Assessment, disability and the problem of compensation

Earle, Sarah and Sharp, Keith (2000). Assessment, disability and the problem of compensation. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 25(2) pp. 191–199.



The number of disabled students within higher education in the UK is thought to have increased significantly in recent years and is expected to increase further in the next few years. The practice of permitting disabled students to take an alternative form of assessment is commonly used as a means of providing them with an equality of opportunity. However, whilst these aims are commendable, this widely used practice raises a number of issues and is open to several criticisms. This paper examines the implications of allowing the use of alternative forms of assessment in the light of the principles by which we assess. It suggests that the use of alternative assessments is compensatory in nature and, as a result, ultimately threatens to subvert the equality of opportunity it aims to provide. The authors conclude that this widely used practice violates the principles of assessment and undermines the validity of assessment in higher education.

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