The Challenges of Employability for Students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) at the School of Construction Management & Engineering

Current data published on the Unistats website ( ) indicates that 95% of graduates from the School of Construction Management & Engineering (SCME) at the University of Reading (UoR) are in employment or full time study 6 months after graduation. This is broadly in line with a report undertaken by current BdB member Adrian Tagg and BdB co-founder Dr Geoff Cook which examined the employability outcomes of students with disability and Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) between 2013 and 2017.

The undergraduate courses provided by SCME are highly vocational with students specialising in Building Surveying, Construction Management and Quantity Surveying. These lead students into professional positions within the Construction and Real Estate sectors. The nature of graduate-level work undertaken in Professional Practice involves construction sites and real estate assets. This is highly restrictive to persons with physical disabilities and has probably restricted their registration onto courses. However there are significant numbers of students on SCME courses that have recognised cognitive disabilities, which the University Disability Advisory Service (DAS) identifies as ‘specific learning difficulties (SpLD)’ such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or Asperger’s.

In summary the report audited 500 graduates from the SCME identifying the following key findings:

  • The combined cohort numbers are 500 and of this 57 (11.4%) are registered as ‘disabled’ with the University Disability Advisory Service.
  • Academically there is little difference (1.36%) between the overall average cohort marks of students with and without disability, however those with disability achieved less first class degrees and only 2 students with disability went on to further study compared with 25 students without disability
  • Concerning employability the SCME has overall high employability with an average or 96.15% of graduates in employment or further study within 6 months of graduating. Concerning students with disability 97.36% are employed or undertaking further study. This illustrates that students with disability do not appear disadvantaged with securing graduate employment.
  • Employers largely use online application processes and various computer aided sift mechanisms. Historically it is believed the degree classification and BTEC / A-Level grades were important but increasingly these are changing as employers seek more inclusive and less discriminatory methods to select the best candidates. A CV still has considerable importance in the application process and is actively used to shortlist candidates. Employers appear to be embracing inclusion and diversity with evidence of senior staff with specific learning difficulties proving there are no barriers to promotion or career development for employees with disability.
  • 50% of graduates made up to 5 job applications and 44% up to 10 with one survey responder making more than 10 applications. On average for the 2017 cohort there were 1.8 job offers per graduate and there is no evidence to suggest multiple job applications lead to multiple job offers. All of the graduates had to undertake online applications with all having also to submit a CV and / or covering letter. Degree classification or graduates with A-Levels V BTEC had little noticeable effect on job offers. Students with placement experience received nearly 3 times as many jobs offers as those who did not undertake a placement. Despite good employability statistics and 94% overall satisfaction with the SCME support for employability, feedback has suggested that more SCME employability support is required. CV and letter writing as well as interview technique were the areas identified by graduates where improved support is necessary. In particular 75% of graduates with disability indicated this as an area where more support is needed.
  • Importantly there are significant limitations with the findings concerning data received from student surveys or questionnaires. In all cases overall student response rates to destination surveys (both DLHE and SCME) were below 60% and the response rate for the 2017 employability exit survey was less than 20%. The overall response rates are poor and have the potential to distort the findings on the assumption that students who are most engaged are likely to get jobs and engaged students with jobs are likely to respond to the survey(s).


In conclusion; having a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) at the SCME is not a barrier to academic success and importantly there is no evidence to suggest SpLD graduates are disadvantaged in the work place upon graduating from the UoR.

Please contact Adrian Tagg ( ) if you would like further information or a copy of the report.

Welcoming Ugo to our BdB team

We’re delighted to welcome Ugo Marsili to the BdB team. Ugo brings his experience of working with Blind and Deaf communities, as well as his expertise in languages, to our team.

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Ugo Marsili

My name is Ugo Marsili, I am a Teaching Fellow (Italian and Spanish) and a module convener for Spanish stage 1 and BSL stage 1 and 2. I have been teaching foreign language courses (Italian and Spanish) on the undergraduate programme of the Institution-Wide Language Programme (IWLP) and in the DMLES as sessional lecturer. I will be Fellow of the HEA this September (pending formaI ratification) and I am a member of the LGBT + Scheme.

