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Don't get stumped by student finance – get funded! Our application walk-through has everything you need to know…
While we can’t promise to put the ‘fun' into funding – we’re money experts, not miracle workers – we can do our best to make it as painless as possible. Here’s everything you need to know about applying for student finance without the drama.

This page covers official funding for full-time students – but there's tons of other cash out there. Head over to the Big Fat Guide to Student Finance or our country-specific guides to see what's going where you are!

Student Finance 101

What exactly is Student Finance?

Student Finance is the official government funding you apply for in order to pay for university tuition fees or living costs while studying.

The cash is bankrolled and regulated by the government, then doled out by an official student finance organisation – there’s one for each country in the UK.

Who can apply for funding?

Student finance is open to UK and EU nationals who normally live in the UK. You may also be able to apply if you have refugee status, or if your folks are either Swiss nationals or Turkish workers.

There’s no upper age limitfor tuition loans but, if you're on the hunt for a maintenance loan to cover living costs, you’ll need to be a UK student aged under 60 (or 50-something in Scotland) to be eligible.

You’ll also need to be studying a valid course at an approved institution (check with the uni if you’re not sure), and studying in higher education for the first time.

If your circumstances aren’t that clear cut for any reason, your best bet is to head over to Student Finance for the full buffet of rules and regs!

What's on offer?

Each country has a slightly different set-up but, generally, the funding pie comes in two flavours:

  1. Student loans

    Just like it says on the tin, this is borrowed cash that you’re expected to pay back at some point. The Tuition Fee Loan (for UK/EU students) covers your course fees and is paid directly to your university or college, so you never actually see, smell or touch any of it.

    UK students can also get a maintenance loan (click here to see how much you'd get) which, like the mother of all tooth fairy payments, lands in your bank account at the start of each term (monthly in Scotland). You can use it for whatever you like, but the smart thing to do is put it towards your priority costs (rent, bills, food and savings) first.

Unfortunately, the government have scrapped maintenance grants as of 2017/18 AY, but they will be increasing maintenance loans ever so slightly. It’s up to you to make your maintenance loan last – don’t bust it all in Fresher’s Week, unless you like wearing avoidable hardship like some weird badge of honour.

  1. ‘Free money’

    Bursaries and grants are like food you've licked – they're yours to keep (i.e., don't have to be repaid). It's well worth taking the time to see what's going and what you're eligible for.

    In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are grants or bursaries for living costs, as well as some form of fee waiver that means you may have less to borrow to pay for tuition fees, or none to borrow in the case of Scottish students.

    EU students can take advantage of tuition fee waivers, too (except for in Scotland) – you’ll be charged the same as local students, and can get a loan to pay for it – but not any maintenance money going.

    In England, maintenance payments have had a massive shake-up. Well, technically it's more of a shakedown: students starting courses after 2017 won't get less money to live on – but anything you do get will be a loan (which earns interest and has to be repaid). If you got in before the big freeze and already get a maintenance grant, don't panic! You'll be able to re-apply for it each year just as you do now. Make the most of that bad boy!

    UK students can also apply for extra support in the form of a Childcare Grant, Parents’ Learning Allowance, Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) or Adult Dependants’ Grant.

    Depending on what you’re studying, there may also be other bursaries and travel grants up for grabs – Student Finance will let you know if you’re eligible once they get your application.

If you leave your course early (i.e., drop out), you might have to start repaying loans or grants early, and it could affect whether you get student finance again later on. Speak to your uni's welfare team or Student Money Adviserbefore ditching your degree.

How much will I get?

Credit: imgflip.comIf you’re eligible for the Tuition Loan, you can ask for as much (or as little) as you like, no matter how much income you or your folks have coming in.

On the other hand, maintenance loans are awarded on a sliding scale: the higher your household income, the less support you’ll get.

How much you can apply for also varies by country.

All of this means we can’t give you precise figures, as it’s different for everybody. What we can give you in the meantime is a heads-up. Here’s the maximum you can apply for if your course starts in 2017:

Type of fundingEnglandScotlandWalesNI
Tuition Loan£9,250No fees in Scotland,
£9k in rest of UK
£9,250 rest of UK
Maintenance Loan£8,430£5,750£6,922£4,840
Maintenance Grantn/a£1,875£5,161£3,475

A few points to bear in mind:

  • Maintenance Loan shown is for living away from home (you could get slightly more for studying in London).
  • You'll get less maintenance money in your final year of study.
  • There’s extra cash going if your course lasts longer than term-time 30 weeks, or if you spend a year studying abroad.
  • The maintenance grant shown for Scotland is the Young Students' Bursary. The Independent Students' Bursary comes with less cash.
  • Welsh students can get a non-income assessed fee grant that caps what you have to borrow for tuition (full details in our dedicated guide for Welsh students).
  • In Wales and Northern Ireland, you may be able to apply for an income-assessed maintenance grant or a non-assessed Special Support Grant (SSG), for example if you’re a single parent or have disabilities. The benefit of SSG is that it doesn’t count as income, so it won’t affect any benefits you get.

