Cambridge applicants are worried about disclosing their Learning Difficulties

People with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or a Learning Difficulty are scared to disclose it.

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“Admission decisions by the Collegiate University are based on academic considerations alone”, according to a University spokesman. In spite of this, many students do not admit to having a Learning Difficulty or Autism Spectrum disorder when applying through UCAS.

Speaking to The Tab, a sixth former who has applied to Cambridge said: “I was encouraged by my teachers not to say I had Asperger’s and Dyslexia on my UCAS, so I didn’t. I think they thought I would be at a disadvantage as there is a misconception that Dyslexics are somewhat less clever. I was made to think that thinking differently is not what Cambridge wants.”

In Cambridge, roughly 2% of the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 application cycle of students who were successful, claimed to have learning difficulty on UCAS,  comparable to the national average. This includes Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD. Approximately 0.5% of the student body also admitted to having ASD on their UCAS application and got in.

The number of students who are diagnosed or disclosed with disabilities is substantially higher after matriculation. More than a third of Cambridge students known to have an Autism Spectrum condition disclosed this after matriculation.

A third year commented, “I came to Uni having a gut feeling that I may be on the spectrum, but never got it checked out at home. When I came here though, I was diagnosed after going to the Disability Resource Centre. It’s not an issue at all, and it’s really made no difference except my college has offered me great support.”

The data from the last 2 years successful applications through UCAS, of people admitting a LD or ASD is shown below. All colleges and subjects are under the same ‘rules’ so any difference does not reflect a bias but rather the number of applicants who choose to apply to that college or course.

In the 2014 cycle, Girton and Peterhouse admitted the highest number of people who disclosed an autism spectrum disorder on UCAS, relative to their undergraduate applications that year, making 3% of that admission years’ populations.

[infogram id=”oZh4609X4dwivIeF” prefix=”JRM” format=”interactive” title=”ASD 2014″]

Trinity and St John’s colleges, despite being the two largest colleges, have slightly lower levels of acceptances of people with ASD disclosed on their UCAS.

[infogram id=”e296134f-6080-4621-8e5c-b44eebd521c3″ prefix=”Rbx” format=”interactive” title=”ASD 2015″]

For learning difficulties, Murray Edwards had the highest percentage at 5% in 2014/2015, whilst Trinity, 2 times the student number, had only 1 person with a Learning Difficulty.

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This cycle, Sidney Sussex had the highest admittance of students who disclosed a learning difficulty.

[infogram id=”3ea8d91b-c315-4212-b574-96f124e12cac” prefix=”wIE” format=”interactive” title=”LD 2015″]

Rory Sachs, of Gonville and Caius College, applied to Cambridge with Dyslexia.  Rory gets an extra 15 mins per hour (so 25%) for exams. He said that the “experience of being Dyslexic in Cambridge has been a wholly positive one. For exams I’ve used extra time and a computer for typing, which was completely unbureaucratic process, all thanks to the wonderful DRC”.

“Whilst it didn’t affect my choice of college, it seems more needs to be done to streamline the process of making interview arrangements to help individuals with any type of learning difficulty.”

Subject-wise, Music has the highest percentage of the year of people who disclosed on their UCAS they had ASD in the 2014 cycle. Maths has been consistent at 1% ASD each cycle of the total year. These subjects are both associated with ASD.

[infogram id=”4Wr5viuMLZTrvu5i” prefix=”YHv” format=”interactive” title=” subject 2014 asd”]

Engineering had only 1 person with ASD apply in both cycles, which is perhaps surprising, as it requires a systemising type of thinking characteristic of ASD.

[infogram id=”4c848143-c69b-429f-b33c-eb4b6e0e973a” prefix=”4dm” format=”interactive” title=”ASD 2015 SUBJECT”]

In 2014, Philosophy accepted 4 students with a learning difficulty, which as a result of the small course size made up 10% of the total year.  In History of Art, people with learning difficulties made up 8% in 2014 and 9% in 2015 of the total year.

[infogram id=”EBjIukNf4m2lYHVv” prefix=”Rnp” format=”interactive” title=”%YEAR LD SUBJECT”]

There is a wealth of support at Cambridge for anyone with any physical or mental disability. A spokesperson said, “The University is very aware of, and sensitive to, the additional challenges students with LD and ASD face during their studies and is committed to helping them thrive here.”

The proportion of disabled students as a proportion of the total Cambridge student body has risen from 4% to 11% from 2008, to now, which is the above national average.