Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)

Updated on 23 April 2022

The Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) is a supplementary allowance available to UK domiciled students who incur additional expenditure because of their disability while undertaking a full-time higher education course.

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All disabled students are advised to register with Disability Services as soon as possible to ensure individual support arrangements are made.

If you are studying a part-time course, which is at least 50% of a full-time equivalent higher education course, you can also apply for the DSA.

The DSA is not means-tested but you must meet residence conditions.

Applying for DSA

Applications for the DSA must be sent to the student's funding authority.

If you are funded by the UK Research Councils, further information is available on the Research Councils' DSA Information website.

All applications for the DSA must be endorsed by a member of staff at your institution, usually your Disability Adviser. Your Disability Adviser will also be able to answer any questions you may have about the DSA application process.

DSA applications must include recent medical evidence (for example a doctor's letter) explaining the nature and extent of your disability. If you are dyslexic, an up-to-date assessment by a Chartered Psychologist or a PATOSS qualified professional is usually required.

If you are eligible for the DSA, your funding authority may refer you to the Access Centre at Dundee University, or another assessment centre if closer to your home address, to undertake a study needs assessment. The cost of this assessment is paid by your funding authority.

An Access Centre needs assessment aims to identify the most appropriate equipment and personal support to enable you to complete your chosen course of study. The assessment cannot be obtained without prior written approval of your funding authority.

Types of Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)

There are three allowances which make up the DSA (rates are for SAAS funded students):

  • Basic Allowance - up to £1,725 per annum in session 2020/2021 (pro rata for part-time students).This is an annual allowance to cover the costs of general expenditure such as paper, ink cartridges and small items of equipment.
  • Large Items of Equipment Allowance - up to £5,160 for the course duration in session 2020/2021.The maximum available for this allowance is set at the time of your initial claim to cover the cost of major items of equipment such as a computer, a scanner or assistive software for the duration of the your course. If the item/s cost more than the maximum allowed then any unused portion of the Basic Allowance can be used for this purpose.
  • Non-Medical Personal Help Allowance - up to £20,520 per annum in session 2020/2021 (pro rata for part-time students).This is an annual allowance to cover the cost of non-medical personal assistance such as readers, scribes or sign language interpreters. It is usually paid in instalments. If the assistance costs more than the maximum allowed then any unused portion of the Basic Allowance can be used for this purpose.

Assessment process (for students referred to the Access Centre, University of Dundee)


  1. Student sends DSA application to their funding authority with recent medical evidence to support their disability (e.g. doctor's letter, chartered psychologist's report).
  2. Funding authority refers student to Access Centre for assessment of their equipment and other support needs.
  3. Access Centre sends student an assessment appointment. Appointment date within four weeks of the date of receipt of the funding authority's referral request.
  4. Access Centre assessment is undertaken and recommendations are agreed with student.
  5. Access Centre sends draft assessment report to student within two weeks of completing the assessment.
  6. Assessment report is sent to the student's funding authority within one week of receiving the student's written approval.
  7. Funding authority writes to student to advise of outcome of their DSA application (typically within 4 weeks of receiving student's assessment report but can be longer during busy periods).

The Access Centre aims to complete each stage of the DSA assessment process as quickly as possible. However, delays may occasionally occur. Some of these delays will be outside the Access Centre's control and may mean that the times quoted above are exceeded.

Access Centre referral

After you have sent your application to your funding authority, they will contact the Access Centre if they require an Access Centre assessment. The Access Centre referral must be made in writing by your funding authority. As soon as this referral is received, the  Access Centre will contact you to arrange an appointment.

You should expect to be offered an appointment within four weeks of the Access Centre receiving a written referral request.

Access Centre assessment

The Access Centre assessment begins with a discussion between you and the assessor for approximately one hour.

During this time, you will be asked for details of your disability and course of study, and asked to consider how your disability affects your studies. Previous equipment, support and strategies for learning will also be explored.

Following this discussion, you will be invited to view and trial various items of assistive technology. This may include, for example, technology that enables the user to dictate text directly into the computer (voice recognition software) or technology that enables the user to hear the text they have typed read back to them by the computer (screen reading software).

This stage of the assessment process typically takes another hour. At the end of the equipment trial, the assessor will discuss with you the equipment and any other support, such as Non-Medical Personal Help, that is to be recommended in the Access Centre assessment report. Equipment training requirements will also be discussed at this stage.

Access Centre Assessment Report

You should expect to receive a draft needs assessment report within two weeks of your Access Centre appointment. You should read the report carefully to ensure that you are happy with its contents.

If you are happy with the report, you should contact the Access Centre to confirm this. If you are not happy with any aspect of the report, you should contact the assessor who undertook the assessment as soon as possible.

Once a final version of the report has been agreed, the Access Centre will send a copy of your report to your funding authority. With your permission, a copy of the report will also be sent to the person responsible for disability support at your institution.

One additional copy will be kept in your Access Centre file. No further copies of the report will be distributed without your prior written consent.