I hold a MA in Linguistic and Literary Studies (Polish, South American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese) and a PgDip in audio visual Translation for the Cinema and Performing Arts (subtitling for the Deaf and HoH and Audio Description for the Blind) from the University of Poznań. I hold an MSc in Teaching Italian Language to Adults and a Teacher Training Diploma from DILIT International House. I have been teaching MFL in Poland, Italy, Argentina and UK.

I am a School Champion for Diversity and Inclusion and a member of the steering group. I am very committed to Diversity and Inclusion and work with both the Blind and Deaf communities. I run Deaf Awareness and Blind Awareness session for staff with the CQSD Programme and I collaborate within my School and with other departments to reflect and develop materials for inclusive teaching. The project I am working at the moment is related to the use of Audio Description applied to language teaching.

As a teacher, my main area of interest is in developing students’ speaking skills in a foreign language and the role of the affective filter and its influence in students’ fluency in language learning. In particular my interest is in analysing the strong connection between emotions, memory and language retention of vocabulary and grammar structures in students with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. I try to encourage them to work on their speaking skills inside and outside the classroom. In the past two years, I have been working on a Tandem project between IWLP and Native speaker students (Italian and Spanish) to boost speaking skills and cultural awareness and to enhance the language learning experience.

As an AVT trainer I cooperate with public and private foundations in Poland and UK. Our aim is to enhance employability skills for people living in countries such as Poland, Belarus, Iceland and Georgia and ensure a barrier-free access to culture.  In the next years I am committed to develop and expand the BSL Programme which I am proud is taught here at the University of Reading.

I believe in a non-denominational education based on solidarity and acceptance of the “other”. I encourage students to develop their interpersonal skills in the language they learn as well as feel part of a cultural and linguistic community.

At the University of Reading, our students come from all around the world and this makes their learning experience even more interesting. I like to build a relationship with them and watching them grow as independent learners and motivate them to keep learning other languages.

On a personal note, I studied Oboe at the Conservatory in Rome, Italy. I am into music as I am into learning new languages. I have a background in linguistic and philology in Romance and Slavonic languages and I am always up to learn a new one. I enjoy travelling, sports and cooking.

Welcoming Carolina to our BdB team

We’re delighted to welcome Carolina Vasilikou to our multidisciplinary BdB team!

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Carolina Vasilikou

Carolina is an architect, researcher and educator, currently working as a lecturer in Architecture at the University of Reading. She holds a MSc in Façade Engineering from the University of Bath and a PhD in Architecture from the University of Kent, were she taught prior to joining Reading. Carolina is also a core member of ‘Urban Transcripts’, a non-profit organisation bringing together research, community participation and urban design, currently developing their Urban Play platform.

Carolina has led projects on sensory research and well-being in urban spaces, including a Digital Humanities project on sensory mapping and an AHRC-funded community engagement project on sensory navigation in heritage cities. She is active in people-centred design and evidence-based research, has given lectures at the Architectural Association, ENSA Paris-Malaquais, Glasgow School of Arts and is member of the ‘International Association of Urban Climate’ (Thermal Comfort working Group) and the CIBSE ‘Intelligent Buildings’ Working Group. As a core member of the Urban Living Group in Reading, she explores embodied multisensory perception in relation to space and movement in complex urban environments, with a performative turn through hybrid practices, community mapping & designing-by-making practices.

Carolina is interested in projects about well-being and public participation through innovative practices, exploring sensory heritage and socio-cultural values of architecture and facets of urban activism and community-led practices. She coordinates and facilitates international workshops on public space (Athens: Transforming the [re]public, 2017), somatics design for able spaces (We are All Able Bodies active workshop, Madrid 2018) and student projects on designing-by-making (per[FORM], 2018; Urban Room Built Structure,  Reading 2019). Member of the International Ambiances Network, Carolina researches movement in its architectural expression to re-define inclusive spaces. She performs as an improviser (CPT, 2018–2019).