What else can I ask for?

That’s your lot from Student Finance – but there is more cash out there up for grabs – it's just a matter of digging it out.

Ask your uni about scholarships, bursaries or extra support for students from low-income backgrounds, or start sniffing out the goodies for yourself.

Applying for Student Finance

How do I apply?

You can apply online-only in Scotland, otherwise choose either online or by post if you're applying elsewhere in the UK.

Either way, you may need to post evidence – things like your passport or birth certificate, or paperwork if you’re applying for extra support such as dependants’ grants or DSA.

How long does it take?

The form has enough questions to rival University Challenge so, depending on your circumstances, and how organised you are with paperwork, allow a couple of hours to complete – and always double check your application!

After that, the Student Finance bods reckon it can take at least 6 weeks to crunch the numbers and get back to you – it could be longer if you leave it until peak time during the summer holidays.

In the meantime, prep yourself as much as possible in order to stay on top of things:

  • Estimate how much you’ll need and, crucially, how much of it Student Finance will cover. Use your budget to see how the numbers pan out, and get a back-up plan in place for any shortfall.
  • Scout out scholarships, uni bursaries and charity grants.
  • Start squirrelling away cash to tide you over when you first land on campus – you won’t get your first instalment from Student Finance until a few days after registering on your course.

What should I have to hand?

Credit: imgflip.comIn short, you'll need paperwork, parents and steely eyed determination to hand.

More specifically, you'll need:

  • A working email address if you're applying online. When you first register with Student Finance, they'll email you a reference number – keep hold of it! You'll need it to get official funding for the duration of your course.
  • A bank account in your own name. Any maintenance money you get will be paid directly into your account, so get one set up before you apply, and make a note of the account number and sort code.
  • School, uni and course details (if you don’t have a confirmed place, use the one you’re most likely to start and update it later).
  • An in-date UK passport. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to send original documents (passport or birth certificate) to Student Finance – allow a few weeks to get them back!
  • Income info (National Insurance number and details about any savings or pensions) for your parents or partner, or for yourself if you’re applying as an independent student or for one of the dependants’ grants. Top tip: find out what income doesn't need to be declared to avoid being short-changed on funding.
  • Information about any support you’re already getting, and health evidence if you’re applying for DSA.

Student Finance application deadlines for 2017/18

We've listed the deadlines to ensure you hit them if you want to get paid on time for courses starting or continuing in 2017.

You can still apply after this time (up to 9 months after the start of the academic year), but you might not get the cash when you need it – so get in early! Applications tend to open in Feb-March each year.

Student Finance England

New university students: 26th May 2017

Returning students: 3rd June 2017

Apply online

Student Finance Wales

New university students: 12th May 2017

Returning students: 9th June 2017

Apply online

Student Finance Northern Ireland

New university students: 7th April 2017

Returning students: 30th June 2017

Apply online

Student Awards Agency (Scotland)

New university students: 30th June 2017

Returning students: 30th June 2017

Apply online

5 tips for stress-free funding

  1. Apply early: The sooner you get your application rolling, the better – plus you’ll have extra time to sort out any teething troubles before your course starts.
  2. Do your research: try to ask for everything you think you’ll need (and are eligible for) up front
  3. Double-check everything before you submit: any bungles now will only delay when you get paid.
  4. Don’t forget to re-apply for finance each year!
  5. Don't panic if you miss the deadline: You can apply for student finance up to 9 months after the start of the academic year but the longer you leave it, the more of your own cash you’ll have to shell out in the meantime.

You’ve got the cash. Now what?

We can’t say this enough: make the most of the money you get. Whether that’s making it go further or turning it into an income, you need to be proactive to make it pay!

Take a look around Save the Student to get some serious schooling in the art of student thrift – get started right here.

Reckon we’ve missed a trick? Give us a shout in the comments below and we’ll credit your tips!

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Disability Rights UK Factsheet F18

1. Introduction

If you have a disability or specific learning difficulty and are studying in higher education, you may be eligible for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs). These allowances cover extra disability-related costs or expenses you have while studying which are over and above those provided as reasonable adjustments by the college or university.

There are four allowances to cover different areas of need.

