Your questions answered about Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

This information has been updated! Originally published 26/07/19. Amended 03/02/22


Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is a UK Government grant which provides personalised support to disabled students in Higher Education, in order to ensure a level playing field. 

This is an important way for students to get help - in January 2019 the Department of Education found that 59% of disabled students who received DSA said they wouldn't feel confident about passing their course without the extra support.

However, 40% of the disabled students surveyed are still missing out on the crucial support DSA provides. The reasons they gave for NOT applying included:

  • they didn't know how to apply
  • they didn't think it was ‘worth the hassle’,
  • they didn’t think they were eligible or
  • they didn't want to go through the assessment process.

Because we see the benefits that DSA can bring we want to explain the DSA process and encourage all disabled students to claim the support they need.

Here are answers to the five most frequently asked questions:

I don’t have a physical or visible disability, am I still eligible?

Any UK student applying to or attending university with a disability, condition or impairment could be eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance. Examples include:

  • Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD), such as Dyslexia/Dyspraxia
  • Sensory Impairments
  • Asperger's syndrome
  • Physical disabilities
  • Chronic health conditions, such as Diabetes and Asthma
  • Mental health conditions, such as Anxiety and Depression

Not sure if you are eligible for DSA? You can find out now with our free Higher Education Support Checker!

Medical evidence confirming your diagnosis is required to support your application. To support a specific learning difficulty, you need to provide a copy of a diagnostic assessment from a qualified psychologist or specialist teacher. Proof of all other disabilities and conditions needs to be provided and signed by your doctor all consultant. You can also fill out this disability evidence form.

Is your university providing accessible course content? 

If you work at a university, learn how to improve the learning experience for students by evaluating your course for accessibility within our 'How to deliver and sustain accessible digital learning - for HE and FE professionals' training course coming up soon.

Find out more 

How long is the process from applying to receiving DSA?

Applying early is key. Many students end up completing part of their course without support in place because they are not aware of the application process timescale. DSA-QAG states that the full process from initial application to delivery of equipment can take up to 14 weeks.

Find out more about the breakdown of the timeline from sending in your application, booking your needs assessment and receiving your funding body letter confirming your approved support.

What does ‘allowance’ mean? Is it a loan?

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) are grants to help meet the extra course costs students face because of a disability.

It is not based on your household income, and unlike your maintenance loan, DSA does NOT need to be repaid. 

Rather than receiving extra funds directly, like a maintenance loan for example, each disabled student is afforded an ‘allowance’ which dictates the amount/level of support (e.g the types of specialist equipment of number of study skills hours) which can be given for each category.  How much your allowance is depends entirely on your individual needs and whether you are a full-time/part-time student.

They are generally divided up into three different support categories: specialist equipment allowance, non-medical helper allowance for specialist mentoring/1-1 study skills and a general allowance which can include extra travel costs and printing credits. It does not cover any disability-related costs you’d have if you were not attending a course, or costs that any student might have.

Why do I need to be assessed? Is it a test?

Support you can get is not one size fits all. DSA is based entirely on your individual needs, circumstances and course requirements, so the study needs assessment is required to identify the specific support which would suit you best. 

The assessment is a confidential one-on-one session with a professional assessor, and usually lasts no longer than two hours.

It is important to remember that this is not a test, but rather an informal chat. It is your opportunity to discuss any challenges you face in education, including the ways in which your course is assessed and taught, and is steered by the amount of information you share.

Assessors will also demonstrate a range of specialist equipment, software, as well as discuss appropriate support and strategies. The Assessor will then write a report summarising your needs and the recommended solutions within 10 working days of the date of your assessment.

Can changes be made if my circumstances change?

Your study needs assessment report is not final, amendments can be made if your circumstances change. Don’t worry if you end up going to a different university or you decide to live at home instead of university accommodation, these are details which can be updated to ensure your support suppliers are changed if necessary.

You should also contact your funding body if your condition gets worse, as this may affect what you’re entitled to and you could receive extra help. If you receive an additional diagnosis for a new condition you might be eligible for a review of needs assessment to identify how this impacts your course and affects the support you already have in place through DSA.

You will need to send additional evidence to confirm this new condition to your funding body in order to be made eligible for a new assessment. 

Still not sure?

If you’re feeling unsure about whether to apply for DSA check out some past student feedback to see how it could transform your university experience.

Find out more