DSA: Find Your Way

Accessing Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) support has the potential to transform your experience at university. And with our guide, you’ll have all the information you need to get through the process so you can access the support you deserve as soon as possible.

About the DSA

What is the DSA?

If your ability to access your studies is affected by a mental health condition, disability, chronic illness, and/or learning difference, you will be entitled to the DSA.

The DSA is a grant that you don’t need to pay back. It funds support that will help you succeed in Higher Education by breaking down the study and wellbeing barriers that you may otherwise have faced.

What type of support does the DSA fund?

A DSA needs assessor will sit down with you and discuss your learning needs within the context of your course. Once your learning needs and challenges have been identified, the assessor will propose support that could benefit you.

The support is broken down into four main areas:

Specialist equipment allowance

This can include ergonomic equipment and assistive technology (AT) that will provide suitable technical solutions to help you study more efficiently. Technology includes hardware, like a laptop, and software such as advanced spelling and grammar checkers.

Non-medical helper allowance

Providing specialist one-to-one support from a qualified professional in one or more of the following fields:

  • Specialist Study Skills Support
    A study skills tutor will help you understand your learning style, embrace your strengths, and work on study strategies to overcome challenges.
  • Specialist Mentoring
    A mental health or autistic spectrum mentor will help you to develop strategies to maintain positive mental health and ultimately feel happier and more confident while you’re studying.
  • Assistive Technology Training
    An assistive technology trainer will teach you to use the software and equipment that you have been allocated. You will learn not only how to simply use the technology but also how to embed it alongside effective study strategies. The training will help you to get the most out of your software and equipment.
  • British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreter
    BSL/English interpreters will translate BSL into spoken English and spoken English into BSL for accessible communication while studying.
  • Specialist Notetaker
    A notetaker will make a comprehensive (although non-verbatim) record of the content of lectures, seminars and discussions in your preferred style and format.
  • Specialist Support Professional (SSP) for Students with Sensory Impairment
    This support is bespoke to your sensory impairment. An SSP supports you through language modification, explanation and revision of information. They also assist you to implement reasonable adjustments, plan workloads, structure assignments, access research sources and prepare effectively for assessments.
General allowance

Covers day-to-day stationery costs such as:

  • Photocopying
  • Printing
  • Ink cartridges
  • Paper
Travel Allowance

This allowance helps with extra travel costs you may have to pay to get to university or college due to your disability or chronic illness. It can cover taxi fares or mileage costs to and from your home address to your university or college.

What type of support does the DSA fund?

The DSA is available to home students (from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland). For more information see the following DSA pages:

*Students from England and Wales must meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010.

If you are an EU or international student contact your University/College Disability and Dyslexia Service Adviser in order to discuss the support available to you.

How can I access the DSA?

The most important thing is that you apply.

This starts the process and lets Student Finance know that you’re interested in accessing the DSA. After that, Student Finance will guide you through the process, contacting you with information at each stage. Once you have accepted your place on a course, your university’s disability service will also happily guide you through the process.

The process itself can be broken down into four steps: apply; be assessed; receive confirmation; take up support. 

We’ll guide you through each step in more detail in a moment, but here’s an overview of the four stages:

1. Apply

You apply online, letting Student Finance know that you’re interested in receiving the DSA.

2. Be assessed
  1. Student Finance contacts you back with instructions on how to arrange your DSA needs assessment.
  2. You attend your needs assessment. This is not a test, but rather a space to discuss your study needs.
  3. Your assessor provides you with a report outlining what support they recommend you receive.
  4. Your assessor sends your report to Student Finance.
3. Receive confirmation

You receive a confirmation email from Student Finance, letting you know what support you have been awarded, along with instructions on how you can begin receiving it.

4. Take up support

You now have all the funding confirmed to begin taking up your recommended support. The support is available to you throughout your time as a student, and any equipment or hardware you receive is yours to keep!

Now that you have an overview of the process, let’s look at it in more detail.