University of Otago manager, disability information and support, Melissa Lethaby said the new guidelines were a "fantastic" achievement, with many positive benefits.
Ms Lethaby is a former co-president, of Achieve, a national network to support equal opportunity in post-secondary education for people with impairments.
The new guidelines follow the Irish educational practice of allowing 10 minutes of extra time per hour in examinations for people with an impairment or disability, and also allow some further time and other support, as appropriate.
The guidelines, developed collaboratively after a national survey of New Zealand’s 29 tertiary educational institutions, involved a "significant piece of work", Ms Lethaby said.
The guidelines provided more certainty about examinations for the country’s growing numbers of students with disabilities, and also helped New Zealand live up to its international obligations to provide an "equitable pathway" to success in tertiary education for all students, she said. The study was funded by Ako Aotearoa, the national centre for tertiary teaching excellence, and Achieve, which commissioned the work.
Independent sociologist Dr Martha Bell and project administrator Rachel ’Aluesi, both of Dunedin, also helped bring the guidelines together.
Dr Bell undertook a survey of the use of "alternative arrangements" to provide extra time and other support in examinations, for tertiary students with impairments and living with disabilities.
The research found all the country’s tertiary institutions provided alternative arrangements for students with impairments, and 82% of the institutions using tests and examinations allowed 10 minutes of extra time per hour for students with impairments, with flexibility to provide further time. Provision of supports to ensure equitable learning outcomes to students with disability was "not consistent and is not guaranteed across the public tertiary education sector", Dr Bell said.
After further work, including consultation and further feedback, the new procedures and guidelines were recently sent out to all tertiary institutions.