University Tips Blog
A student in a wheelchair attending university with students also in the background
A headshot image of the author, Chantal Bradburn

by Chantal Bradburn

Outreach and Widening Participation Manager at the University of Chester

posted on 29 May '24

A guide to the Disabled Students’ Allowance

It’s essential that students are aware of the support available to them while they’re studying at university, especially if their lives are impacted by a disability.

Alongside Student Finance funding, and the in- house pastoral and accessibility-based support that universities provide, the government also offers the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). The DSA is intended to provide support for students who have a physical or mental-health related disability.

Unlike the Student Finance arrangements, the DSA is not income-assessed. It is based on the individual’s specific disability and does not need to be repaid.

The DSA can help with many different expenses, but it is important to note that it only covers costs associated with a student’s studies. For example:
• specialist equipment, for example, a computer if necessary because of a disability
• non-medical helpers, for example, a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter or specialist note-taker
• extra travel to attend course or placements
• other disability-related study support, for example, having to print additional copies of documents for proof-reading.

Who is eligible for the DSA?

Students who are going to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level; who qualify for student finance loans in the UK; and who are going to study on a course that lasts at least one year may be able to apply for the DSA.

A student is eligible for DSA if they have a:
• specific learning difficulty, for example, dyslexia or ADHD
• mental health condition, for example, anxiety or depression
• physical disability, for example, they use crutches, a wheelchair or a special keyboard
• sensory disability, for example, they are visually impaired, deaf or have a hearing impairment
• long-term health condition, for example, cancer, chronic heart disease or HIV.

There is a separate disability allowance for NHS students.

Making a DSA application

The DSA application is available as part of the Student Finance England application. If students have not completed an online finance application and are applying by post, DSA application forms can be downloaded here. If a student wishes to apply solely for DSA (and not Student Finance) they can do so using the form DSA1 from the web link above.

Providing evidence for the DSA

For both physical and mental health related disabilities, a report or letter from a relevant doctor or consultant may be required. Students can complete and submit their evidence on the gov.uk website, using this link.

For specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, a copy of a diagnostic assessment from a practitioner, psychologist or suitably qualified specialist teacher will be needed.

Once the application is complete and evidence has been provided, Student Finance will assess whether the student is eligible and, in some cases, contact them about an assessment.

How is DSA paid?

Students will be made aware of what they’re eligible for and whether their allowance will be paid directly to them, or to their education provider to cover the cost of their specialist equipment or support.

It is important that new applicants do not buy any equipment until they’ve received their payment, as they cannot be reimbursed for any purchases made before they’ve received a decision from SFE.

Prefer to listen?

Check out the One in Five Podcast. A resource by disabled students and for disabled students considering university. In episode 3, the DSA is discussed.

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