The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) aims to ensure everyone has the support and adjustments they need to succeed during their studies. This information is relevant to students who normally live in Northern Ireland.

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is support to help with any extra study-related costs you may have as a direct result of a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition, or learning difference (e.g. dyslexia).

Visit Student Finance Northern Ireland’s support pages and application guidance.

What's available?

  • Full-time and part-time undergraduate or postgraduate students can get up to £25,000 a year for support.
  • DSA doesn't depend on your household income – what you can get depends on your own needs. You don't have to pay this back.
  • Although it’s called an ‘allowance’, you won’t be given any money directly. Specified providers will be funded directly through Student Finance Northern Ireland to provide the support you need.

What sort of help can I get?

  1. Specialist equipment

    For example, a computer with assistive technology software or specialist ergonomic furniture.
  2. Non-medical help

    For example, a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter or specialist note-taker.
  3. Other disability-related study support

    For example, additional printing costs.
  4. Travel

    For example, additional travel costs incurred to attend your course or placement.

    More about support


If you have a disability, mental health condition, neurodiversity, chronic illness and/or learning difference, you may be able to access DSA.

There’s no exhaustive list of which conditions make someone eligible for DSA, but you can apply if you meet the definition of disability in the 2010 Equality Act. This means you must have a “physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”.

In Northern Ireland, students must also:

  • be an undergraduate or postgraduate student (including Open University or distance learning)
  • qualify for student finance from Student Finance Northern Ireland
  • be studying on a full-time or part-time course that lasts at least one year

You can’t get DSA if you’re:

  • eligible for tuition-fee only funding
  • eligible for an NHS Disabled Students’ Allowance (this is a separate scheme)
  • getting equivalent support from another funding source (e.g. from your university or a social work bursary)

Read full eligibility criteria on Student Finance Northern Ireland’s website.

More about eligibility

How to apply

If you’re applying for other student finance, such as a Tuition Fee Loan or Maintenance Loan from Student Finance Northern Ireland, you’ll be able to apply for DSA from your online account after you’ve submitted your main student finance application.

The application process for DSA can take up to 14 weeks. Apply and submit your evidence to Student Finance Northern Ireland as early as possible to ensure everything is ready for the start of your course.

You cannot apply online for DSA if you are applying for:

  • DSA only, and no other student finance; or
  • a part-time course; or
  • a postgraduate course

In these instances, you must apply using a paper application form (DSA1).

Usually, DSA applications are managed by Student Finance Northern Ireland, but there are exceptions:

More about applying

Evidence to support your application

After you’ve applied for DSA, Student Finance Northern Ireland will contact you to advise what evidence you need to provide to support your DSA application. Examples of accepted evidence are given below:

Condition Evidence
Disability or long-term health condition A copy of a report or letter from your doctor or consultant — or a copy of a disability evidence form completed by a medical professional.
Mental health condition A copy of a report or letter from your doctor or consultant — or a copy of a disability evidence form completed by a medical professional.
Specific learning difficulty A copy of a 'diagnostic assessment' from a practitioner, psychologist or suitably qualified specialist teacher.

If you've applied for DSA online you can submit a digital copy of your evidence via your student finance account.

If you prefer, you can post hard copies to your local education authority instead.

If you don’t have an online account or applied on a paper form, send a hard copy of your evidence along with your application.

The DSA needs assessment

  • Once your application is approved, you'll receive an email from Student Finance Northern Ireland confirming your eligibility for DSA. Do not buy any equipment until you’ve been assessed – you will not be reimbursed for it.
  • The next step is to arrange your DSA needs assessment. This is an informal meeting with an experienced needs assessor to discuss what equipment and support will help you get the most from your course.
  • Once your eligibility for DSA has been confirmed, you will need to book your needs assessment, as outlined on the DSA1 letter.
  • You will not have to pay for the assessment – it is funded through your DSA entitlement.
  • Bring your disability evidence to the assessment. This will be the same evidence you shared with Student Finance Northern Ireland as part of your DSA application.

More about the needs assessment

What happens next?

Student Finance Northern Ireland will be sent a copy of your needs assessment report and you’ll be sent your DSA2 entitlement letter within ten working days.

After this, you need to contact your supplier to arrange the support outlined in your needs assessment report, including setting up equipment, installing software, and any training or aftercare as required.