Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is a grant you don’t need to repay.

It funds support that will help you succeed in Higher Education by breaking down the barriers you may otherwise have faced, whether they’re related to your studies, physical access, or wellbeing.

Although referred to as an ‘allowance,’ you won’t receive money directly (unless you are a student from Scotland). For students outside of Scotland, once your DSA is approved, funding is allocated to your chosen support providers. This removes the need for you to handle the administrative tasks of contacting, paying for, and collecting receipts for your allocated support.

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

If you’re unsure if you might be eligible, check out our Eligibility FAQs.  

Is it worth applying for DSA?

Students often ask if it’s really worth them applying for the DSA. Let’s unpack some of the key reasons you might choose not to apply and why we’d recommend applying. 

'I’ve got through my life so far without any help, so why would I need support now?' 

Studying in higher education brings its own unique set of challenges, experiences and opportunities. Accessing Disabled Students’ Allowance is one such opportunity. Even if you’re confident in your ability to study and live independently, the DSA can expose you to new strategies and ways of working and learning that you might find beneficial. 

'I don’t need the support as much as other people; I don’t want to take resources from those who might need them more.'

There’s enough funding to go around. Everyone is deserving of the support that will enable them to participate and thrive, no matter your disability or diagnosis. 

'I don’t identify as disabled.' 

Don’t let the fact that you don’t call yourself ‘disabled’ hold you back from applying; many different diagnoses and long-term conditions might make you eligible for DSA. Check out our FAQ for more information to help you work out if you might qualify. 

What type of support does the DSA fund?

The DSA funds a diverse range of support types, so you can access the support that feels most right for you. 

Needs assessment

To work out what support you could receive, your DSA application includes a ‘needs assessment’. This is a conversation between you and a DSA needs assessor where you will discuss your course, your learning needs, and the barriers you might face. Once you have explored your needs, the assessor will create a ‘report’ that lists the different types of support they would recommend for you.

The support is broken down into the following areas. Although terminology will differ for Scottish students, the nature of the support remains the same: 

1. Specialist equipment allowance 

This can include ergonomic equipment and assistive technology (AT) that provides suitable technical solutions to help you study more efficiently. Technology includes hardware, like a laptop, and software, such as advanced spelling and grammar checkers.

2. Non-medical helper allowance 

Providing specialist one-to-one support from a qualified professional in one or more of the following fields: 

  • Specialist study skills support: A study skills supporter (sometimes called a study skills tutor) or supporter will help you understand your learning style, embrace your strengths, and work on study strategies to overcome challenges. 
  • Specialist mentoring: A mental health or autistic spectrum mentor will help you develop strategies to maintain positive mental health and ultimately feel happier and more confident while studying. 
  • Assistive technology training: An assistive technology trainer will teach you to use the software and equipment you have been allocated. You will learn how to use the technology and embed it alongside effective study strategies. The training will help you to get the most out of your software and equipment.  
  • British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreter: BSL/English interpreters will translate BSL into spoken English and spoken English into BSL, for accessible communication while studying. 
  • Specialist notetaker: A notetaker will make a comprehensive (although non-verbatim) record of the content of lectures, seminars, and discussions in your preferred style and format. 
  • Specialist Support Professional (SSP) for students with sensory Impairment: This support is bespoke to your sensory impairment. An SSP supports you through language modification, explanation, and revision of information. They also assist you to implement reasonable adjustments, plan workloads, structure assignments, access research sources, and prepare effectively for assessments.  
3. Other disability-related study support

Covers day-to-day stationery costs, such as: 

  • photocopying 
  • printing 
  • ink cartridges 
  • paper 
4. Travel allowance 

This allowance helps with extra travel costs you may have to pay to get to university or college due to your disability or chronic illness. It can cover taxi fares or mileage costs to and from your home address to your university or college. 

Who can access DSA?

DSA is available to: 
Students with a disability, mental health condition, neurodiversity, chronic illness and/or learning difference
Students studying an undergraduate or postgraduate course (including distance learning)
Students studying a full-time or part-time course lasting at least one year, and are ‘home students’ (from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles or the Isle of Man)

Many different factors affect whether or not you will be eligible for DSA. If you’re unsure about your eligibility, you can: 

Even if you’re not eligible for DSA, you may be able to access support through a similar scheme. Contact the Disability Support Services at your prospective or current university or college to discuss what support may be available to you.

How can I access DSA?

The most important thing is that you apply. This starts the process and lets your funding body know you’re interested in accessing the DSA.   

After that, your funding body will guide you through the process, contacting you with information at each stage. Once you've accepted your place on a course, your university’s disability service will also happily guide you through the process.

The process itself is straightforward. We’ll break it down into four steps: apply, be assessed, receive confirmation, take up support.  

Here’s an overview of the four stages:

  1. Apply

    You apply online, letting your funding body (Student Finance England, Student Awards Agency for Scotland, Student Finance Wales, Student Finance Northern Ireland, NHS Student Bursary) know you want to receive the DSA. 
  2. Be assessed

    1. Your funding body contacts you with instructions on arranging your DSA needs assessment.
    2. You attend your needs assessment. This is not a test, but rather a space to discuss your study needs.  
    3. Your assessor provides you with a report outlining what support they recommend you receive. 
    4. Your assessor sends your report to your funding body.
  3. Receive confirmation

    You get a confirmation email from your funding body, letting you know what support you have been awarded and instructions on how to begin receiving it.  
  4. Take up support

    You now have all the funding confirmed to begin taking up your recommended support. This is available to you throughout your time as a student, and any equipment or hardware you receive is yours to keep. 

Content provided by Diversity and Ability