New OfS panel to advise on what works in supporting disabled students

The Office for Students (OfS) is to establish a new Disability in Higher Education Advisory Panel to provide expert advice on enhancing disabled students’ experiences in higher education.

Small group of students chatting in a university library. One student is in a wheelchair.

The panel will consider and review how universities and colleges currently support disabled students, drawing on evidence, research and analysis from the sector to make recommendations on how to support their educational experience. Disabled students will be invited to describe their own experiences, which will be fundamental to inform the panel’s discussions and provide valuable insight into the panel’s work.

The panel will draw on the impactful work delivered by the Disabled Students’ Commission (DSC) over the past three years, whose term finished in January 2023. Chaired by Professor Geoff Layer, the DSC has delivered expert guidance and research into the access, experience, and success of disabled students over the last three years. The OfS has published an independent evaluation of the DSC today.

Building on research, the DSC developed the Disabled Student Commitment, which is a new framework for universities and colleges to support continuous improvement to create a more inclusive student experience. The Disability in Higher Education Advisory Panel will draw on the commitment’s recommendations and DSC’s previous work in its approach, as well as findings from evaluative body TASO’s recent ‘What works to reduce equality gaps for disabled students’ report.

John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, will chair the panel. Commenting on the new panel, John Blake said:

‘The OfS is committed to supporting an inclusive experience of higher education for disabled students. Our 2022-25 strategy focuses on quality and standards and equality of opportunity in higher education, with an emphasis on evaluating interventions to understand what does and doesn’t work in improving equality of opportunity.

‘Our new Disability in Higher Education Advisory Panel will help ensure that the interests and experiences of disabled students can directly influence our regulatory work on equality of opportunity. Hearing from disabled students will be crucial in this work, to ensure the panel’s recommendations reflect and address the various needs of disabled students so that they’re able to benefit from a fulfilling higher education experience. I would like to give huge thanks to my fellow commissioners on the Disabled Students’ Commission for their important and impactful work over the last three years, and especially the leadership, energy and commitment of Professor Geoff Layer.’

The OfS plans to launch the panel in autumn 2023.


  1. Today the OfS has published an external evaluation of the Disabled Students’ Commission’s three-year term, which was conducted by Savanta. Read the evaluation.
  2. Read about the Disabled Students’ Commission.
  3. Read about the Disabled Student Commitment, which was published in April 2023.
  4. Read TASO’s report: ‘What works to reduce equality gaps for disabled students’.
Published 29 June 2023

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