  • Specialist equipment allowance
  • Non-medical helper’s allowance
  • General and other expenditure allowance
  • Travel costs.

DSAs are not paid in set amounts because they depend on what you need. Payments cover the cost of specific items of equipment, specific support worker costs, and so on. Apart from travel, there are maximum amounts for each allowance.

DSAs are not intended to pay for disability-related costs that you would have whether you were a student or not, such as personal care support or study costs that every student might have.

Awarding authorities

Depending on where you currently live, you should apply to one of the following agencies for your DSAs:

  • In England apply to Student Finance England. You can apply at the same time as making your online UCAS application. For NHS-funded courses, you need to apply to NHS Student Bursaries for your DSAs.
  • In Wales apply to Student Finance Wales. For NHS funded courses apply to NHS Wales Student Awards Unit.
  • In Scotland apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for any course.
  • In Northern Ireland apply to your regional Education Authority. For NHS-funded courses contact the Bursary Administration Unit.

2. Who can get DSAs?

DSAs are available to students on designated higher education courses who are ordinarily resident in the UK.

Are DSAs means tested?
No. Eligibility for DSAs does not depend on your income or the income of your family.

What if I have studied before?
You can qualify for DSAs even if you have already taken a course of higher education. There are no ‘previous study’ restrictions. However, the amount you get may depend on what you received before. For example, you may already have equipment from a previous DSA allowance.

I am being seconded (my employer is sending me on the course instead of my usual job). Am I eligible for DSAs? If you have been seconded by your employer for your study, you can apply for DSAs from your awarding authority.

Are DSAs available to international students?
DSAs are only available to students who are ordinarily resident in the UK. If you’re ordinarily resident in another country then you will not qualify for DSAs. This applies even if you’re a European Union (EU) resident and can get help with your tuition fees.

3. Which courses are designated for DSAs?

Undergraduate courses

You can apply for DSAs if you attend a publicly-funded full-time or part-time higher education course in the UK. This includes:

  • a first or Bachelor’s degree
  • an undergraduate Master’s degree
  • a Higher National Diploma (HND) or Higher National Certificate (HNC)
  • a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ 4 or 5) linked with a degree
  • a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)
  • most foundation degrees

DSAs are also available for sandwich courses, but you will not be eligible for them when you’re on a full-year paid placement.

Nursing, midwifery and other professions allied to medicine

From August 2017, new nursing, midwifery and health students will have access to the same student loans system like other students rather than getting a NHS bursary. . You will have to apply for DSAs from Student Finance England.

If you are already on a study programme funded by the National Health Service (NHS) DSAs are available as part of your bursary. To apply for DSAs, you must also send in evidence of your impairment. The NHS advises students to let the university know about their disability as soon as possible so that they can make sure appropriate support is in place.

Part-time courses

Part-time students are eligible for DSAs as long as it is a designated course and they are studying at least 25% of the full-time equivalent.  

Postgraduate courses

Postgraduate study includes research and taught Masters’, doctorates, postgraduate diplomas and certificates. Most postgraduate DSAs are different to undergraduate DSAs as there is just one allowance to cover all costs. However in Scotland postgraduate DSAs are set at the same rate as for undergraduates. DSA amounts also vary for research council funding and for certain programmes like teaching (see below). 

As with undergraduates, part-time students must not exceed twice the time period normally needed to complete full-time study for the course.

If you’re from Northern Ireland and get a studentship or bursary from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), you may be eligible for DSAs from the department. You’re also eligible for DSAs if you get a discretionary award from your regional Education Authority for postgraduate study.

If you get a research council award, such as a studentship, you’re eligible for the DSAs administered by your research council. They usually award DSAs in the same way as the undergraduate scheme, and their DSA rates are similar.

If you’re undertaking a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), you’re eligible for the undergraduate student support package including the undergraduate DSA rates.

For postgraduate social work courses, if you get a bursary from the NHS Business Services Authority, Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) or the Care Council for Wales (CCW), you can apply for DSAs connected to that bursary.

If you’re doing a Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) you qualify for DSA support. If you’re studying either of these at a private institution, you may still be able to apply for DSAs. Student Finance England or Student Finance Wales can tell you if the university you’re attending is designated for DSA support.

Open or distance learning courses

DSAs are available to part-time students doing open or distance learning. You will be eligible for DSAs as long as it is a designated course and you’re studying at least 25% of the full-time equivalent. If you’re studying with the Open University (OU), you should apply directly to the OU for DSA support, unless you live in Scotland when you should still apply to SAAS. You can get more information at

HE courses funded by the European Social Fund (ESF)

Students who get ESF payments qualify for DSAs and you should apply to your awarding authority for disability support.

