British Sign Language Plan

Aims and implementation

We aim to provide a unique Edinburgh offer for all our students, and to benefit society as a whole. The University of Edinburgh BSL plan refers to all ten areas of the National BSL plan and includes actions to be taken by all parts of the University. This first BSL Plan sets out actions we will take over the period 2018-2024.

Excellent Higher Education

The aim of the University of Edinburgh, as set out in the Strategic Vision for 2025, is to provide a unique Edinburgh offer for all our students, and to benefit society as a whole. We see Deaf and hearing BSL users as part of this vision:

  • that students develop as researchers;
  • that they have opportunities to develop outside their core discipline;
  • that they feel a strong sense of community in Edinburgh;
  • that they experience being taught by excellent staff from around the world;
  • that they have opportunities to progress to postgraduate studies;
  • that they have opportunities to meet and learn from international students;
  • that they have the opportunity to participate in distance learning experiences;
  • that they benefit from the world-leading interdisciplinary research at the university;
  • that they enjoy the estate;
  • that they have opportunities to learn from industry, the public and third sectors;
  • that they prepare for graduate level employment.

Although the number of Deaf BSL users is not high at the University at present, we make a commitment through this planning framework to increase their number. We are proud of past Deaf alumni, including Lilian Lawson who studied Zoology at the University in the 1970s and was awarded an honorary doctorate for her work with Deaf communities and Parliament in 2017. Many Deaf BSL users have graduated from the University, and indeed the language was first studied in the 1980s at the Moray House College of Education, now our School of Education.

Our contribution to the long-term goals in the National BSL plan

The University of Edinburgh BSL plan refers to all ten areas of the National BSL plan, which can be found here: 

National BSL plan

Information and services in the public sector; Family support, early learning and childcare; School Education; Post-school Education; Training, work and social security; Health, mental health and wellbeing; Transport; Culture and the Arts  - we are including Science here; Justice; Democracy.

Involvement of all parts of the University

The BSL plan includes actions to be taken by all three academic Colleges in the university: the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and the College of Science and Engineering. In addition, the plan contains actions for the University’s Secretary’s Group which includes Human Resources, Recruitment and Admissions, and Student Experience services for example. There are actions relating to the work of the Corporate Services group, which includes Accommodation, Catering and Events, Estates, and Research Support Office, for example. Finally, there are actions relating to Information Services, which includes libraries and IT infrastructure.

This BSL plan has been informed by the Strategic Vision for the University as well as the Equality Outcomes Action Plan 2017-21. Links to these documents are here:

Strategic Vision 2025

Strategic Vision 2025

Equality Outcomes Action Plan 2017 – 21

Strategy and outcomes


This is the first BSL Plan for the University of Edinburgh, as required by BSL (Scotland) Act.  The BSL Plan sets out actions we will take over the period 2018-2024.  Our plan follows the BSL National Plan, published 24 October 2017, which was developed through extensive engagement with Deaf and Deafblind BSL users and those who work with them.

The University of Edinburgh plan is framed around the same long-term goals as the national plan, where these are relevant to the work of the University.  The University of Edinburgh BSL Plan covers the ten areas of the National Plan and also addresses the University’s Strategic Plan (2016 – 19) and the wider Strategic Vision 2025. Our plan is organised by the ten sections of the National BSL Plan.

The University confirms our commitment here to protecting and supporting BSL, including in its tactile form used by deafblind people.  The BSL Working Group has been established to develop this first BSL University plan, drawing representatives from across the University, including academic and administrative staff and students. Three Deaf BSL users have been active on this working group: Dr Audrey Cameron representing the School of Education, Poppie Bowie, a student on the MSc Transformative Learning and Teaching from the same School, and Dr Lilian Lawson, an alumna of the University and an honorary graduate. Other hearing fluent BSL users are represented on the BSL working group.

The consultation about the draft University BSL plan was open to all on our website from August – September 2018. The draft was in BSL and English and responses could also be made in either language. The responses were considered by the BSL working group and amendments proposed to the plan.

The University of Edinburgh has a commitment to continued engagement to implement the actions in the plan in a timely manner, and to consider an annual progress report at the highest level to the University Executive. Funding for the plan will be found by departments across the University with some centrally funded actions particularly supporting staff learning BSL. The section of the University website where the plan is housed will contain annual updates and reviews in plain English and BSL. We welcome continuing commentary from the public, staff and students about the progress of implementation of our BSL plan.

The University of Edinburgh will contribute to national progress report in 2020, reporting to the Government.

If you have any questions about the University’s plan, please contact the Secretary of the BSL Working Group:

BSL Working Group

Group Secretary

British Sign Language (BSL) users can contact us via contactSCOTLAND-BSL.