University Tips Blog
Image of a student completing a Disabled Students Allowance application
A headshot image of the author, Sarah Hanson

by Sarah Hanson

Widening Participation Scholarships Officer at the University of Liverpool

posted on 23 Jan '23

A guide to the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

Starting a higher education journey can be really exciting, but many students have concerns about how they’ll manage and the support they’ll get. This worry is particularly pronounced for students with learning difficulties, mental health issues or disabilities who may be used to comprehensive support at school through their Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). However, there is a wealth of support available, including the Disabled Students Allowance, or DSA.

The Disabled Students Allowance is provided to help with extra costs a student might incur as a direct result of a disability. All the support provided by the DSA is based solely on a student’s needs, so it’s not dependent on household income and students don’t need to pay back any funding or return any equipment they receive.

DSA can support students with a wide range of issues, including:

• Specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia or ADHD.
• Mental health conditions, such as anxiety or anorexia.
• Physical disability impacting mobility or dexterity.
• Sensory impairments, such as sight or hearing loss.
• Social or communication impairments, such as autistic spectrum disorders.
• Long term health conditions, such as cancer or chronic fatigue syndrome.

This may help students with a range of support measures, including:

• Specialist equipment such as assistive technology or ergonomic equipment.
• General allowances such as fridges for medication or printing costs.
• Non-medical helper support, including specialist note takers or a BSL interpreter.
• Travel, such as private taxi transport.

Image of a student working at university

Students apply for DSA online as part of their student finance application. They’re required to upload medical evidence, such as a diagnostic report, after which they’ll be invited to book a needs assessment. During this appointment they’ll work with an Independent Needs Assessor to agree the support they’ll need from DSA, and after the appointment they’ll receive an Entitlement Decision Letter (DSA2), confirming the help they’ll receive with instructions on how to move forward.

Many students are put off applying for DSA because of worries about being treated differently, or wanting a fresh start at university, but this support can be vital to a young person succeeding and achieving their potential. It is vital that schools and colleges raise awareness of DSA to students and parents/carers and encourage any student who might benefit to apply. Students should start the process as soon as possible, to ensure support will be in place for the start of the term.

Alongside support from DSA, universities and colleges will also offer a package of support, such as specialised transition days, disability co-ordinators to support students directly, or peer mentors. Students can find out more about this support via university websites, or through attending open days and speaking with student support teams.

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