Location/geographical coverage

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain

Background and description

The service born to address the needs of students with disabilities and specific educational needs (SEN) and to support them throughout their studies, from enrolment to graduatio. nIt is not possible to find the exact year in which the service started, but as per researches its activities are already mentioned at the beginning of the 2000s.

This support service works to guarantee that every person, independently from their disability or SEN, can access higher education with equality of opportunity, enjoying a full academic and social life as well as guaranteeing their autonomy at university. It wants to help students in identifying the adaptations and resources that most suit their individual needs.

Students followed by the service include people with physical, visual, auditive and multiple disabilities and those with learning or mental disorders.

For achieving these objectives, the service provides the university community with training, information and expert’s psycho-pedagogical advice, guidance and support for students and teachers, curricular adaptations, provision of technical, personal and material supports and resources, among others.

The main areas of work of the support service are:

  • Pedagogical unit: educational needs assessment; tutorials and individual monitoring; mediation with teaching staff.
  • Technological unit: educational resources which enable to follow classes.
  • Mobility: adapted transport and accompaniment on the campus.
  • Employment and career guidance: UABImpuls programme facilitating into the labour market.

These areas of work are further divided into main activities carried out by PIUNE, namely:

  • Pedagogical support – after the first interview with the student, they will have regular meetings with a psycho-educationalist to decide together whether the adaptations and adjustments for facilitating academic progress area adequate and make improvements to the curricular pathway, optimising academic performance
  • Exam adaptation – to support in finding out the most suitable adaptations for each student and giving the necessary information to be able to work out the best solution. There are no existing academic standards for exam adaptation and other assessment systems. The service works on an individual basis and propose the most reasonable adjustments for each student in collaboration with the academic staff. Notwithstanding, there are some adaptations that are usually proposed such as: additional time available; replacement of a written exam with an oral one or vice versa (according to the disability); exam questionnaires available to students according to their needs (e.g., enlargement of characters, transcription in Braille, sign language); human support (e.g., interpreters who know the subject, exam reader, exam writer); technical support materials (e.g., computer, text processors, special and accessible rooms).
  • ICT advice – special advice and training on the latest software and peripherals as well as other available resources which may help to follow the classed and improve access to information. PIUNE can lend resources so that the student can try before obtaining their own and it also offers access to teaching resources used by academic staff.
  • Study booths – at the end of 2006, PIUNE launched a project to offer students with physical disabilities or reduced mobility or with sensorial disabilities spaces with technical resources and accessible technologies to enable them to access information and work autonomously in the study rooms. These provide a study space equipped with the most innovative technical resources (such as, software, voice recognition programmes and magnified text programs, peripherals, adapted mouse and keyboard) for better access to information and communication.

Moreover, to facilitate the support for people with disabilities and/or SEN, PIUNE technical team offers training to library staff.

  • Materials in alternative formats – offering transcriptions of work linked to studies in alternative formats: digitization of documents to turn paper texts into electronic format; document recording to turn paper documents into audio documents; conversion of documents into Braille.
  • Support for mobility – the UAB has an internal bus service but sometimes the stops are a long way from the classes. Therefore, PIUNE offers students or future ones with reduced mobility an adapted transport service that can be used to move around the campus. The PIUNE adapted transport service is a personalised service which will take the student to the door of the building/room they will have to use. For students with orientation difficulties linked to sensory disabilities and/or some mobility problems, PIUNE offers an accompaniment service to support them when walking around the campus.
  • Classroom accessibility – making sure that classrooms are accessible with adequate lighting and adapted furniture according to the student’s needs. PIUNE also coordinates classroom changes when the rooms are difficult to access or study in.
  • Exchange programmes – coordinating with the host university abroad and informing the student on the philosophy and services offered there.
  • Scholarships – PIUNE can offer information and advice on different grant programmes, both public and private, which could help students to face the costs associated with studies and those deriving from the disability and/or specific educational need. The FundacióAutònomaSolidària[1] has set up its own line of funding for students with disabilities at the UAB, especially those who are dependent on other people. This line of funding aims to facilitate entry to the university and allow students to complete their higher education as a preparatory step to entry into the labour market. Students benefiting from this funding will receive a grant for personal assistance during the academic day and mobility assistance in cases where they have difficulty using the public transport system.
  • Support students – a resource aimed at students who have problems taking notes or who need support in some of the practical aspects of the classroom, such as laboratory activities or bibliographic searches. PIUNE assesses whether the student needs a buddy support and for which tasks and, then, helps in finding the student who can offer that support.
  • UAB Impuls Employment Programme – offered jointly by the PIUNE and the UAB Employment Service, it aims at facilitating entry into the labour market by students and graduates of the UAB with a disability or at risk of social exclusion. To do so, it offers services to both students and graduates with disabilities and also to companies. More specifically:
    • Services to students and graduates with disabilities
      • Advice in defining short- and medium-term objectives
      • Advice in producing different documents for employment search (CV, cover letter, etc.)
      • Information about different ways of looking for an employment
      • Recommendations on activities to develop key transferable competences (e.g., self-knowledge, communication, responsibility, organisation, proactiveness, team working)
      • Guidance to prepare for selection process
    • Services for companies
      • Advice on tax advantages
      • Communication of job offers and preselection of candidates
      • Advice on adaptations of the workplace and follow up after contracting
      • Awareness-raising and training activities

