Management Responsibilities Toolkit Preparation

Funding and withdrawal


Funds are adequate to provide effective support to disabled learners and tauira and flexible withdrawal policies exist that allow withdrawal without academic or financial penalty if learners withdraw because of an impairment.

Best practice standards

  1. Clear withdrawal policies and procedures exist, allowing withdrawal without academic or financial penalty if learners withdraw from subjects or courses after scheduled closing dates because of an impairment.
  2. Withdrawal policy and procedures are known to all learners and implemented consistently.
  3. Adequate funds are generated in the fee structure and/or through other nonoperating grant sources to provide effective services to support disabled learners, and disabled learners receive the same services as their nondisabled peers.
  4. Funding for disabled learners is used as set out by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

“It must be a requirement of the university’s core funding. Nothing to do with specialised funding streams at all … It’s got to be part of the everyday, core business-as-usual mentality. It’s got to come from the very top.”

- Academic Staff and Disability Services, Tertiary Institution and Polytechnic.


"A disabled learner is unwell at the time of their exam and cannot sit. They apply for special consideration and this is granted. A special exam is scheduled but the learner is still unwell and cannot sit. There is no further consideration available. I believe the option should be an exceptional withdrawal or a special exam (right up to the day before the scheduled exam).
In addition, there are instances where learners sustain injuries and on the advice of a GP think they will be well enough to continue. As the semester progresses, they realise that it is unrealistic and/or detrimental to their health to continue. The date has passed to withdraw with a full refund so the learner has to apply for an exceptional withdrawal with a partial refund.”

- Disability Services Staff, Tertiary Institution.

Ideas and resources to consider

  • Ideally learners shouldn’t receive an academic or financial penalty when they’re required to withdraw as a result of an impairment. Staff should have clear guidelines for making decisions about learners withdrawal conditions.
  • In the future, the TEC is proposing that learner success plans and disability action plans will encourage and reward the tailoring of learning and support to address learner needs, and build organisational capability to support disabled learners. It is also proposed that the TEC will recognise that accommodating some learners comes at a higher cost by making funding available to TEOs to help cover this.3

What you need to know

  • According to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC):4
    • The fees set for international learners are expected to meet the additional cost for services and support provided for domestic learners, including disability support services.
    • Equity funding for students with disabilities is allocated for initiatives to meet the needs of disabled learners and is focused on domestic learners only.
    • Institutions receiving this equity funding are expected to:
      • Also provide financial support for tertiary disabled learners from other funding.
      • Meet physical access modifications from funding other than that provided as specific support for disabled learners
      • Provide baseline data on enrolment numbers, course participation and completion rates, and graduation or certification rates of tertiary disabled learners.
      • Include appropriate information, where possible in alternative formats, for tertiary disabled learners in marketing, publicity and enrolment material.

Some key themes from the special interest groups about funding and withdrawal:

  • Disability services, tertiary institution – funding
  • “A lot of them don’t come from families or places where they have the financial ability to go and get that extra specialised help [for] the diagnosis that they need, so they can actually get the support that they should have.... That’s really concerning for me as well.”
  • “If a learner doesn’t already have an assessment or diagnosis, it should be up to that organisation to provide money to support this (if they require it)…. [They’ve] insisted on people having a full-blown diagnosis, which is a very big financial barrier for most people.”

Engaging disabled learners

  • Like other learners, some disabled learners face financial hardship. Check through focus groups and engagements surveys to find out if these learners think withdrawal policies and procedures are being implemented fairly and effectively, and get their ideas for service improvement.
  • Get feedback about the best ways to lessen the financial burden on disabled learners through targeted additional financial support.
  • It is critical that focus groups and engagement surveys with disabled learners measure their satisfaction with the learning support they have received, and any ideas they may have for improving their support.

Case Studies

  • Tertiary institutions can lessen the financial burden on disabled learners through targeted additional financial support (e.g. scholarships, hardship funds, subsidised accommodation or other support) and by considering the financial status of disabled learners when setting fees.
  • Implementation of the Kia Ōrite toolkit does not necessarily mean an increase in cost. For example, the provision of lecture notes to all learners in an accessible electronic format can create savings in terms of staff time and salaries. Staff may no longer be required to photocopy and enlarge information, and the institution may no longer need to employ as many note takers if they use the notes already written electronically by teaching staff. It is also a valuable teaching tool for all learners.
  • If we are to create an inclusive teaching, learning and assessment environment for disabled learners, tertiary providers must create the infrastructure that makes it easy for teaching and other staff to support these learners.

For example, institution-wide policies and procedures for providing lecture notes in an accessible electronic format, support for teaching staff with copying, enlarging and transcribing information, tests, exams and other assessments.


3. Tertiary Education Commission/Ministry of Education. (2020). Unified Funding System Supporting disabled learners through the Learner Success Component. Wellington, New Zealand: Tertiary Education Commission.

4. Tertiary Education Commission. (4 April 2003). Use of the supplementary grant TSD for support of students with disabilities. Wellington, New Zealand: Tertiary Education Commission. pp. 1-3. 

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