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Guest Blog : Good Days, Bad Days: Chronic Illness at University

Today’s blog is another in our Guest Blog series, this one from Louise Toller. A Masters student at the University of Exeter and currently carrying out research for her dissertation on the experiences of students with chronic illnesses, Louise is keen to hear from people living with conditions that are unpredictable or fluctuate in severity, such as multiple sclerosis.

If you are a student with MS, and  need support our Helpline is here for you Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.

It isn’t easy being a student with a chronic illness: I know, because I am one. I became ill 

with what was later diagnosed as ME when I was an undergraduate, and it had a huge impact on my ability to study and the rest of my university experience.

I’m now a student again at Exeter and, inspired by my own personal experiences, my dissertation research is focusing on the experiences of chronically ill students.

There’s a small but growing body of research on the experiences of students with ‘traditional’ disabilities, but a distinct lack of research on students with chronic illnesses. Reading the existing academic work, I was struck by how different my own experiences have been to many findings. The fact that my health – and therefore my disability – varies so much and is so unpredictable is central to my life, but I felt like this just hasn’t been represented in the academic work on disabled students.

I wondered if perhaps it was just me, so I spent some time reading more general research on chronic illness. Phrases like ‘up and down’, ‘flux’, ‘episodes’ and ‘unreliable bodies’ kept appearing – along with the consequences of such unpredictability and fluctuations. So surely if these issues are significant for many people, I can’t be the only chronically ill student whose experiences differ to those of other disabled students?

I think we need a much better awareness and understanding of what chronically ill students experience and how universities can help to support them. I’m hoping to make a small contribution to filling this gap in the academic literature with my Masters dissertation, and I would love it if you could help me out.

I’m looking for participants for interviews (in person, via Skype, or even via email), who are willing to share their experiences of being at university with a chronic illness.

I am specifically looking for people who:
• Are current or recent UK university students, aged 18-30
• Have a chronic health condition that is unpredictable or fluctuates on a day-to-day or longer-term basis

If you might be interested in taking part, please drop me an email at and I’ll send you some further information (you’re under no obligation to take part if you do so!) My supervisor is Dr. Hannah Farrimond, and she can be contacted at

Thank you!

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