Education

Don't let cancer wreck your study plans. The timing is tough whether you’re just starting out, part-way through or wrapping up your education. But there are people and services available to help you. Here’s how you can speak up about your diagnosis and get help while you study.

What support can I get?

Support is out there, so make the most of it. Take a look at what your college or university could offer:

  • Recognising you may need time off for hospital appointments and treatment
  • Extra time for coursework and extensions to deadlines if you need it
  • Access to someone to take notes for you
  • Somewhere to leave stuff on campus to lighten your load
  • Arrangements for special dietary needs (access refrigerated food or eating extra snacks in class)
  • Flexibility in attendance and punctuality to help with hospital visits
  • Supervised rest breaks during exams
  • Support from teachers during periods you’re away
  • Staff awareness of cancer and its impact (your situation can remain confidential).

Do I have rights?

Absolutely. The Equality Act protects disabled people from being treated unfairly. And you automatically meet the Equality Act definition of ‘disabled’ from the day you’re diagnosed.

Under the Act, colleges in England, Scotland and Wales must not discriminate against disabled students. In Northern Ireland you have similar rights under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Order (SENDO).

Your college/university also has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ (like the list above) so you’re not at a disadvantage. It’s their legal duty.

How do I get support?

Tell your place of education about your diagnosis so they can start putting things in place. It’s your choice if – or even when – you tell people, but doing this early will mean there’s more time to get things organised.

Meet your support staff (aka. learning support advisors, inclusive learning coordinators or disability advisors). You can usually request an initial appointment over the phone or by email, and everything is confidential.

Will I be assessed?

Some colleges and universities will want you to do a needs assessment. This is a face-to-face meeting with someone who understands how to support students with health conditions. They can make extra recommendations to get any additional support you need.

In England, if you have a cancer diagnosis and have a special educational need, you may also have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessment. The EHC plan will look at all your education, health and social needs up to the age of 25. This plan can be shared with your place of education so they can provide the necessary support.

If you live in Wales you could be assessed for a statement of educational needs. To find out more about assessments and support in Northern Ireland, head to the NI Education Authority website. Or head to the Enquire website for more information about assessments in Scotland.

Can I get specialist equipment?

If you need specialist equipment while on campus, you should be able to loan it from your college/university.

Extra costs (like employing support workers, note-takers etc.) should be covered in your college or university’s Learning Support budget so you won’t be out of pocket.

Check out information on Disabled Students Allowance to see if you could be eligible for financial support, specialist equipment and access to support workers.