What is the Disabled Students' Allowance?

Your guide to the DSA - what it is, who it supports, and how to apply.

The Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) is a grant to help eligible students with any essential costs that result from a disability, long-term physical or mental health condition, or specific learning difficulty such as Dyslexia.

Each year, you can get extra funding on top of your Student Finance to cover the costs of any equipment and services you need.

Meet the people behind the DSA

From needs assessors to assistive technology specialists, the DSA has a wide network of people who can help you get the most out of university.

Hear from just a few of them in this quick video.

Who can apply for the Disabled Students' Allowance?

You are eligible to apply for a DSA grant if you have a condition that affects your ability to study, such as a:

  • Learning difficulty such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, or ADHD
  • Mental health condition such as anxiety or depression
  • Physical disability such as if you’re partially sighted or have to use crutches
  • Long-term health condition such as cancer, or chronic heart disease

To qualify, you must also:

  • Be a UK resident
  • Be studying on a full-time or part-time course that lasts at least one year (including part-time, Open University and distance learning courses)
  • Qualify for Student Finance

Unfortunately, you’re not likely to be eligible if:

  • You're an EU student and only eligible for tuition fee support
  • You're getting equivalent support from another source, such as a university or social work bursary (e.g. the NHS Disabled Students' Allowance)

These guidelines are based on the general criteria for DSA applications in the UK. To see the criteria for your part of the UK, visit gov.uk.

What support is available through the DSA?

The DSA provides financial support for the aspects of studying which are impacted by your disability, including the physical and mental demands of university.

DSA funds can be paid out to you as reimbursement or directly to the company providing the equipment or service you require.

Depending on where you are based in the UK, the amount of funding you could be entitled to will vary. The total amount you receive will be based on the recommendations of a disability advisor following your Study Needs Assessment.

Your DSA fund will help to cover:

  1. Day-to-day costs of studying which are related to your disability. For example, photocopying costs
  2. Specialist equipment such as a computer* or disability-related software. Any equipment bought must have been included in the report from your Study Needs Assessment
  3. A non-medical helper or support worker such as a British Sign Language interpreter. This person can’t be a friend or family member

*You may be able to get a new computer if you don’t already have one, or if your current one doesn’t meet the required specification. You’ll need to make a contribution of £200 towards the cost of any computer.

You may also be able to cover travel allowances with your DSA funding. This helps with any extra travel costs you may have to attend your university, college, or placement because of your disability. The amount you get will depend on your disability.

How to apply for the Disabled Students' Allowance

Applying for the DSA starts with filling out a form. You can find this on the Student Finance website for your region of the UK.

You can apply for the DSA before your place at university is confirmed. It can take up to 14 weeks for your DSA support to be put in place, so it's best to start your application as soon as possible. Starting university is a busy time, so having your DSA sorted ahead of Freshers' Week will make a big difference.

Which organisations can you apply for DSA through?

Here's where to apply for DSA, based on where in the UK you're from:

England – Student Finance England (SFE)

Scotland – Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)

Wales – Student Finance Wales

Northern Ireland – Student Finance NI

Applying for DSA - the process

These are the common steps you can expect when applying for DSA support:

  1. Fill in your DSA application
  2. Provide evidence of your disability
  3. Book and attend a Study Needs Assessment (only after being asked to do so by the Student Finance organisation)
  4. Wait to hear if your application's been approved
  5. Once funding has been approved, order your equipment and arrange non-medical help, etc.
  6. Your DSA will be paid as agreed (i.e. to you as reimbursement or directly to the supplier)

Proof of eligibility

When you apply for DSA, you'll need documentation to show that you're eligible. For example:

Condition: Physical or sensory disabilities, long-term health conditions and mental-health conditions

Proof of eligibility: A disability evidence form or a photocopy of a report/letter from your doctor or consultant

Condition: Specific learning difficulty (e.g. Dyslexia)

Proof of eligibility: A photocopy of a diagnostic assessment from a practitioner psychologist or a teacher with a relevant specialist qualification

What happens at a DSA Needs Assessment

Your Needs Assessment isn't as scary as it sounds! It's there to work with you to establish what support you need at university to make the most of your course.

In this video, DSA Assessor Louise Warriar explains what to expect from a Needs Assessment.

A student's perspective

After a diagnosis of Dyslexia and ADHD, Emily received assistive tools to help in her studies.

Hear her experience of finding support through the DSA.