07. We also provide funding directly to students through disabled students’ allowances (DSAs), which can help to remove the obstacles that prevent disabled students and students with specific learning difficulties from entering and completing higher education courses. In 2005/06, we provided approximately £78.8 million to 35,600 students. In July 2007, we announced that from 2008/09 the maximum amounts of the non-medical helpers’ allowance (for undergraduates) and the postgraduate allowance will be increased by around 60 per cent.

These increases will mean that:

The maximum amount of the DSA for non-medical helpers will increase from £12,420 in 2007/08 to £20,000 in 2008/09 for full-time students and from £9,315 in 2007/08 to £15,000 in 2008/09 for part-time students.

The maximum amount of the DSA for postgraduate students will increase from £5,915 in 2007/08 to £10,000 in 2008/09

DSAs are provided to students in addition to the standard student support package. They are not means tested and also do not have to be repaid.