Who are DSAs for?
You may claim the DSA in addition to your student finance loans and grants to cover any extra study-related costs you incur due to an impairment, mental health condition, or learning difficulty. It is neither a benefit nor a loan, so it doesn’t need repaying. The amount you’ll receive depends on your individual needs not on your income, nor that of your parents or partner. There are some restrictions on what you may use your DSA for, so check the details below carefully.
The DSA is available to both full-time and part-time students, those on unpaid sandwich courses, open and distance students, and those on postgraduate courses. You may apply for a DSA even if you have already taken a higher education course, although you can’t apply for more than one at a time.
Am I eligible?
You are eligible for a DSA if you meet all the following criteria:
- You are taking a full-time or part-time undergraduate or postgraduate course in the UK (including Open University and distance learning courses) that lasts at least one year.
- You normally live in the UK.
- You qualify for student finance.
- You can prove you have a disability, medical condition, sensory impairment, mental health condition, or specific learning difficulty which affects your ability to study.
You should check your eligibility with the university or college directly. You can also use AbilityNet's support checker to find out what additional funding is available.
For more details about eligibility, check out the gov.uk website.
Unsure if you're eligible for support? Use Ability Net’s free HE Support Checker to find out.
How do I apply for a DSA?
You don’t have to have a confirmed place at a university before you apply for your DSA. We recommend you apply early so this in place before your course starts, but you can apply at any point during your studies.
- You will be asked to provide proof of your disability, medical health condition, sensory impairment, mental health condition, or specific learning difficulty (e.g. a diagnostic assessment of dyslexia, or letter from a medical authority).
- Apply for Student Finance, and let them know you wish to apply for the DSA – you’ll then receive a DSA application form.
- Send photocopies of your evidence with the DSA application form – remember to keep your original copies, as you may need them later.
- If you’re eligible for the DSA, you’ll receive an approval letter from your DSA funding provider. You’ll then be asked to attend a needs assessment at a centre of your choice to explore the requirements of your course, and your learning needs. It’s a good idea to contact your university or college at this point, to let them know you’ve been approved for a DSA.
- Following the needs assessment, you’ll receive a report detailing the equipment and support you’ll need. You won’t be reimbursed for anything you buy before you receive this report, so it’s important to wait until it arrives. For some items, the DSA will be paid into your bank account, and for others, payment will be made directly to whoever is providing the support.
- The details of your DSA and needs assessment report will then be sent to the disability adviser at your chosen university or college, who will then make arrangements for any support or adjustments you require. If you have an EHC plan, with your permission, your local home authority will forward the details to the DSA assessor as proof of your eligibility, and will help you complete your application.
For more detail, visit the YourDSA website.
You can apply for the DSA at any time during your course, but you’ll have to pay for any tests to establish your eligibility if you don’t have current proof. Some universities and colleges may be able to provide assistance with these costs – you should contact the disability officer to discuss your options. If you’re planning to take an eligible healthcare course or social work course, you should apply for your DSA through the NHS.
Eligible postgraduate students will receive their DSA in one single payment for the duration of their course. If you are a postgraduate student applying through Research Councils UK, you should visit the RCUK website for more information about applying for the DSA.
What support can I get?
The DSA is slightly different depending where you live in the UK. Select the drop-down option below for the country you live in to find out what support you could be eligible for.
Channel Islands and the Isle of Man