The changing role of specialist support professionals for deaf students in higher education

Webster, Jennifer Marie bridgett orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6971-1455, Snell, Laura, Barnes, Lynne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4504-7139 and Caudrelier, Gail Christine (2022) The changing role of specialist support professionals for deaf students in higher education. Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education, 14 (1). pp. 112-129.

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This article reports the findings of a small-scale study that explored the role of specialist support professionals (previously known as ‘language tutors’) working with deaf students in higher education. The purpose of the research was to explore how the support given by these professionals has been affected by recent changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance grant, provided by the Department for Education, along with restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. An online survey was used to gather data from specialist support professionals (SSPs) across the UK, and the findings are discussed in terms of three key themes: the benefits, challenges and expectations of the SSP role. To tackle the challenges, which include isolation, vulnerability, uncertainty, and a lack of sustainability, the authors conclude that a national review of the role is required, to investigate the training, qualifications, recruitment, and working practices of SSPs. This review would lay the foundations for the development of a professional association for SSPs working with deaf students, thereby equipping SSPs with the means to raise awareness of their role among higher education institutions and deaf students, and foster a productive relationship with the Department for Education.

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