For a new student, the steps to access the service are to:

  1. Get informed – by looking at the dedicated website, calling the service or writing to it. They also organise talks, open days, etc.
  2. Register at the UAB – if the student has a disability certificate, it should be presented when registering at the university.
  3. Interview – allowing to assess the student’s needs. Based on that, the service will produce a report outlining the needed curricular adaptations.
  4. Faculty tutor – once selected by the faculty, the tutor will communicate the needed adaptations to the academic staff.
  5. Monitoring – throughout the academic year and the time of enrolment at the university.
  6. Assessment – available anytime the student needs it.
  7. Employment – accompanying students in entering the labour market.

The registration to the PIUNE service should be renewed each academic year.

Stakeholders and Partners

The services under PIUNE are addressed to students who

  • are in possession of a disability certificate
  • can justify a “special condition” for health reasons, whether permanent or temporary, such as learning disorders or physical injury, etc.

Each student has a tutor, a person responsible for coordinating the student support with the faculty or school and they have to respond to the Dean’s office, acting as a link between the PIUNE and other services, academic staff and students with SEN.

The number of students with some kind of recognised disability registered on the campus increases every year. In 10 years, the figure has gone from 80 students to 370.

The Fundació Autònoma Solidària, a university-based social organisation, coordinates the implementation of the PIUNE services and manages the funding to those services. They often receive the financial support of private companies or investors that allow to keep the service open.

Methodological Approach

As part of the service, beneficiary students receive adapted learning plans. At the basis of it, there is an educational strategy consisting in making elements of the curriculum more accessible taking into account the individual characteristics of each student. Generally, it is recommended to do “non-significant” adaptations in the sense that they do not modify basic elements of the curriculum, rather focus more on the methodology, organisation, setting, technological resources, etc. Beneficiary students can ask for support in doing their exams by:

  • Submitting a Special education needs report in person to the tutor of their faculty. The tutor will inform the professors.
  • Talking with their professors to identify themselves and agree on the details of support.
  • Filling in an online form for each exam. The form allows to specify the kind of adaptations required for the exam to be taken. PIUNE will then check, notify and confirm the adaptations requested by email to the contact address of the teacher provided by the student on the form.

Along with the services provided, raising awareness activities are foreseen. Indeed, each year, PIUNE organises a course addressed to the students of the UAB to provide a space for learning about functional diversity and inclusion. This awareness raising activity aims at bringing people closer to who has a disability.

The service offers also a UAB Tutoring Action Plan aiming to orientate, advice and offer support to UAB’s students in different aspects of their learning and early professional development with tutoring actions. It is a framework document which brings together different types of tutoring offered by the university to students during their academic career, considering the specific educational needs that they may have at any particular time.

Furthermore, the relationship with the teaching staff is fundamental for establishing and defining the necessary adaptations so that students with specific educational needs deriving from their disability can successfully achieve university-level studies.

