Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability

Pathways15: Department of Education, Skills and Employment - Higher Education

Rajan Martin, Assistant Secretary, Governance, Quality and Access Branch, Higher Education Division

The Australian Government wants to ensure that students with disability can access and participate in higher education on the same basis as students without disability.

To specifically assist higher education students with disability, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment administers the Higher Education Disability Support Program (DSP) and the National Disability Coordination Officer Program which target the needs of students with disability to support the cost of adjustments required to attend university and remove barriers to access, participation and subsequent employment.

Changes to the DSP commenced this year. The changes respond to the 2015 evaluation of the program and consultation with the sector during 2016. The changes ease the administrative burden on universities by removing the need to submit small claims, ensure support for students with high cost needs, allow universities to claim for staff development, and direct more funding to the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET).

The Government’s 2020 higher education reforms aim to deliver more job-ready graduates in the disciplines and regions where they are needed most and help drive the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The package includes reform of equity funding, that will ensure regional and remote students receive greater support in accessing and succeeding in higher education.

The Disability Standards for Education help people understand the rights of students with disability, and make clear the obligations and responsibilities of education providers to students with disability. The Department, on behalf of the Minister for Education, is currently undertaking a review of the Standards. The Review is asking whether the Standards are doing their job and, if not, how they could be improved. Public consultations have recently closed. The final Review Report will be provided to the Minister for Education in December 2020, and presented to all governments for consideration in early 2021.

The Department is working to improve the visibility of student outcomes by developing a stronger evidence base for equity policy and programs. Key projects include the Student Equity in Higher Education Evaluation Framework and the Widening Participation Longitudinal study.

The Minister for Education has established the Equity in Higher Education Panel (EHEP), to provide advice and make recommendations on strategic issues relating to improving student equity in higher education, including on issues facing students with disability. As part of its work, the EHEP is developing a national Student Equity in Higher Education Roadmap (the Roadmap), a five year strategy aligned with the higher education reform agenda and COVID-19 recovery measures. Consultation on the Roadmap will commence shortly.


Rajan Martin is the Assistant Secretary of the Governance, Quality and Access Branch within the Department of Education. As part of this role he is responsible for quality, equity, infrastructure and regional, rural and remote initiatives in higher education.

He has worked in the public sector in senior policy and program implementation roles for over 20 years including in areas of aged care, Indigenous health and hearing and disability care.