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    I wonder if someone could possibly help with me a query I have regarding DSA top up reports, as I am somewhat confused.

    I had a full needs assessment report undertaken when I was applying for student finance as an undergraduate. This was in the summer of 2007. I started my BA in September 2007 and graduated in July 2010. In September 2012 I started an MSc course. Student Finance England gave me permission to have a top up report undertaken as my course was now at a different level (postgraduate), was in a completely different subject and involved different forms of assessments including a couple of fieldwork placements which is something I had not done as an undergraduate.

    As an undergraduate, my eligibility criteria for DSA was a mental health condition. Since then I have been diagnosed with a physical health condition as well. Therefore my 2012 application was on the grounds of a mental health condition and the physical health condition.

    I had my to up report undertaken and upon completion, a draft copy was sent to me for approval before it was sent to Student Finance England and my university. In my original assessment report the assessor had made certain recommendations in respect of assessments and examinations in the main body of the report. As the assessor recognised that mental health conditions (and some health conditions for that matter) can fluctuate, they included in the appendix of the report a list of additional recommendations that should be considered if my mental health condition deteriorated and the recommendations they had made in the main body of the report were no longer sufficient. Thankfully, the arrangements recommended in the main body of the report proved sufficient for me as an undergraduate and I never had cause to enquire about alternate arrangements.

    I noticed in the draft of my top up report that these additional recommendations had not been carried over into the top up report. I did ask the assessor during the assessment but he said there was no need to carry basic stuff like that over into a top up report, and that the top up report was just to assess any differences from my undergraduate report. I phoned the assessment centre upon receiving the draft report and asked if they could include the additional requirements section all the same, just for my peace of mind. They refused and said there was no need, as the university would consider both my undergraduate full report and the postgraduate top up report together.

    I am now in a position where I wish the university to consider the additional requirements section, as I have had a few personal problems so far this year (2013) and my conditions have become worse and I’m in a lot of pain. However, the university won’t entertain the idea as they say they can only consider making adjustments which are outlined in the current assessment report i.e. my top up report.

    I have spoken to the university’s student support/disability services and they take the same view as my academic department. The student’s union are trying to clarify the exact position with Student Finance England but they are not the easiest of people to deal with as the union are finding.

    I was therefore wondering if anyone on here knew the policy on this matter. I’ve tried to find the official Student Finance England / Department of Business, Innovation and Skills guidance on this, but can only find guidelines on entry criteria and recommendations for assessors. I can’t find anything which covers top up reports.

    If it turns out that the university are right and that I was misinformed by the assessor and the assessment centre, then there’s not a lot I can do about that I guess apart from be annoyed and let them know. However, I would like some clarification on this.
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    It would appear that your assessor has misunderstood the need for a top up assessment, and your disability adviser is ill informed. Any request for a 'reasonable adjustment' or support should be considered whether it's in an assessment report or not. The assessor should have included all of the recommendations within the report as SFE often disregard appendices, or they do not get forwarded on.
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    Thank you for your reply.

    My original report undertaken in 2007 prior to commencing my undergraduate studies was very well put together. It was printed on high quality white paper and was bound together with one of those spiral comb binder thingies. The appendices were included in the binding. Therefore Student Finance England would have received them okay. This was a full report undertaken as an undergraduate.

    I have spoken to the university again this morning. What they are saying is that any student who makes a request for a reasonable adjustment or additional support, must provide evidence to the university that they do indeed require the extra support or adjustment. They will accept a doctor’s letter or a DSA needs assessment as evidence.

    I could go to my GP surgery and ask them to write a letter for me to give to the university which confirms my condition and that the requested adjustments would be beneficial in supporting me. However, the surgery charges a minimum of £35 for this service. I have spoken with the surgery manager to ask why and they advise me that the GPs are contracted by the NHS to provide primary care services. Writing a letter to the university is not considered part of that and therefore, as with an estate agent, accountant or solicitor, they can charge you for the freelance work you are engaging them in. It is the same for a patient who has to cancel a holiday due to ill health and needs a doctor’s letter in order to claim back the cost of the holiday/flights, or an someone who needs a letter confirming they are in good health for an insurance policy or a job. They are chargeable items too. I am a self-funded postgraduate and can’t really afford a minimum charge of £35 for a letter. I have explained this to the surgery and they cannot offer me a discount.

    In addition, as it is not part of the core package the doctor’s have with the NHS, it is not mandatory for them to write letters like this. Indeed, some GPs at my surgery won’t do it as they don’t feel qualified to say how an illness specifically affects study, as they are not experts in degree courses. The university don’t just want the condition(s) confirmed, they want opinion as to how the adjustments will help and why I couldn’t manage without them. Some doctor’s just won’t do letters like this full stop and that’s their prerogative.