PIUNE offers information and advice as well as materials and resources that are available to ensure that they can design their classes on the basis of accessibility to learning. The main services offered to teaching staff are:

  • Information and advice on disabilities and the responsibility of the university, curricular adaptations, accessible methodologies, design of materials and classroom resources, adapted technology, etc.
  • Special training on issues related to disability and/or specific educational needs according to requirements of the teaching staff

PIUNE offers materials and resources to UAB teaching staff and the tutors of students with disabilities and/or specific educational needs which can help them to understand their students and support them more effectively.


In the academic year 2018/2019, the service has reached the following

  • 223 students benefitting of the PIUNE services
  • 655 adaptations of assessment exams
  • 1233 accompaniments on adapted transport

In the year 2020/2021, the beneficiaries of the service were 384[2].

Innovation potential

It is a comprehensive support service that through both the methodological approach and the activities provided allows to target different challenges and barriers that students with disabilities and SEN face during the studies.

The actions foreseen as part of the wider service are crucial to ensure that all students, including the ones with disabilities and SEN, are able to not only access higher education, but also to succeed in their studies.

Through the different service provided, it allows to accompany students with disabilities and/or special educational needs from the enrolment to entering the labour market. In this way, it allows to guarantee the success of these students notwithstanding the challenges and barriers they might face in their daily lives.

The educational methodology behind it is based on the needs of the single student. This allows to identify which are the elements that can support them in succeeding in their studies, the specificities that should be addressed to allow them to being an active part of the academic life.

It also includes strategies and approaches to support them in entering the labour market, providing an opportunity for inclusion in the wider society once out of the university.

Success Factors

The main condition to allow the development of such service is a supportive organisational environment. The educational institution must be involved in the different phase of service development and implementation and be available in deploying resources to ensure that the service is effective.

The awareness on the issues addressed among the academic staff as well as all the actors involved in the education path is important to ensure that there is an overall effort in promoting the inclusion of all students. For this reason, the university organises also training courses and activities for raising awareness on disability and special education needs.

This has ensured that the whole university community is aware of how they can better contribute to the inclusion process of the students.

Regarding the economic conditions, the funding of the practice is ensured thanks to the work of the FundacióAutònomaSolidaria. Therefore, the participation of an actor that can support university in funding the different services and initiatives is a pre-condition for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the practice.


There is not detailed information on the challenges and barriers encountered for accessing the service. However, according to the information shared on the website, it is possible to say that further attention to awareness-raising actions fostering knowledge and capacities of academic staff in supporting the learning of students with disabilities and/or SEN. The development and implementation of a training course focused on this and addressed to professors might support advancement in this regard.

Lessons learned

Supporting students throughout their studies is crucial to ensure their active and successful participating in higher education. By having a comprehensive approach, the PIUNE service has been able over the years to follow students with disabilities and SEN in the different steps of their academic path.


Data are not available on the costs incurred for the services. Therefore, it is difficult to provide information on the sustainability of the service in economic terms.

The funding of the service in guaranteed by the Fundació Autònoma Solidaria. Its contribution allows to guarantee the service on the long term.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

The practice can be replicated in other contexts as it takes into consideration the peculiarities of where it is applied and the specific barriers that students with disabilities and special educational needs encounter in their studies.

Indeed, the main success factor is the educational strategy behind the services provided that takes into consideration the individual characteristics of each student for curricula adaptation and initiatives realised.


In the webpage of the service, it is possible to find testimonials of people who have accessed the PIUNE services in their academic studies such as the one shared as part of this article:

It highlighted how the strength of this practice is in the plurality of services offered that allowed to support students throughout their period at the university and under different aspects.

This is why PIUNE has been selected as good practice to foster the inclusion of underrepresented students and guiding them through the different steps that make up the participation in higher education studies.

Contact details

The contact email address provided on the website is

URL of the practice Reference document

Related Web site(s)

ACCESS 4ALL project, Good Practices for equity and inclusion in Higher Education (2017),

Related resources that have been developed

[1]The foundation coordinating and managing the fundings to the service.

[2]Fundació Autònoma Solidària, Activities report 2020/2021.

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