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.

Jason Green Joins The BdB Team

Staff Disability Network Chair Jason Green has for some time been assisting BdB core member Adrian Tagg with his elective Part 3 Module Inclusive Environments (CE3CIE), Jason is a wheelchair user and has worked at the UoR for a number of years.

This academic year he has co-delivered a lecture on Transport as well as assisting with practical sessions where abled bodied students use wheelchairs to access the UoR campus in order to help them understand the  physical restrictions of the existing built environment. His guidance and advice has been paramount in adding value to student’s learning in the audit and design of buildings to maximise inclusivity.

Jason is a published author and he represents staff with disability at the UoR on a wide variety of personal, professional and practical issues. We’re delighted to officially welcome him to the BdB team and look forward to his future positive contributions.