Disabled Students’ Allowance [DSA]

dyslexia_DSA_universityWhat is Disabled Students’ Allowance [DSA]?

Students with a Specific Learning Difficulty [SpLD], such as dyslexia, who are already studying, or are about to begin a full or part time Higher Education course [including some Open University and postgraduate courses], may be eligible to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance [DSA], which is a non-means tested government grant to help towards the cost of non-medical support, including specialist study skills, tuition, and IT equipment/software, etc.  Non-medical support can help to remove the barriers to learning that some students may have due to their disability.

For more information about the Disabled Students’ Allowance please visit the direct.gov website.

What evidence do I need to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance?

In order to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance, students in Higher Education will require a specialist diagnostic assessment as evidence of their Specific Learning Difficulty. The assessment must have been undertaken when the student was aged 16 or over.  A mature student having previously undertaken a post-16 assessment but where more than two years has elapsed before they enter Higher Education may be required to undertake an updated ‘top-up’ assessment.  Student Finance England should be contacted for advice prior to any reassessment being undertaken.

What does a specialist diagnostic assessment include?

A specialist diagnostic assessment includes:

  • the student’s details and date of the assessment;
  • a clear statement of the presence of a Specific Learning Difficulty;
  • a detailed description of the tests used [which must conform to guidelines issued by the SASC SpLD Working Group];
  • a comprehensive breakdown and analysis of test scores;
  • conclusions which explain why there is a statement of disability;
  • recommendations – e.g:
    • reasonable adjustments such as, for example, extra time in examinations [often +25%];
    • subject-specific support recommendations;
    • extensions for course work with the relevant conditions;
    • assistive technology recommendations related to the nature of the Specific Learning Difficulty;
    • any other referrals which might be necessary, such as optometry assessments or speech and language therapy assessments, although these are not common and will not usually be paid for by the HE establishment.

Some students may already have an exam access arrangements ‘report’ for GSCE and/or A level examinations [i.e. provided by their school/college] which may be sufficient to allow the Higher Education establishment to make a similar arrangement for examinations at university, but this will not be adequate for a Disabled Students’ Allowance application.

How can I obtain a specialist diagnostic assessment?

The SASC SpLD Working Group’s guidelines for assessments relating to Disabled Students’ Allowance in Higher Education state that assessments must be carried out by a qualified specialist teacher who holds a practising certificate [‘APC SpLD’], or by an educational psychologist. The assessment report must be prepared using an agreed set of diagnostic tools and presented in a specific format.

Some Higher Education establishments provide access to qualified assessors, and may be able to offer reduced fees or waive them entirely.  Other establishments do not provide this service, and students will need to make their own arrangements to obtain a diagnostic assessment.

As a qualified specialist teacher and holder of the required practising certifcate, Melanie Stephenson of Dyslexia Lincs is authorised to conduct specialist diagnostic assessments for DSA purposes.

How much does a specialist diagnostic assessment cost?

The cost of obtaining a specialist diagnostic assessment for DSA varies depending on the provider used.

The current fee for a full specialist diagnostic assessment provided by Dyslexia Lincs can be found here.

Some Higher Education establishments may fund or part-fund assessments, but this is not normally offered prior to the student starting the first year, which delays the student receiving DSA support.

How long does it take to for a DSA application to be processed?

Applications for Disabled Students’ Allowance can take some time to process – usually at least three months, but it can take longer.  It is therefore important that students should apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance as soon as they can before their course starts.  Students do not have to wait until they have a confirmed place.

How do I apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance?

To apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance the form ‘DSA1’ must be completed and sent to Student Finance England.

If student finance has also been applied for, version ‘DSA1 slim’ should be used. If the application is for DSA only [i.e. no application for student finance has been made], version ‘DSA1 full’ should be used.  Please click on the appropriate link to download the form.

There are also some useful guidance notes to help with the application available here.

The completed form should be returned with a copy of the diagnostic assessment report.

Who processes a DSA application?

Since 2009, Disabled Students’ Allowance has been handled by Student Finance England, to whom the application form and any enquiries should be directed:

Student Finance England
PO Box 210

Tel: 0845 300 50 90

Further information

Further information about obtaining a specialist diagnostic dyslexia assessment from Dyslexia Lincs is available here.

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.