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Bridging the funding gap for deaf students – Janey Lawry-White

Deaf Students Signing Classroom

Bridging the funding gap for deaf students

“I learnt about your courses at my church. I am very interested, but do you cater for profoundly deaf people like myself?”

Until a year ago at WTC, we had no idea just how tough it is for deaf students to study at tertiary levels. “Everything is a battle for us,” one of them told us.

WTC’s values include making our courses as accessible as possible to a wide range of students. We’ve done this through:

  • A delivery model which gives people the opportunity to study university validated courses while remaining at home and studying around their existing work and life commitments;
  • Outstanding study skills provision which is available to all students to help those with specific learning needs or who are just coming back to study after a long break, or who have never studied at university level;
  • Two WTC bursaries (i) for those on limited financial means and (ii) for those with a history of addiction and offending.


But until we received the email asking if we catered for deaf students, we’d never thought about how accessible our courses are for those who are deaf. 

In order to study, deaf students need:

  • Teams of British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation for lectures, virtual tutorials and socialising. (Teams are necessary because of the intensity of simultaneous translation.)
  • All engagement on screens subtitling, including introductory and study skills videos, pre-recorded lectures and virtual tutorials.
  • Note takers, because if you are ‘listening’ to the lecture by watching an interpreter, you can’t take notes at the same time
  • Any other support (for learning disorders such as dyslexia) which they might also benefit from.


Classroom Deaf StudentsThese services are available, but they come at a price…Thousands of pounds for one academic year’s study, which is way above the cost of the course fees, and too much for WTC to be able to fund on a regular basis from existing income.   

There are about 9 million deaf and hard of hearing adults in the UK. That is about 18% (or nearly 1/5th) of the total population. About 640,000 of these are profoundly or severely deaf. [1]  So, for those who would like to study past secondary school, where can they go for financial help to make this possible?

The total cost of service provision for one (or several) deaf students studying the same course in the same location with WTC in England for one year is around £30,000. Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is available from the government’s Student Finance Company (SFC), but only covers around half the cost of interpretation and support for one academic year. In N Ireland, costs are lower (around £15,000 a year) but no DSA is available to students who have already studied at tertiary level to do another undergrad qualification in theology. 

From the research we’ve done in house to identify alternative sources of funding, we have found only one trust – The Snowdon Trust – to which deaf students can apply. For undergrad courses, the Snowdon Trust gives about 100 grants each year  of up to £3,000 to individual students who are disabled. [2]

So, how can deaf church leaders and members of the signing churches in the UK study theology at university level?

From our experience, and that of other theological colleges, it can only happen if the colleges pick up the tab  for the difference between the cost and government support themselves – something which isn’t sustainable for most colleges without dedicated bursary funds. [3]

WTC was blessed by having two deaf students study with us for the year before lockdown. Because WTC had committed to providing the support needed for this first intake of deaf students, having said what a battle it is for them normally, one of them said, “But you have made it easy.”  

We would love to ‘make it easy’ for others in the deaf community to study Kingdom Theology with WTC; but we can’t do this without dedicated funding to cover the support costs needed for students on different courses and in different locations. 

Can you help us? Either by donating yourself, or with introductions to individuals or trusts who would welcome a conversation about giving to a dedicated bursary fund for deaf students?  

WTC needs around £15,000 per year per student for them to study with us. This is 15 people giving £1,000 a year for the duration of their studies, or 30 people giving £500 per year. Is this something you could commit to. If so, please contact Janey at

Thank you.

Footnotes:

[1] British Deaf Association estimate: Link Here.

[2] The Snowdon Trust Link

[3] Susan Myatt studied theology at the Northern Baptist College, who paid the difference between her DSA allocation and the real cost of her training. Link Here.

Janey LW_WTC StaffJaney Lawry-White joined the staff team at WTC to lead the Operations team in summer 2018 and completed the Graduate Diploma in June 2019. This role is quite a change from her previous ones – working on gender-based violence in humanitarian situations with the UN and international charities, running small businesses and working with the BBC. She loves working for an organisation which equips people to make a real difference in their community and church through studies.

Her own theological study was life-changing, significantly deepening her understanding of God’s Kingdom, how he engages with his people, and how this changes her perspective on herself and the world. Within the staff team, she works as Chief Operating Officer with Lucy and the rest of the Exec to provide strategic leadership for WTC, overseeing partnerships, consultancy, communications, IT, finance and HR, and generally trying to ensure that all the non-academic areas of WTC function as smoothly and effectively as possible.

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