I receive a number of cases relating to issues surrounding reasonable adjustments and competency standards. They are always difficult to advise on because they are very fact specific and are not of the nature where you can give general advice on the issue. You really do have to look into the individual facts of the case to be able to decide how best proceed.
However here are some recent OIA decisions on the issue –
A medical student at a University of failed the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and was unable to proceed onto the next academic year. The student submitted a Complaint to the OIA after the University level appeal was rejected. The student’s position was that they should have been allowed additional time in the OSCEs pursuant to their disability and it was a reasonable adjustment.
The OIA found that the ability to complete OCSE stations within a specified time is widely accepted to be a competence standard. The OIA decided that the University had acted reasonably in the circumstances and that the complaint was Not Justified.
In another case the OIA has found that the University does need to demonstrate that the formal, timed, unseen examination format is itself testing a genuine competence standard that cannot be tested in any other way or format. The Equality Act does not prevent universities from treating disabled students more favourably than other students in order to remove a disadvantage.
It is simply not enough to cite it is a competency standard, Universities need to be able to demonstrate the competency standard being tested and further demonstrate how that standard cannot be tested by another format, say a viva or presentation.
Always a difficult area and the rules on this are always evolving. The key is do not take the Universities word for it, explore the law and the options available to you if you are disabled student and require reasonable adjustments.