    Rather than try to find a GP at the surgery who would be willing to write me a letter, and then have to pay £35 plus, I was intending to use the appendices of my original 2007 needs assessment report as evidence. These appendices recommend the adjustment I am asking the university for (among other thing) if the recommendations in the main body of the report no longer proved sufficient. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was advised that both my original full 2007 report and the 2012 top up report would be considered together, and that the 2007 report would not be obsolete now I had a top up report.

    However, the university won’t entertain anything from the 2007 report, stating if I intend to use a DSA assessment of needs report as evidence, it has to be the latest one. In my case that is the 2012 top up report. This doesn’t contain the appendices section, as it wasn’t carried over.

    I was just wondering what the official purpose of a top up report was and if the university are being fair in their argument. It seems like I was given incorrect information and now I'm in a difficult position. Ultimately, if I have to pay for a letter than I'll have to pay. I'd just be interested to find out what the official position is from those who know more than me about DSA policy.
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    As 'Top Up' implies it should add to, or be read in conjunction with the recommendations made in the first report. Some of our top up assessments are nothing more than an email to SFE and have been accepted. It seems the centre spent too much time with the presentation of the report rather than the content. Did you send your copy to them or did the assessment centre post a copy (which is normally the case).

    Unfortunately GP's will charge for medical evidence for the reasons you have found. I've heard of up to £80 for a one line letter, and £200 for an opinion for mental health! You may be able to access funding from your uni's funding & welfare team to help?

    To answer your question simply, no the university are not being fair, and nor are the assessment centre. Either you need them to re-do the recommendations with the reports and combine them to make them accurate, or the uni needs to make a reasonable adjustment.
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    Can you not complain to the top dog involved in dsa and also the Uni disnaolity team


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    I had a full top-up interview last year. It was a page long and my university read it in conjunction with my full original report.

    I then had an email top-up this year and it was literally my assessor emailing student finance and then student finance emailing my university.

    You are not tied to the assessor you saw. Your university is being unreasonable but it could be because your assessment is quite old now. Contact a different assessment centre for their advice (accesscentral are reeeeally good and deal with my every issue with understanding and support so have a look at the ones not connected to universities) and see if you would be better seeing a more helpful assessor willing to give in to your unis requests.

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    (Original post by ParadoxSocks)
    have a look at the ones not connected to universities)
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    Just to point out- Just because an Assessment Centre happens to be in a university, doesn't mean they are connected in anyway. They are independently audited annually.
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    (Original post by NJones)
    Just to point out- Just because an Assessment Centre happens to be in a university, doesn't mean they are connected in anyway. They are independently audited annually.
    Yeah, sorry if it came across that way - I meant more that if the only one nearby is at the university then consider the ones situated outside of campuses. They don't tend to get mentioned much so people think they need to go to far off lands to have another assessment.
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    Thank you to the updates to this thread. It is good to read other people’s experiences and I appreciate you taking the time to reply to me.

    By way of an update on this –

    I have now been to my GP surgery and managed to get them to write a letter for me. Hopefully this will prove sufficient for the university’s needs, although I have been told by the Dean’s office that they retain the right to refuse any medical evidence they feel is not sufficient. I’m not entirely sure whether academics are best placed to be challenging a medical opinion without getting it looked at by another medical practitioner though. I am not sure if they do that if they wish to challenge medical evidence. I would hope so.

    I am hopeful that the letter will do the trick though as it’s pretty detailed. The student’s union have advised me to put in a claim to the university hardship fund in order to attempt to claim back the cost of the letter.

    The Dean’s office gave me a hard copy university’s policy document on this matter of adjustments for examinations. It states that students with a specific learning difficulty must provide as evidence

    an Educational Psychologist’s report or equivalent undertaken when the student was at least 16 years old/or dated within the previous two years or “a current needs assessment from an accredited Access centre
    For students with a disability and/or health condition they consider the following acceptable evidence

    A letter from a GP or the University Student Health Centre confirming the nature of the health issue/disability and outlining the potential impact on the student’s ability to undertake the usual form of assessment;
    or A current Needs Assessment from an accredited Access Centre confirming the likely impact on the student’s ability to undertake the usual form of assessment.
    I will mention to the student’s union that a top up report is meant to be read in conjunction with the original report. They have not heard back from Student Finance England yet on this point.
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    (Original post by Erin89)
    I have been told by the Dean’s office that they retain the right to refuse any medical evidence they feel is not sufficient. I’m not entirely sure whether academics are best placed to be challenging a medical opinion without getting it looked at by another medical practitioner though. I am not sure if they do that if they wish to challenge medical evidence. I would hope so.
    Unless they are medically qualified they have no authority. I'd imagine that this is in place in cases of obvious false claims.
 
 
 
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