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Disabled students' allowance

Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) are Government support packages – available to UK students who meet the criteria – designed to pay for the extra costs a student may incur as a result of a disability, medical condition, Specific Learning Difference (SpLD) or mental health condition which impacts on their studies.

DSAs funding is allocated to individual students and not the university and it’s the student’s responsibility to fully engage in the process of applying. Funding can help pay for study related support, including specialist equipment and human support, but it will not pay for:

  • Costs a student would have whether or not they were at university
  • Non-disability related costs incurred by all students on a particular course 

DSAs are not:

  • A loan that has to be repaid after graduation
  • Classed as income which affects state benefits

Find answers to our most frequently asked questions at the bottom of this page.

How to apply for Disabled Students' Allowances

The amount of DSAs available and the methods of application vary depending on the type of course being studied.

When applying for funding the provider requires formal, written evidence of a disability for them to determine the extra support a student may require when studying at university.

Proof of your disability or medical condition

In most cases, you will need to provide a letter from a medical professional which details your condition and how this affects you.

Proof of your specific learning difference

There are certain requirements regarding SpLD diagnostic reports which need to be met to qualify for a DSA. It is particularly important that you check the requirements and start your DSAs application before you go to university. For details of the requirements download a copy of proof of your specific learning difference.

The study needs assessment

The study needs assessment is an important part of the DSA application process, during which your DSAs support is determined. It is not a test of your disability. The types of support it could determine are:

  • Academic human support e.g. a note taker for teaching sessions
  • Technological support e.g.  a computer with assistive software; a recording device for teaching sessions
  • Contribution towards travel costs for students who are unable to use standard public transport due to the effects of their disability
  • Other support e.g. a photocopying allowance

You must have written permission from your funding provider to have a study needs assessment.

We have produced a booklet about the study needs assessment which you must read before submitting your application.

Once your DSA is approved

You must keep all documents and correspondence relating to your DSA application as it is likely that you will need to use the support every year of your course.

DSA and mental health

  1. I don’t think of myself as disabled – why would apply for Disabled Students Allowance?

    We know that many students who are eligible for DSA support do not apply because the name can be confusing or misleading. One important thing to know is that, as well as supporting students with a physical disability, DSA is also there to support students with learning disabilities and mental health conditions. So, if you have a mental health condition, like anxiety or depression, you should apply for DSA.
  2. What difference would getting DSA Support make to me?

    DSA support for a mental health condition is there to make sure that you are not at an unfair disadvantage because of your mental health. This means that what support someone gets is tailored to their needs. DSA might be used to help you get a laptop and software that makes it easier to manage your workload. It might also be used to get you support from a Mental Health Mentor, who you could meet with regularly throughout your time at University. DMU could also put in place some adjustments to your teaching and exam arrangements. Again, this support would focus on making sure you are not at unfairly disadvantaged because of your mental health – and we would discuss these with you before we put them in place.
  3. Is the application process long and complicated?

    The process can be long – it can take up to 12 weeks from the time of your application to get the support in place. Making the application should not be too complicated however, and the Wellbeing Service can support you with it. There are two things you need to do to apply for DSA. You need to complete a short form giving some basic information about yourself. You also need to provide a copy of medical evidence of your mental health condition. That could be a letter from a GP or another medical professional. If you have a mental health condition but are unsure if you have the right evidence, contact the Wellbeing Service at the email address below and we can advise you about this.
  4. I struggle with my mental health – but how do I know if it’s serious enough for me to apply for DSA?

    It can help to think about how your mental health affects you and how long this has lasted. For example, you might have noticed your mental health has made it difficult to concentrate on school or Uni work. Or you might have found it has meant you have struggled to attend classes or do things you enjoy. If poor mental health has affected you in ways like this, and the affects seem likely to last for a year or more, you could be eligible to apply for DSA. Even if you are unsure about this, we would encourage you to make a SPA Appointment to talk to someone in the Wellbeing Service about this.
  5. I think I could have a mental health condition but I do not have any evidence to prove this. I am not even sure if I have formal diagnosis. Does that mean I can’t apply?

    A really good first step would be to make an appointment with your GP to talk about your mental health and let them know you are considering a DSA Application. Your GP may already feel they have enough information to provide evidence for an application. Or they may want to know a bit more information. We know lots of people can find it difficult to talk to their GP about mental health and the Wellbeing Service can support you with this and help you prepare for the appointment. It may also help to look at this link about how to talk to your GP about mental health and this is one about preparing to talk to your GP about your issues.
  6. I’m thinking about applying for DSA but still have some questions. What’s the best way to find out more?

    You can contact the wellbeing service about it by emailing wellbeing@dmu.ac.uk. Or you can book yourself into one of our Single Point of Access (or SPA) appointments, via MyGateway.