Disabled students

Updated on 14 January 2021

Types of student

Many educational establishments have officers with responsibility for assisting students with disabilities. If you have a disability, contacting them should be a priority, both for practical help but also to enable you to access other services.

Many state benefits are not available to you because you are a student, as noted in our page on Tax credits and benefits. However, there are some special allowances and benefits available to you in order to make your studies easier or, indeed, possible. Here we cover the Disabled Students’ Allowance and point you to other pages on our website that may provide help.

Illustration of students with disabilities

What is Disabled Students’ Allowance?

The Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is a grant and not a loan; it does not need to be repaid and it is not taxable in the UK. It is paid in addition to other student finance you may receive. However, if you do not complete your course you may be asked to repay any DSA you have received.

The amount of DSA you are entitled to depends on the type of course you are enrolled on (such as part-time or post-graduate), which part of the UK you live in and of course, your individual needs. The DSA is not a means-tested allowance and is made up of three components:

  • Specialist equipment allowance
  • Non-medical helper allowance
  • General allowance

There is also a travel allowance if you live in Northern Ireland or Wales.

The DSA is calculated on your individual needs to help you study (subject to a maximum limit). We look at these different factors and how you can apply for the DSA below.

Who is entitled to the Disabled Students’ Allowance?

You are able to apply for such an allowance if you have a:

  • Disability
  • Long-term health condition
  • Mental health condition
  • Specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dyspraxia.

You will need to prove your medical condition either through a doctor’s letter or report or possibly through further assessment if you have a specific learning difficulty. The support you get depends on your individual needs and aims to assist you with your studying as if you did not have a medical condition. For example, if you need a specialist laptop then you may have to pay the first £200 towards it (which is considered the same cost as all students would need to pay for their laptop).

What type of course are you studying?


The amount of DSA you will receive will depend on the type of course you are studying. There is a list of what courses are eligible on GOV.UK, we recommend that you check with your university or college whether your course will be eligible for DSA.

You may have to complete a different application form depending on whether you are on a full-time, part-time or post-graduate course.

If you are studying a part-time course and claiming DSA then your course must be completed at a rate of at least 25% of an equivalent full-time course; please note that this is 50% for a post-graduate part-time master’s degree.

If you are claiming an NHS bursary and have a disability or health condition then you may be able to claim a type of DSA through your NHS BOSS account. Please note, the rules for being eligible to a NHS bursary changed from 1 August 2017 and there are more details on GOV.UK.

Which area of the UK do you live in?


The different areas of the UK operate slightly different systems.

England

For students living in England there are further requirements as well as having a qualifying health condition which affects your ability to study. These are:

  • you must be on an undergraduate or postgraduate course; this can be part-time or long-distance learning course;
  • your course must last longer than 12 months;
  • you qualify for finance from Student Finance England (you should apply for this before you apply for DSA).

Student Finance England will request an assessment to see what additional equipment and help you will need while you are studying.

Do not purchase new equipment until you have been assessed for DSA as these costs will not be reimbursed.

The application form is on GOV.UK, and you may find it helpful to read the Student Finance England guide to DSA. There is also further information on GOV.UK.

You can appeal to Student Finance England if your application for DSA is not accepted.

Wales

For students living in Wales, Student Finance Wales assesses eligibility for DSA. There is information on eligibility and an application evidence form on their website.

Scotland

The Students Awards Agency for Scotland assesses DSA applications. There are different applications forms depending on what type of course you are on and whether you have applied for support for tuition fees and living costs.

There is also further information on using the non-medical help component of the DSA on the Students Awards Agency for Scotland website.

Northern Ireland

In order to receive DSA the definition of disability comes from the Equality Act 2010, however, this legislation does not apply to Northern Ireland. Instead, for students living in Northern Ireland and claiming DSA, the Education Authority must be satisfied that you will incur additional costs to study because of your medical condition.

The application is made through your Education Authority and there is information about the application process on the Student Finance NI website.

Where can I get more information?

As well as the information on GOV.UK and the Student Finance websites (linked from the sections above), the UCAS website has information about DSA including a video on applying for the allowance.

The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland have written a factsheet on benefits for disabled students. There are also other factsheets on their website which may be helpful for students.

In other pages on our website, we cover:

We also have a separate section on the website for Disabled people and carers.

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