4. What are the four allowances?

Specialist equipment allowance

This allowance is for items of specialist equipment you need to take part in your study programme and benefit fully from it. You may need:

  • a computer
  • specialist software, such as voice recognition, mind mapping or screen reading software
  • audio capturing equipment
  • specialist furniture, such as a chair, table or back support
  • multifunction printers and scanners
  • insurance or extended warranty for the equipment
  • training in the use of specialist equipment.

In England you have to pay £200 towards the cost of a new computer if you need one to run any recommended assistive software. DSAs will not cover the cost of standard computer peripherals (e.g. speakers, headphones, USB drives or cables, keyboards, standard size monitors or mice) unless they’re part of a recommendation for a desktop computer. Exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Any equipment bought with the allowance belongs to you. You don’t have to return it when you finish your course. Normally the awarding authority orders and pays for the equipment on your behalf and delivers it to you. Any repairs or warranty costs you have should also be met by the DSA. If you want a higher specification computer than the one recommended by your assessor, you may be allowed to pay the additional cost yourself, as long as it is compatible with any specialist software you need. DSA payments to equipment suppliers can be made before the term starts to give you time to get used to using new equipment.

If your equipment needs change during your course, you can make additional claims, as long as you stay within the maximum amount. Towards the end of your studies, your awarding authority is likely to be cautious about buying big items of equipment. They may ask you to consider alternative arrangements, such as leasing equipment or using human support instead.

Non-medical helper’s allowance 

This allowance is for any personal assistance you need to benefit fully from your course. As payments are usually for helpers’ wages or costs, they’re generally made in regular instalments, such as once a semester. You may have to keep time sheets and pay records. This allowance is not intended to pay for the non-medical helper’s personal expenses such as their accommodation.

Study support includes:

  • sighted guides
  • electronic notetakers
  • specialist notetakers for deaf and visually impaired students
  • specialist mentors
  • specialist one to one study skill support
  • mobility trainers
  • communication support workers
  • british sign language interpreters
  • assistive technology trainers

Specialist tuition: If you need specialist one-to-one study skill support specifically related to your disability, for example study skills support for dyslexic students, you may be able to claim the costs from this allowance. This support addresses issues in acquiring, recalling, and retaining information as well as memory, organisational, attention and numeracy difficulties. The awarding authority may want confirmation that the help you get is not additional tuition in your academic subject or study support that any student may need whether they’re disabled or not.

Care and daily living needs: DSAs don’t pay for the costs of help that you would need whether you’re a student or not. If you need personal assistance on a daily basis, for example, getting dressed, you should be able to get help through your local social services or social work department.

If you already have a care package, you’re allowed to take it with you, including if you go away to university outside of your local area.

General and other expenditure allowance

This allowance is intended to cover any additional costs not covered by the other allowances, for example, essential non-core books or small fridges for students needing to store medication. It can also be used to 'top up' the specialist equipment and non-medical helper's allowances.

If you need specialist accommodation for example, with en-suite facilities because of your disability, DSAs may be able to cover the extra costs. However, if the accommodation is managed by your college or university or one of its agents, it will be their responsibility to fund this.

Travel costs

This allowance is intended to cover extra disability-related travel costs. It is calculated as the difference between public transport costs and the type of transport you need because of your disability. For example you may be able to claim the difference between bus or train fares compared to using a taxi or private car to travel to and from university. The cost of a journey by car is calculated as by using the mid-point range of AA motoring costs.

There is no maximum limit to the travel allowance.

In Scotland there are no DSAs for travel. However, you may be able to claim extra disability-related travel costs from the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).  You should write to SAAS to make a claim, preferably at the same time as you send in your application for the DSAs.  You must send SAAS proof of your disability (if you have not already done so) and give details of the additional costs.  SAAS may also consider making a 50% advance payment of normal travel costs in certain circumstances.

5. How much DSA can I get?

The maximum DSA amounts you can get depend on your study programme and your individual needs.  

Full-time undergraduate study 

Maximum amounts for 2018/2019
  • Specialist equipment allowance: up to £5,529 for the whole of your course
  • Non-medical helper’s allowance: up to £21,987 per year of your study.
  • Other expenditure allowance: : up to £1,847 per year of your study.
  • Travel: extra travel costs you have to pay because of your disability and not normally for everyday travel cost. No maximum limit.

