Frances Lewin conducted research entitled “Sign language interpreting support for Deaf university students. How well is the current system working?”

She gathered feedback from deaf students and Interpreters about the University experience and found the following.

Challenges for Deaf Students

Here are the key challenges faced by deaf students.

  • The DSA budget is £21,305 per year (correct in 2017/2018).  This is often not enough to cover all the students lectures and study skills sessions.
  • The study revealed that approximately one-third of students could not attend because the funds had run out. This undoubtedly adds to additional stress. 
  • Just under half of those surveyed said their interpreting support was not in place for them to start their studies.
  • Deaf students also commented that they not always able to choose their Interpreters. 
  • More than half the students said organising this support was difficult worrying or stressful.
  • Some deaf students leave Higher Education due to insufficient interpreting support.

Sign Language Interpreters

One of the current challenges for Sign Language Interpreters is the DSA QAG Registration process. 

DSA QAG is an organisation that audits suppliers providing support for deaf and disabled students. To provide support, you must go through a registration process and complete a yearly Audit.

Training courses

Interpreters must also undertake the following training courses: Confidentiality and Data Protection, Health and Safety, Lone Working, Safeguarding and Professional Boundaries.

Interpreters must complete this training to work with deaf students.


It can be easy to believe that agencies are purely there to make money from providing this support.  In some cases this may be true, but not always.

We are a part of a working group made up of a range of other agencies.  This group was established to safeguard the quality of services for deaf students and remove the barriers and challenges.
Which is something that we at terptree feel passionately about.


Agencies experience similar challenges to deaf students and Sign Language Interpreters.

  • Many budgets not large enough to cover all of the support because it has to be shared with others who are also providing support.
  • A lack of consistency across Interpreter support.  Deaf students often receive a late DSA Assessment and only receive that term’s timetable a few weeks before they start.

The lack of lead time necessary, makes it very difficult to provide consistent support.

Other challenges

And some additional challenges that are faced by businesses providing this support are:

  • SFE take 30 days to process invoices – therefore the invoices sent are only just beginning to be enter the system on the day that we are paying Interpreters.
  • Universities are unwilling to pay for cancelled sessions that are dismissed by SFE
  • Requests to provide support at the very last minute
  • SFE not paying for breaks that Interpreters are taking during the day

Working together

These are just some of the issues currently facing agencies.  We are working together to try and resolve them, so the effects are not felt by deaf students and Interpreters. But there is some anxiety amongst us that – as they have done every single year – the problems will exacerbate.

Student dissatisfaction

Many students have come to us for support after being let down by other suppliers.  This demonstrates the levels of dissatisfaction with the level of support deaf students are receiving.

We would really welcome your views, so please do hit respond and let us know:

  • The challenges that you have experienced supporting University students?
  • What could be done to make things better?