Student Disability Service

Reasonable adjustments and competence standards

Guidance for staff on the implementation of adjustments in the context of academic or professional competence standards

The Equality Act 2010, defines a “competence standard” as an academic, medical, or other standard applied for the purpose of determining whether or not a person has a particular level of competence or ability.

As long as the competence standards of a course of study are robust and non-discriminatory, then these standards are NOT subject to adjustment for disabled students.

Although there is no legal duty to alter a competence standard, the University may need to consider adjustments to the process by which it assesses a competence standard.

In practice, this means that if a disabled student seeks and is entitled to support proposed by the Student Disability Service, the academic School must put that support in place. This may require adjustment to how the student demonstrates that they have achieved the required competence standard.



When assessing the competence standard of a person’s ability to read French it may be a reasonable adjustment to provide a visually impaired student with text in a large font.  This does not impact on their capacity to demonstrate they have achieved the relevant competence standard.

The requirement for students studying for a Law degree to demonstrate a particular standard of knowledge of certain areas of law in order to obtain the degree, is a competence standard.  Adjustments should not compromise this competence.

A requirement that a person completes a text in a certain time period is not a competence standard unless the competence being tested is the ability to do something within a limited time period.

Further guidance:

Equality Challenge Unit: competence standards and reasonable adjustments:

General Medical Council Gateways Guidance:

Equality and Human Rights Commission: Equality Act 2010 Technical Guidance on Further and Higher Education:


Feburary 2018