Sign-language interpretation for students - a study requested by the government
The government has charged the National Agency for Higher Education with the task of studying the current system of organising and funding sign-language interpretation for students.
Organisation and fundingAt every university there is an official responsible for support to students with functional handicaps. They maintain contact with these students and administer the support provided for them. Stockholm University is responsible for collecting information from the higher education institutions about the costs of special educational assistance for functionally handicapped students. The university is also required to allocate any necessary funding from a framework allocation.
Every higher education institution is entitled to apply to Stockholm University for a grant for the costs that exceed 0.3 per cent of the funding for undergraduate programmes. Currently, support for students using sign-language forms part of the support provided for students with functional handicaps. Some higher education institutions which regularly admit sign-language students have permanently employed sign-language interpreters. Other institutions take on interpreters when required.
The numbers of students with functional handicaps has increased substantially. The national framework allocation has risen, but has not kept pace with the growing numbers of functionally handicapped students. The proportion of the costs for support for these students to be borne by the institutions has been doubled from the fiscal year of 2004 and onwards – from 0.15 to 0.3 per cent of the funding for undergraduate programmes.
Specific system for StockholmStockholm University has a special framework allocation for sign-language interpreting. This is intended to fund the coordination of sign-language interpretation at Stockholm but today it covers only part of the costs involved. This framework allocation for sign-language interpretation is the outcome of reorganisation of the central agencies in the higher education sector. Its justification was that most of the sign-language students were concentrated to Stockholm. This is no longer the case. Cofinancing of coordination and the shortage of funds to cover costs means that the framework allocation functions instead as a subsidy for the Stockholm region.
Problems with the current systemIn the course of the study the following problems have been identified:
- The major shortcoming of the current system is that in recent years it has not covered costs completely.
- A growing dilemma is that increasing numbers of postgraduate students are financed with funds from allocations for undergraduate teaching.
- At the moment there is no accounting or monitoring of the costs of sign-language interpreting and other forms of educational support for students with functional handicaps.
- There is a shortage of sign-language interpreters.
The National Agency for Higher Education’s proposalThe study has identified four alternative methods of organising and funding sign-language interpretation for students. After analysing these methods, the National Agency proposes that:
- The current system of organisation and funding is retained with certain amendments.
- That the government charge the National Financial Management Authority with the task of developing a system for accounting for the costs of support for students with various forms of functional handicap.
- That the government charge the Swedish Agency for Administrative Development with the task of reviewing the possibility of including a framework agreement for sign-language services as part of the overall coordination of public purchasing.
- Termination of the framework allocation for Sign Language Interpretation under the heading 25:26 ap6 and transfer of the amount of SEK 2,671,000 to the framework allocation under the heading 25:26 ap. 4 Support for Students with Functional Handicaps.
- That support for postgraduate students with functional handicaps should be financed through funds allocated for postgraduate programmes.