Outcome of DSA application

Your funding authority will write to you to advise of the outcome of your DSA application. Response times from funding authorities for DSA applications can vary from one week to several months.

The average response time is four weeks. If no response has been received within one month of the Access Centre sending your report to your funding authority, you are advised to contact your funding authority for a response.

If a negative response is received from your funding authority, the Access Centre will negotiate with the authority on your behalf.

As soon as a positive response has been received in writing from your funding authority, equipment ordering can be undertaken and any non-medical personal help can be arranged.

Equipment ordering

Your DSA award from your funding authority to cover the cost of the recommended equipment may be paid directly into your bank account. Alternatively, your funding authority may liaise directly with the equipment suppliers. They will advise you of this.

If you are sent funding for the equipment, you should contact the suppliers listed at the back of your Access Centre report, or any other suppliers you choose, to order the recommended equipment. If you wish to make any changes to the specification of the equipment you must obtain the approval of your funding authority before doing so and be willing to pay any difference in cost yourself.

Once all the equipment has been purchased, you must send a copy of the equipment receipts to your funding authority as proof of purchase. Any unspent funds must also be returned.

Arranging non-medical personal help

Non-medical personal help is usually arranged by your Disability Adviser at your institution or you can arrange this yourself if employing your own support workers. The cost of non-medical personal help is usually provided in arrears by your funding authority on the production of receipts detailing dates when support was provided, the number of hours worked and the rate of pay per hour.

These receipts must be dated and signed by you and your non-medical personal helper. It may be possible for your helper to be paid directly by your funding authority (ask funding authority for details), and some institutions offer support with the recruitment, training and payment of helpers.

You can contact Disability Services for further advice.

Equipment insurance, installation, and training

Insurance and installation of equipment purchased through the DSA is highly recommended and the cost of these will be included in the Access Centre's quotes from our recommended suppliers. Training with equipment is also highly recommended to enable you to utilise the assistive technology to the full to support your studies.

Training obtained through the DSA is restricted to the assistive technology that has been recommended to support your disability (e.g. voice recognition software) and does not include training with software or equipment that is used on your course (e.g. MS Office software).

This training should be available through your institution. Training with the recommended assistive technology can be provided by the equipment supplier and the cost of this will be included in your report where required.

Follow-up and complaints procedure

We encourage you to contact your Disability Adviser should you experience any difficulties with ordering equipment or arranging training through the recommended suppliers.

You should also contact your Disability Adviser if you need further advice or need to change any aspect of your support.

We are always interested in feedback on our services and to hear how you are getting on with the recommended support. You can do this by emailing: Should you wish to make a complaint about any aspect of your Access Centre assessment, please follow our complaints procedure.

These questions are likely to be asked in your DSA needs assessment. There is no need to complete the questions in advance of attending your assessment. They are provided to enable you to prepare for the assessment should you wish to do so.

Needs assessment questions 

Contact Details

Your assessor is likely to have most of this information already but will check the following details:

  • What is your name?
  • What is your institution?
  • What is your term address, telephone and email?
  • What is your home address, telephone and email?
  • What is your date of birth?
  • What is your student funding reference number (e.g. from SAAS)
  • Are you studying on a full-time, part-time or distance learning basis?
  • What is the level of your course (e.g. undergraduate, HNC)?
  • What is the title of the course you are studying?
  • How long is the course?
  • What year are you in?

Section A

Student background

  • Have you had a previous assessment for the Disabled Students’ Allowance?
  • What is the nature of your disability?
  • What are your previous education/employment details (in brief)?
  • How is your course taught and assessed (e.g. lectures, exams, field trips)?

Effects of disability on study

Do you experience any disability-related difficulties with:

  • Travelling to your institution or accessing your classes?
  • Reading (e.g. speed, comprehension, visual distortion)?
  • Producing written work or taking notes?
  • Concentration or memory?
  • Speaking (e.g. presentations, in groups, 1-1 basis)?
  • Vision or hearing?
  • Undertaking practical work?
  • Using a library?
  • Using equipment, software and networked resources?
  • Undertaking examinations and assessments?
  • Participating in residential schools, work placements or field trips?
  • Organising your workload or managing your time?

Previous or existing support

  • What support have you received previously (e.g. in school, from family)?
  • What are your existing study strategies?
  • What equipment do you currently use to support your studies?

Section B

Adjustments to be made by your institution

  • What adjustments has your institution made to meet your disability-related needs, if any?

This includes any adjustments to teaching, assessment and exams. Your assessor will discuss these with you but they will need to be approved by your institution.

Loan equipment

  • What equipment do you have on loan from your institution, if any?

Other support

Your assessor will include details in your report of any other support they think might be useful to you.

Sections C and D

Sections C and D of your report will detail the support that your assessor will recommend is funded through the DSA. This may include equipment, Non-Medical Personal Help (e.g. note-taker) and support with travel costs. Your funding authority will decide whether these recommendations are approved.