Studying with a disability or chronic illness
The University of Münster offers a variety of advice and support services to students with disabilities and chronic illnesses. On the following pages, you will find information on your options for obtaining compensation for disadvantages when taking examinations. For more general information, visit the website of the Student Advice and Counselling Centre (ZSB). There you will learn what other advice services may be relevant to your situation.
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What does “compensation for disadvantages” mean?
Compensation for disadvantages serves to provide students with substantiated impairments, e.g. disabilities or chronic illnesses, the chance to amply demonstrate what they have learned in their studies. The idea is to compensate for a burden that would normally put the student at a disadvantage. Compensation for disadvantages should not lead to an unfair advantage over other examinees, so in other words, the measures should not go beyond compensating for the disadvantage.
How do I request compensation for disadvantages?
You can informally request compensation for disadvantages from the Examinations Office. In your informal application, you must clearly specify for which subjects or degree programmes you wish to receive compensation and, if applicable, for how long. Your application must fulfil two essential criteria:
1. You must substantiate that your impairment meets the requirement of compensation for disadvantages.
2. The form of compensation for which you are applying must be reasonable and appropriate.
Furthermore, your request for compensation for disadvantage must include the data protection statement and consent form on the collection and storage of personal data.
How do I substantiate that I have an impairment in need of compensation?
To substantiate your impairment, please submit a medical or disability certificate. The document should specify what your impairment is. This does not mean that it must provide a diagnosis. The important thing is that your impairment is certified by your doctor. It is not sufficient for you to describe it yourself.
What is an appropriate compensation?
The compensation you request must be defined in such a way that it allows you to adequately demonstrate your skills in the context of a degree-relevant examination or required coursework.
For instance, if your examination regulations require you to hold the oral examination in English, it is not possible to substitute the requirement by an oral examination in German. Likewise, a written examination cannot be substituted by a written term paper. In a written exam, you must produce results under time constraints. You have to demonstrate different skills and knowledge than you would in a term paper, in which you would normally apply and present academic working techniques, methodological know-how and the ability to carry out independent research.
Another scenario would be if a student were to take an exam in German which assessed their ability to write orthographically correct German by means of dictation. It wouldn’t be possible for a person with dyslexia to request compensation for disadvantages that forced the examiner to ignore all spelling mistakes in the dictation. A more reasonable solution would be to offer the candidate more time to complete the examination based on their individual situation.
As it is difficult to judge whether the compensation for disadvantages which you desire is indeed appropriate, representatives of the Disability and Access Resource Centre are available in each faculty to discuss your options.
Who decides on requests for compensation for disadvantages?
Depending on the degree programme, the application you submit to the Examinations Office is decided either by the Dean of the faculty or the responsible examinations board. The decisions are prepared by the Examinations Office in advance. This means that the Examinations Office assesses whether the impairment merits compensation and the requested compensation is appropriate. Sometimes we contact the applicant and request additional certificates or offer reformulated suggestions for the type of compensation that could be offered.
The decision on compensation for disadvantages is sent to you in writing. If approved, you will receive notification about the decision and a certificate which you can present to your instructors and examiners. The certificate, which does not specify your impairment, provides information on what kind of adjustments should be made to the examination conditions.
If your request is denied, you will receive written notification elucidating the reasons why your request was not approved.
What kind of requests for compensation for disadvantages are usually denied?
Applications for compensation for disadvantages are rejected when the student cannot substantiate his/her impairment. This usually happens when the doctor attests that the student does indeed have a chronic illness but does not define what type of impairments result from it. In such cases, the Examinations Office requests further documentation before the request is denied.
Sometimes applications for compensation are rejected if the type of compensation the student requests would make it impossible to adequately assess their competence or would afford them an unfair advantage over other examinees. For example, if your illness results in you not being able to concentrate (well) or limits your intellectual performance, you cannot receive compensation for this disadvantage because the purpose of an examination is to measure your intellectual performance (usually in a defined period of time).
I’ve received compensation for disadvantages. What must I do to ensure that it is taken into account?
Enclosed with the notification of the decision, you will find a “Certificate for Presentation to Instructors”. It is crucial that you present this certificate to your instructors or the office in charge of organising examinations so that they are informed of your compensation for disadvantages. The Examinations Office does not share information about your compensation of disadvantages with the faculties.
What happens to my data?
The documents you include with your application for compensation for disadvantages remain in your examination files. Upon concluding your studies, these files are transferred to the University Archive for permanent storage. You have the right to access your files in the University Archive, as do other administrative offices who act on your behalf, e.g. if you ask the Examinations Office to issue you a copy of your graduation documents.