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Research question

What are the personal and structural barriers to self-advocacy, how do they impact students with mental health conditions, and how can they be addressed?


Project team

  • Arianna Ponte, undergraduate student reading Human, Social & Political Sciences
  • Josephine Ariti-Alamonte, undergraduate student reading Natural Sciences
  • Anna Freed, undergraduate student reading Archaeology
  • Lisa Bernhardt, postgraduate student studying Sociology


Project report



This project sought to explore undergraduate students' experiences of and barriers to self-advocacy with respect to their educational and mental health needs, and recommend effective practices to alleviate any adverse differences that students who must self-advocate experience. The key findings were:

  • The overall confidence of students in self-advocating is relatively low, with the University being generally considered unhelpful in making the endeavour of self-advocacy easier
  • There was consistent praise for services specialising in supporting students, contrasting the mixed feedback on support from academics themselves (e.g. Directors of Studies, College Tutors, etc)
  • Applying for adjustments for exams and/or supervisions is complicated by highly formal processes
  • Personal barriers to effective self-advocacy are mostly internalised ableism and a lack of energy, while structural barriers include long waiting times, difficulty-to-navigate bureaucracy, and being faced with ableist attitudes

The most frequent suggestions for change included extensive staff training, increased administrative support, and the provision of templates / how-to guides; some templates and guides already exist, which points to a lack of awareness and/or promotion of these resources. We recommend a centralised resource hub dedicated to facilitating student self-advocacy, training for students focused on logistical education and developing emotional skills, and check-ins on student experiences of support needs.