Student ambassador: Students with disabilities too often get stuck at the University of Copenhagen

Bo Gad Køhler is a student ambassador at the University of Copenhagen, and he has some good advice on how the study boards at the university can better meet their students with disabilities, because that is what is needed. Photo: Anders Fjeldberg to Uniavisen


Study life – One third of all inquiries to student ambassador of the University of Copenhagen come from students with disabilities.

The group of students with disabilities are the ones who most often get stuck in connection with the internal workflows at the University of Copenhagen (KU).

Student ambassador Bo Gad Køhlert from the university prepared a statement on the inquiries he received in 2020 for Uniavisen, which suggests this.

“Unfortunately, I have to say that in general, the case processing situation, and the way in which the students’ cases are processed and informed, could be somewhat better. ” Bo Gad Køhlert says.

The students with disabilities who approach him either want to complain about a rejection of an application for help, or they have questions about how to design an application.

One third of all inquiries

Response can provide students with the help they need – and put them on equal footing with others.

In total, Bo Gad Køhlert received 667 inquiries from the students at KU in 2020, and of these, 223 came from the group of students with disabilities.

This equates to 33 percent of all inquiries to the Student Ambassador coming from students with disabilities, making the group the largest in his statistics from 2020.

In comparison, all 667 inquiries to him in 2020 accounted for only about two percent of KU’s 37,500 students. The number of inquiries to the student ambassador has been stable in recent years.

Months of gruelling struggle

The rules in the area say that dispensations and changes with an appropriate adaptation must be able to compensate for the disability that a student has, and it is basically always the study boards in an education that grant a dispensation.

This may be the case, for example, when some students with disabilities apply for special teaching or examination conditions that they believe they need in their daily teaching to be able to compensate for, e.g., a physical disability.

If the study board refuses, the student can appeal the decision. But it can take many months to get their case re-evaluated. And the whole process can be very gruelling for the student because the rules are so complicated.
An example of a rule that can be difficult to figure out is a physical aid such as an IT backpack (can be a laptop with programs that can, for example, help people with dyslexia or with visual impairment with spelling and reading).

The student must normally apply through SPS (Special Pedagogical Support) scheme of the state at a university, but in some incredibly special cases the student must find funding for it elsewhere than through his or her own university.

The student must normally apply through SPS schemeb of the state at a university, but in some incredibly special cases the student must find funding for it elsewhere than through his or her own university.


Most inquiries in statistics for 2020 of the Student Ambassador are about exemptions. There were 107 inquiries of this kind from students with disabilities.

Dispensation covers that students with (and without) disabilities ask for the Student Ambassador’s help to apply for special tools or get changed conditions in the teaching situation or for exams based on so-called unusual conditions.

In the student ambassador’s statistics, there is another type of inquiry about legal appeal, which also has an impact on the total number of cases.

According to Bo Gad Køhlert, 57 of all legal complaints came from students with disabilities.
In addition, the Student Ambassador received a total of 59 inquiries from students with disabilities in areas such as admission, SU, harassment, discharge, postponement of thesis, complaint about exams, sick leave and other, where their disability seemed to have an impact on their situation.

A total of 223 students with disabilities have approached the Student Ambassador in 2020.

Dispensation is often about exam

Bo Gad Køhlert told Uniavisen in 2018 that it is important for students with disabilities to know the rules of the Discrimination Act (which says that the University of Copenhagen must take appropriate measures so that a person with a disability can gain access to employment and education), if they should have a chance to get the help they are entitled to and need when they apply at their study board.

According to Bo Gad Køhlert, it often happens that KU’s students with disabilities need a dispensation from a current rule in connection with exams to pass the exam on an equal footing with other students.

“Dispensation cases are most often about an exam situation. It can be students who are applying for a longer exam time or for a longer preparation time. It can also be about being allowed to take exams in special rooms to have peace around you,” Bo Gad Køhlert says.

Adequate response requirements

Bo Gad Køhlert says that a study board must always make a decision based on an estimate, and if a student is rejected, there is some administrative framework for how the study board must convey that estimate.

“And the less complete an answer from the study board, the greater the basis for, based on administrative law principles, that the student can appeal the decision by submitting a legal appeal,” Bo Gad Køhlert says. This can be done in several ways:

“The student may claim not to have received a sufficiently reasoned decision; that the case has not been adequately informed or, in the worst cases, that the Board of Studies has simply not complied with the paragraphs which it would otherwise have to deal with before making a decision,” Bo Gad Køhlert says.

From the many inquiries, it also appears that doubts often arise about what the study board has emphasized in the student’s application in connection with a refusal.

“Unfortunately, I can see that these are the kinds of inquiries I often receive. Of course, I only see a small part of everything that goes on at KU. But there is a tendency,” Bo Gad Køhlert says.

More thorough case management, please

To avoid such cases, the student ambassador proposes a more thorough case processing.

“A number of study boards, dispensation committees and caseworkers could put more effort into examining the student’s situation better. They should have a thorough knowledge of the legal basis and justify a possible refusal adequately – and based on case law. That would give the students less reason to complain,” Bo Gad Køhlert says.

Although in principle it is the study boards that grant dispensations to students, the picture is complicated according to Bo Gad Køhlert by the fact that some study boards have delegated some of their decision-making competence regarding more administrative matters to purely administrative staff who prepare and complete case processing of the study board.

This can happen if there is only an application deadline that has been exceeded, or there are other practical conditions that do not require a professional assessment on an unprecedented basis. Then a subcommittee under the study board can make the decision. This can also be done as a purely administrative decision.


The National Board of Appeal describes the framework for when the Discrimination Act applies to people with disabilities. The law itself lies with Legal Information.

If the help the student is seeking only has to do with finances, the student should not apply to his / her study board.

The Discrimination Act also has nothing to do with the SU. There are completely different rules.

Professional understanding should be included in considerations

Bo Gad Køhlert is nevertheless satisfied that, in principle, it is the study boards that decide whether a dispensation should be granted.

“There I could get worries, if it is people who do not have insight into the professional, who have to make decisions that must be based on professional assessments,” Bo Gad Køhlert says.

He emphasizes that it is stated in the University Act that it is the study boards that make the decision to grant a dispensation, and that the University of Copenhagen must comply with the law.

“It also makes good sense that it is those who have the professional insight into the educations who make decisions about dispensation. The student with a disability must be fairly equal and must not receive adjustments that put the student with a disability better than other students,« Bo Gad Køhlert says.


Anders Fjeldberg, journalist