University launches new initiative to increase support for disabled and neurodiverse engineers

The University of Plymouth has launched a new initiative designed to enhance the dedicated support available for disabled and neurodiverse engineering students during their studies.

The programme, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s new Diversity Impact Programme, will offer mentoring, internships and other interventions that highlight the opportunities a degree in engineering can unlock.

It will also aim to build students’ confidence, leadership and management skills and provide them with access to a bespoke Pathways Programme led by Equal Engineers.

The University’s School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics currently has around 21% of students across its engineering subjects who are registered disabled.

The focus of this project will be to further understanding of the challenges they face in their studies, and to improve their experience and sense of inclusion within the wider student population.

This will be achieved through mentoring with external partners, increasing the visibility of role models through a new lecture series, micro-internships to develop employability skills, and networking sessions designed with the needs of neurodiverse students at the centre.

This activity will be complemented by interventions designed to drive sustained changes in behaviour and practice within the institution’s workforce and organisational structures, as well as through existing support mechanisms such as our Disability Services team.

Dr Asiya Khan, Associate Professor of Multimedia Communication and Intelligent Control in the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, is leading the initiative. She said:

“The field of engineering is incredibly diverse in terms of its possibilities, and that diversity should extend to future generations wanting to work in the sector. With that in mind, this initiative is being designed to complement the knowledge students gain through their course with improved employment opportunities and employability skills. It will also look to identify some of the ongoing barriers facing neurodiverse and disabled students, and look at how they can be addressed and overcome in the future.”
The Plymouth initiative is one of 11 projects each awarded up to £100,000 by the Royal Academy of Engineering to address the unequal outcomes experienced by students from diverse and underrepresented groups.

The programme aims to inspire change in university engineering departments so that all students succeed and the unique perspectives and experiences of engineers from diverse backgrounds continue to enhance the profession.

Lessons learned from each of the projects will be shared across the higher education community so universities can work collectively to drive positive change.

Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“The Academy’s new Diversity Impact Programme has been designed to support universities in making a step change in diversity and inclusivity across engineering higher education. Our goal is to help universities to develop interventions, informed by evidence, that transform the outcomes of students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. It is vital that we seek innovative and creative ways to accelerate the pace of change rather than accepting that incremental improvement is all that is possible.”

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Disability Services

Disability can mean different things to different people. It may include you if you have study support requirements related to a disability, for example:

  • dyslexia
  • specific learning disabilities
  • mental health difficulties
  • autism
  • a long term health condition.

If you're a prospective or current student, or a member of staff supporting students, Disability Services are here to help. Please see the Disability Services webpages for more information.