For many young people with M.E. the thought of going to university can be overwhelming. You may be concerned that you won’t manage on your own, that you won’t have the energy to study, or about how people may react to you having the illness.
However, with the right planning and support, it’s still possible to go to University and study your chosen degree. The information below can help you make your choices.
- When thinking about your chosen university, make contact with the Admissions Officer and talk to them about your suitability for your choice of course - do they have any understanding of M.E.? Are there any other students with M.E. you could talk to about how they have managed the course?
- Telling the university about your condition opens up the discussion and makes it easier for them to put support systems in place for you from the start. Think about how you can turn your experience into something positive on your application form. For example, if you can say it has given you empathy, that you've shown determination by battling to get your qualifications, or that it's made you more motivated.
- Think carefully about making visits to your chosen university – it may be extremely busy on the designated open days, so think about asking for an individual appointment.
- Apply for financial support early on (see below) to get the necessary assessment and support in place before you start university – think about what you may need in order to maintain your education.
- Make contact with the university student disability team when you start university – they are the people who can ensure that you have the necessary support in place and guide you to your entitlements.
- If you are struggling, tell someone straight away as they may be able to put more support in place for you or look at other options such as extensions, taking more time to complete the course, etc.
- Don't be afraid to tell the people you are studying/living with about your M.E. – they may be able to offer you help and support and be more understanding when you can't always go out.
- Finally, enjoy it as much as you can. You have earned your place to study and deserve to have the university experience, even if you can't take part in everything.
What help and support is available?
Disabled people should have the same opportunities for accessing education as non-disabled people (and M.E. is classed as a disability). This means a university cannot refuse you admission just because you have M.E. Find out more about disability rights and education.
You can apply for Disability Student Allowance, which is can be used to help pay for the costs of specialist equipment, for example a computer if you need one because of your disability, non-medical helpers, extra travel because of your disability, and other disability-related costs of studying. How much you get depends on your individual needs - not your household income – and it doesn’t have to be paid back.
You can also ask for help with exams and coursework. Speak to your university’s student disability team, which is usually located in the student’s office. They can give you advice on individual arrangements and information that you will need to supply in support of your application. Examples of individual arrangements include extra time, a small exam room, or use of a computer or scribe for your exam. You can also get extensions on essays and be excused from course trips and low attendance. Make sure you apply early, as you may need to provide medical evidence as to why you need individual arrangements.
Disability Rights UK offers further information and support through its student helpline, which you can email or call on 0800 328 5050 (Tue and Thu 11am to 1pm).