Support for disabled people in higher education
Disabled students’ allowances (DSAs) help towards meeting the additional studying costs or expenses that students face as a direct result of a disability or specific learning difficulty.
Who can get DSAs
Full-time, part-time and postgraduate students all qualify for help.
DSAs are paid on top of the standard student finance package and are not means tested.
Students can be eligible for Disabled Students' Allowances if they have :
- a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression
- a specific learning difficulty, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia
- a developmental disorder, such as autism, ADHD/AD
- a progressive medical condition such as Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer or HIV
- a sensory impairment which could affect the ability to see or hear
The student's previous study will not affect their eligibility for DSAs, even if they received financial support.
However, if they received DSAs for any specialist equipment for a previous course, this may be taken into account.
There's no age limit for receiving DSAs.
The Disabled Students Allowance consists of four key elements:
- Specialist equipment allowance
- Non-medical helpers allowance
- Additional travel costs you pay as a direct result of your disability
- General allowance
1) Specialist equipment allowance
Full-time and part-time students can get up to £5,212 for their entire course.
This allowance goes towards any specialist equipment students may need - such as laptop or computer software. They can also use it to pay for repairs, technical support, insurance or extended warranty costs.
Student Finance England [SFE] might pay the cost of renting rather than buying items of equipment if this is more economical.
2) Non-medical helper allowance
Full-time students can get up to £20,725 for each year of their course to pay for non-medical helpers.
Part-time students can get a percentage of the full-time rate, depending on the intensity of their course. The maximum they can get is £15,543 a year,
This provides for helpers such as
- sign-language interpreters
- note takers
- specialist one-to-one support.
This doesn't include medical helpers such as nurses.
3) Additional travel costs you pay as a direct result of your disability
In February 2014 the DSA guidance regarding the travel allowance was updated.
The guidance advises that if a student has opted to use the mobility element of their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to lease a mobility car, they will be expected to use that car to attend their institution.
Travel costs will be calculated using the A.A. motoring costs of 29p per mile, less the cost of the same journey by public transport.
If a needs assessor recommends students apply for the travel allowance, they should ask the student if they are in receipt of DLA/PIP and have a mobility car. If a student has opted to use the mobility element of their DLA/PIP to lease a mobility car, recommendation for taxis would only be agreed in exceptional circumstances.
The needs assessor must write details of their discussion on the assessment report recommending students for travel allowance.
4) General allowance
This allowance offers money to help with disability-related spending.
Full-time students can get up to £1,741 for each year of their entire course.
Part-time students can get a percentage of the full-time rate, depending on the intensity of their course. The maximum they can get is £1,305 a year:
Students can use it to buy items such as:
- print cartridges
- Braille paper
The needs assessment identifies the specific help the student needs for their course. It also identifies any training the student might need for equipment or software. The cost of the assessment will be met from the DSAs.
Application for student finance
Students apply online for SFE to cover tuition fees. If students want to apply for DSAs shortened version of the application form, will be sent out to applicants.
If the student is only applying for DSAs, and no other form of student finance, they download the full DSAs application form.
If the student is eligible for DSAs, they will be notified and asked to arrange a Needs Assessment to find out exactly what equipment and support they need.
Students should book their assessment as soon as they receive notification from SFE.
What evidence is required?
a report or letter from the GP or consultant
specific learning difficulties
A full diagnostic report, carried out after the age of 16 by a practitioner psychologist or a suitably qualified specialist teacher holding a current Assessment Practicing Certificate.
mental health difficulties
a Mental Health Profile.
When to apply
Students should apply as soon as they have completed their UCAS and Student Finance forms. UCAS applications are made between September 1, 2015 to January 15, 2016. Students should complete their Student Finance form by the end of May in the year they want to start their course.
It takes about 14 weeks to process the DSAs form. It is advised to apply early to ensure payment will be ready in time for start of the course.
The student reapplies for their student finance in advance of each year of their course.
If the student applies for DSAs along with their main application for student finance, they won't have to reapply for DSAs during each year of their course as long as they state on their main application that they want to continue receiving them.
Students studying course with the Open University they must apply for DSAs to the OU, not to SFE.
Students don't usually need to pay DSAs back. If they leave their course early then they may have to pay some back.
Useful online information available at:
or by calling 0845 300 5090, by minicom 08456044434.
Nearest approved needs assessment centre can be found at the assessment centre.
Skills information service
Skill - National Bureau For Students with Disabilities
Tel: 0800 328 5050 (voice)
0800 068 2422(text)
“Disabled Students Guide to University”, published by Trotman. This book includes an outline of facilities for disabled students in each university.
“UCAS course guide” published by UCAS.