An online summer school designed to support autistic students through their first term at university is being offered for free by the Centre for Applied Autism Research (CAAR) at the University of Bath.

The University Transition Autism Summer School (UTAS) is open to all autistic students starting university anywhere in the UK this Autumn.

The first online session will take place on September 14. This will be followed by three follow-up online sessions, scheduled to take place on the first Wednesday of the month in October, November and December.

Each online event will focus on different aspects of going to university as an autistic student. How to navigate fresher’s week and what to expect from extracurricular clubs and societies will be among the topics covered.

As well as equipping autistic students with essential skills for thriving at university, the course will be a chance for participants to meet autistic peers also about to embark on the university experience. Students will spend time interacting in online breakout-room sessions. It’s hoped these sessions will foster friendships and peer-led support groups that will continue throughout students’ first term at university.

Ralph Bagnall, PhD student at CAAR, explains how the course might benefit an autistic student. “Starting university can be worrying and stressful for many people, but may be more so if you’re autistic. You have to get used to an entirely new routine, new place and new set of people, all of which can prove challenging.

“Our events will be a chance for autistic people to talk about the more difficult aspects of new university life but also the exciting new things they’re doing and enjoying.”

The summer school is being led by academics from CAAR. The team has been running an in-person summer school for students about to go to university for the past 10 years, but this is the first year the course will be available online. CAAR also runs free summer schools for students finishing Years 11 and 12.

“The advantage of running UTAS online is that we can reach autistic people living all over the UK,” says Mr Bagnall, adding: "All of us at CAAR are really excited for this new development of our autism summer school scheme, and to virtually join our cohort of autistic students throughout their first term at university. We're looking forward to meeting our 2022 cohort in September."

Learn about other autism summer schools run by the University of Bath.