How to apply for the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)

In the UK, you can have access to a Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA), which can make a huge difference in getting ahead with your studies and academic success. Here, we share all the details to consider for a successful application.

Clock 5 min read Calendar Published: 8 Jul 2024
Author Danniela Duran
How to apply for the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)


University life – a whirlwind of exciting opportunities and intellectual challenges. But for students with disabilities, there are often additional hurdles to overcome.

Thankfully, the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) exists to help level the playing field for UK students and ensure everyone has the support needed to succeed.

This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge to navigate the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) process effectively, from understanding eligibility to securing the support you deserve.

What is the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)?

The DSA is a government funded program that provides financial assistance for students with disabilities in higher education. It's not a lump sum of cash but funds various support services tailored to your specific needs which could include:

Specialist equipment allowance

Studying can be more efficient with the right equipment! This includes ergonomic furniture to keep you comfy and assistive technology to help with your learning.

Assistive technology training is also available to help you get the best out of your equipment and software.

Non-medical helper allowance

The non-medical helper allowance lets you get one-on-one support from someone in the know!

Here's what they can do:

Specialist study skills support

Also known as study skills tutors. They’ll help you figure out how you learn best, what you are great at, and killer strategies to crush any study challenge.

Specialist mentoring

Feeling overwhelmed? These experts will help you develop strategies to keep your mental health on point so you can focus on acing your classes and feeling awesome while doing it.

British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter

Need a translator between spoken English and British Sign Language (BSL)? They'll make sure communication is crystal clear in class and beyond. ️

Specialist notetaker

They can help by capturing the key points of lectures and discussions while you focus on understanding the material. However, this support is not always available in every institution. 

Specialist Support Professional (SSP) for students with sensory impairment

They will help you access information and resources easily if you have a sensory impairment. They'll also be there to adjust tasks, plan your workload, and get you prepped for tests with confidence.

Other disability related student support

These include everyday stationery costs, the most common of which are printing, paper, and ink.

Travel allowance

Need to get to university but struggle with public transport? This allowance can help with taxi fares or car mileage to make sure getting to class is a breeze.

Source: D&A

Who is eligible?

To qualify for the DSA, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Residency: You must be a UK resident or have a settled status.
  2. Course type: You must study or aim to attend a full-time or part-time undergraduate or postgraduate course that qualifies for student finance.
  3. Disability: You must have a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition, or specific learning difficulty that affects your ability to study.

You are not eligible if:

  1. You are eligible for tuition-free only funding.
  2. You are enrolled in a higher or degree apprenticeship program.
  3. You already benefit from comparable support from your university, social services, or the National Health Service (NHS) Disabled Students' Allowances.

Applying for the DSA:

The application process can differ slightly depending on where you live in the UK. Here's a general breakdown:

Before the application:

Gather evidence - You'll need documentation from a medical professional outlining your disability and its impact on studying.

During the application:

Apply through your funding body

You can apply online through the student finance website for your region (England, Wales, Northern Ireland, or Scotland). 

For England:

For Wales:

For Northern Ireland:

For Scotland:

You can usually apply for the DSA at the same time as your student finance application, even if you are not receiving student finance.

Important: The application process takes time, so try to apply as soon as your funding body’s applications open (usually in February or March).

You don’t need to wait to be accepted by a university before you start applying for funding.

Filling out the application

The DSA application generally asks for information from the list below. Gathering all this information beforehand will make completing the application smoother.

  • Personal details: Such as name, date of birth and contact information.
  • Course and institution details: Even though you don’t need to have been accepted by a university to apply, the application form may ask you about the course details. You should apply using your preferred choice, and you can simply update your details if anything changes. 
  • Disability information: Type and evidence. Usually provided as: 
    • A report or letter from a medical professional.
    • A copy of a ‘diagnostic assessment’ from a practitioner psychologist or suitably qualified specialist teacher.
  • Previous DSA applications (if applicable): Applied before? Provide details about it. 
  • Other financial support: Include any scholarships or bursaries you have been granted. 
  • Consent to share information: Indicate whether you consent to share your information with relevant parties (e.g., your university’s disability support office) to facilitate your support.
  • Declaration: Sign it to confirm everything you’ve stated is true. Before signing it, read your application carefully to avoid any mistakes. 
  • Additional information (if required): If you need to provide any additional details or explanations, use this section to elaborate.

After the application:

Once your application has been accepted and you've been found eligible, there are two more steps to go:

Needs assessment: You'll be contacted to arrange a needs assessment with a qualified assessor. This confidential assessment will determine the specific support you require.

Funding and support: Once approved, you'll receive a funding allocation based on your needs. Approved providers will then contact you to arrange the equipment or support services you're entitled to.

Maximising your DSA application: essential tips

While the DSA is a fantastic program, a smooth application process requires proactive planning. Here are some key strategies to ensure you get the most out of your DSA experience:

Be early

The application process can take up to 100 days, so try to apply as soon as your funding body’s applications open (usually in February or March).

Remember: You don’t need to wait to be accepted by a university before you start applying for funding.

Be thorough 

Provide detailed and accurate information in your application and during your needs assessment. The evidence you submit is crucial in determining your eligibility and the type of support you receive. 

The more detailed and comprehensive your documentation is, the easier it will be for the assessor to understand your specific needs and recommend the most appropriate assistance.

Work with your medical professional to ensure your reports clearly outline your disability and its impact on your studies.

Follow up

Contact your funding body if you haven’t heard back within the expected timeframe.

Don't hesitate to ask questions

The application and needs assessment process might involve unfamiliar terms or procedures. If anything seems unclear, don't hesitate to ask for clarification.

The DSA team and needs assessor are there to guide you, so don't be afraid to ask questions throughout the process.

Maintain clear records 

Keep copies of all documents related to your DSA application, including your medical evidence, communication with the funding body, and the final needs assessment report.

Having a clear system of records will be helpful if you need to refer to specific information or communicate any changes in your needs later.

Additional resources

The world of student finance and disability support can be confusing, but you don't have to navigate it alone.

Here are some valuable resources to help you on your way:

Remember, you are not alone!

Universities and disability support services are also there to help. Don't be afraid to contact your disability advisor at your chosen university for guidance and support throughout your application and studies.

By understanding the DSA and taking proactive steps, you can access the support you deserve and unlock your full potential at university. With the right tools and resources, you can conquer your studies and achieve academic success.

Find out more about the DSA
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