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Universal Design for Learning

NEW: A vision for education and skills at Newcastle University: Education for Life 2030+

Supporting students with specific needs

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) recognises the diversity of different learners’ abilities and experiences by providing multiple ways for your students to engage with their course materials. Applying the UDL approach to your learning and teaching design ensures all learners will be able to demonstrate their learning without unnecessary challenges unrelated to the academic content of the course. This approach can benefit all learners and helps you eliminate guesswork whether the course or teaching you do will be accessible - cognitively and physically - to everyone.

Strategies include:

  • Providing multiple means of representation and supporting materials (diagrams, illustrations, glossary of terms, etc.) using a variety of modalities and adjustable formats.
  • Providing multiple modes of action and expression. Offer a range of assessments for students to demonstrate learning and frequent opportunities for feedback on progress.
  • Providing multiple means of engagement. Encourage learner autonomy with choice of topics or assignment formats. Invite students to co-design elements of classroom activities or assignments. 

Many of the following elements of normal teaching practice have particular importance for students with disabilities:

  • Providing electronic copies of handouts – students can format these to meet their own needs and generate alternate formats (e.g. text to speech) with Ally and Immersive Reader.
  • Using clear fonts on materials presented.
  • Making ReCap recordings available.
  • Highlighting essential elements of reading lists.

Support from Student Health and Wellbeing Service

Newcastle University’s Student Health and Wellbeing Service hosts a variety of resources, advice and policy documents about working with students with disabilities and/or specific learning difficulties. The service liaises with academic schools over students' support requirements and works with external agencies where appropriate.

Where individual adjustments are needed, Student Health and Wellbeing can provide advice on the most appropriate provision and will liaise with other university services (e.g. the Library, NUIT, Estates, Accommodation) to ensure that students have access to the facilities and support they require. Advisers from the service work with individual students to define Student Support Plans (SSPs). If colleagues have specific questions relating to individual students, they should contact the adviser who authored the SSP or with

SWS disseminates information through their website and have liaison points in each school.

Related posts

If you would like to learn more, explore Newcastle University's case studies, blog posts and podcast episodes:


Useful articles

A short video by students at Trinity (Trinity co-op).

Webinar resources and recording from the Future Teacher series.

AdvanceHE subject based resources (2011)

An article from the Learning and Teaching blog.

Kevin Johnson, describes the Supportive Practice Tool in this 6 minute lightning talk.


Resources for your students

Services to support staff and student wellbeing.

Advice on developing your academic skills and information about where you can go for support.

Click and collect, alternative formats, study rooms, and height adjustable desks.

Newcastle University recognises the specific needs and challenges student carers can face.