Your Disabled Students’ Allowance Guide 2024

Applying for DSA but don’t know where to start? You’re in the right place.

You’ve got your head around student finance. Now you need to fill out a DSA application too. Filling out more forms = boooo. 

But according to UCAS data from 2023, over 20% of uni applicants declared a disability on their application, compared to 15% the year before. With this number rising every year, it’s more important than ever that you have the right support in place for your studies. 

So to make it easier for you guys, we’ve put together this guide breaking down your DSA application, what to expect at an assessment centre and other common questions.

In this article:

What is disabled students’ allowance (DSA)?

DSA is a government scheme set up to support students with disabilities during their time at university. This means you can get extra funding to cover the cost of equipment (think laptops and printers) and other study aids that can help you get your degree. 

Recently published data from HEPI states that the main reason students think about leaving uni early is due to their mental/emotional health, followed by financial difficulties. It’s not a fix-all solution for your mental health, but DSA could help to alleviate some of the financial pressures that can make mental health struggles worse.

What about my maintenance loan, you ask? It’s no secret that maintenance loans are barely enough to cover the cost of living, so the good news is that you apply for DSA on top of your student loan. It also acts a bit differently, as you don’t need to pay back any DSA unless you leave your course early, or you were overpaid. You can find out more information about how student loans work on our blog.

A recent Student Beans survey showed that 22% of students surveyed had a diagnosed neurodivergence, which can make studying difficult to navigate. DSA is there to make your day to day life as a student easier. It’s not based on your household income, but the support you need for your personal circumstances. It can help cover things like travel costs, BSL interpreters or note-takers, as well as money towards a laptop or other specialist equipment. 

When you go to the assessment centre, the adviser will be able to talk through what could be available to you. It’s worth noting that your DSA is there to help cover costs and support you in areas that are directly linked to your disability, rather than general costs that a student might face. 

How much is DSA?

Your DSA funding depends on where you live, so you’ll be able to find the maximum funding you could potentially get in the table below. The maximum caps don’t include travel costs, so you could potentially receive more than the caps with travel included. 

Where do you liveMaximum DSA funding for 2024/25
EnglandSingle allowance: £26,948 
ScotlandScotland splits their DSA funding into three categories:
Basic allowance: £1,725
Equipment, software and accessories: £5,160
Non-medical personal help (for example proofreaders, BSL interpreters): £20,520
WalesSingle allowance: £33,460
Northern IrelandSingle allowance: £25,000
Table showing maximum DSA funding 2024/25 based on country

Something to bear in mind is that any allowance you’re given won’t normally appear as cash in your bank. You’ll usually order through a supplier or have expenses reimbursed. 

The amount you’ll receive is based on what you might find helpful while studying. This could include:

  • Laptop or PC, voice recognition software, ergonomic equipment
  • Note-takers, BSL interpreters, proofreaders, mental health mentors
  • Braille paper, printers, ink, photocopying costs

If you’re assessed as needing a computer because you either don’t have one or your current one doesn’t meet your study needs, you’ll be asked to pay the first £200 towards this. 

Some unis have additional schemes in place to help cover the first £200 contribution, so definitely check this out. 

Am I eligible?

So, there’s a few criteria you need to meet to be eligible for DSA. The guidelines state that you need to:

  • Be a UK resident
  • Be an undergraduate or postgraduate student (on a course at least a year long)
  • Have qualified for student finance
  • Have a disability, medical condition, sensory impairment, mental health condition or specific learning disability that affects your ability to study

Those who won’t be eligible include:

  • EU students who are only eligible for tuition fee loans
  • Those getting equivalent support elsewhere

If you don’t meet the criteria but need support, reach out to your uni, as they might be able to help with additional support. 

How to apply for DSA

If you’re ready to go with your DSA application, you can find the form on your student finance account. You can apply online, or you can post your application, depending on which body you’re applying to and whether you’re a full-time, part-time or postgraduate student.

Feeling super organised? Well, you can actually apply for DSA before you even confirm your university place. And it’s a good idea too, as the time it takes for your application to process can vary pretty wildly. It could also take up to 14 weeks for any support to be sorted. So getting it done as soon as possible is sounding pretty good now, right? Sort it before freshers kicks off, and you’ll have one less thing to think about, so you can spend your time getting to know your new normal. 

Each country has a different student finance body, so wherever you apply for your student finance will be where you apply for your DSA:

For those getting ahead of the game, watch out when you’re applying for DSA online. If you haven’t already, get your student finance sorted before your DSA application, as you can’t apply for student finance online once you’ve applied for the DSA. So don’t get caught out. 

Supplying your evidence for DSA

When you start filling out your application for DSA, you’ll be asked to supply evidence of your disability. But what does that mean? Sounds a bit true crime podcast, but it’s not that deep. All it means is that you need to send on either:

  • A copy of a letter or report from your doctor or consultant (or a disability evidence form) 
  • A copy of a diagnostic assessment form from a practitioner, psychologist or other specialist teacher

You’ll be able to submit digital copies in your student finance account, or you can send copies when you send off a postal application. 

When your application is submitted, you can sit and wait to hear back from your student finance body. They’ll be able to let you know when to book a study needs assessment. 

What can I expect from a DSA assessment?

Once you’ve heard back from student finance, your details will be passed on to a supplier who will be in touch. There’s also the option to contact them yourselves, so you can reach out to arrange your own study needs assessment. 

The cost of your study needs assessment will be reimbursed through your DSA entitlement. Before your assessment you’ll also need to send copies of your evidence that you submitted as part of your application. 

But what can you expect from the assessment? Sounds a bit intense, but really it’s an informal chat with an assessor. They’ll walk you through types of support that could be available, as well as what you’d find helpful, and how your disability affects your day to day life. It’s not a test, just about finding the best support you can get. 

Finding out what type of exams or coursework you’ll be required to do on your course could help them work out support you might benefit from, like extra time in exams, or note-takers for lectures. 

It’s a completely confidential process and usually lasts between 1-2 hours. You’ll be able to either attend an assessment in person, or do it online via video call, whatever works for you. 

When can I hear back about whether my application has been successful?

After your assessment, your assessor will send on a report and recommendations to student finance of what they think will best support you at university.

Once they have this, they’ll send on a letter of entitlement to you and your supplier, so you can start to organise equipment support. 

The time it takes can vary, you might hear back from student finance quickly, but it can take up to 14 weeks for your support to be arranged. 

Do I have to reapply for DSA every year?

You usually won’t have to reapply for DSA every year, especially if you applied for DSA alongside your student finance. 

If you’re a postgraduate student, or you study part-time, or don’t receive student finance, then it’s worth checking with student finance to see if you’ll need to reapply. 

Things can change quickly, but it’s worth keeping student finance in the loop if you decide to go part-time, or your circumstances change. If you’re diagnosed with an additional condition, or your condition gets worse, you could get more support. 

Will DSA affect getting a job after graduation?

Your DSA won’t affect your ability to get a job after you graduate. If a company doesn’t hire you because of a physical and/or mental health condition then they are acting unlawfully against the Equality Act 2010 which protects you from discrimination in the workplace. And who wants to work for someone like that?

Who can I speak to about my DSA application?

If you need help with your application, see if you can speak to your chosen university’s disability adviser to help – they may even know about extra support the uni offers. Some charities like Diversity and Ability also offer support via their social media channels.

If your application is unsuccessful, you can appeal the result through student finance

Check out our health & fitness student discounts to help support your physical and mental health at uni.