Part-time undergraduate study

Maximum amounts for 2018/2019
  • Specialist equipment allowance: up to £5,529 for the whole of your course.
  • Non-medical helper’s allowance: up to £16,489  per year. It is awarded pro-rata, for example, if the course is 50% of the full-time equivalent, the maximum DSA is £10,993.
  • Other expenditure allowance up to £1,847 per year. It is awarded pro-rata, for example, if the course is 50% of the full-time equivalent, the maximum DSA is £923.
  • Travel: extra travel costs you have to pay because of disability and not normally for everyday travel cost. No maximum limit.

In England and Wales, students on part-time Initial Teacher Training courses qualify for the full student loan and the other support normally available to full-time students.

Postgraduate study

  • In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the maximum amount for 2018/2019 is £10,993 per year. This covers all components.
  • In Scotland, DSAs are available at the undergraduate rates.
  • PGCE and other ITT courses are eligible for DSAs at the undergraduate rates.
  • Most research council funded study includes DSAs at the undergraduate rates.

Open and distance learning

  • The maximum amounts are the same as for part-time undergraduate students. 

Disabled students with high support costs, for example, hearing or visually impaired students, may find that DSAs are not enough to cover all their support needs. Under the Equality Act, universities have a legal duty to support students who need extra services and support. The university disability adviser will be able to help you, although they might not be able to meet the full cost. You may have to apply for additional funding from other sources, such as charitable trusts. Disability Rights UK’s information booklet Funding from charitable trusts lists some places you can apply to for extra funding.

6. How do I apply?

Where to apply 

Depending on where you currently live, you should apply to one of the following agencies for DSAs:

  • In England apply to Student Finance England. You can apply at the same time as making your online UCAS application. For NHS-funded courses, you need to apply to NHS Student Bursaries for your DSAs.
  • In Wales apply to Student Finance Wales, or NHS Wales Student Awards Unit for NHS funded courses.
  • In Scotland apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for any course.
  • In Northern Ireland apply to Student Finance England or your regional Education Authority. For NHS-funded courses contact the Bursary Administration Unit.

This does not apply to NHS-seconded students, who should check with their awarding authority if they’re eligible for this support.

See the Further Information section of this booklet for details on how to contact awarding authorities and bodies.

For postgraduate study:

  • an awarding authority (depending on your course)
  • Research council (if you get bursary funding from them)

See Disability Rights UK’s information Factsheet F52 - postgraduate education for disabled students for further information and the contact details of postgraduate study awarding bodies, such as research councils.

How to apply

Once you have decided to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances, there are several steps before you receive your equipment and support. At certain points you will need to take an active role in the process. This will be explained to you in letters from your Student Finance company. It’s best to apply early in the year so that you have time to respond to the letters and emails before the summer holidays. You can usually apply for DSA at the same time as making your main online application.

If you ticked the Disabled Students’ Allowances box on your student loan application, you will receive a DSA1 application form with your basic details already filled in. Otherwise you can download the form from the Student Finance or SAAS website.

Before applying for DSAs it can be helpful to have an early discussion with the disability adviser. Colleges and universities are expected to provide support as part of their duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act 2010. They have direct responsibility for providing certain types of non-medical help (NMH) such as readers, scribes, proof readers, practical and library support assistants.

The disability adviser can help you complete the application form for DSAs if needed.

You will need to send the completed form along with evidence of your impairment, health condition or disability.

The evidence can be a diagnostic assessment for a specific learning difficulty, or a letter from your doctor or consultant stating the nature of your condition and ideally briefly explaining how it impacts you. If you have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan in England, this can support the diagnosis and be used to indicate the areas where you need support.

If you have a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia you will need to send your diagnostic assessment-which tells you about your own learning profile. The assessment needs to have been carried out after your 16th birthday. If the diagnostic assessment was carried out in 2012 or after, the psychologist must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council as a practitioner psychologist.

Once you have sent the form and evidence of your disability, Student Finance will write and/or email you to confirm that you are eligible for DSAs. If you have ticked the ‘consent to share’ box, a copy will be sent to Disability Services at your first choice university or college.

Needs assessment

Student Finance will write to you about a needs assessment. Many students worry about what this involves, especially if they had a previous assessment at school or through the health service where their voice wasn’t listened to or which only focused on what they couldn’t do. However, the needs assessment for DSAs is not like this at all. Its purpose is to make sure you have the best possible opportunity in higher education to show your abilities, make good progress and achieve your goals.

The needs assessor will sit down with you, discuss your course and identify areas where you might benefit from using, for example, computer technology. They might show you different equipment and software, discuss the different features and give you the chance to use it. Assessors are experienced in the range of equipment and human support that’s available and will help you decide what’s best. They will then write a report and send it to Student Finance, and they’ll send you a copy as well if you wish.

Making an appointment

There are assessment centres across the country that offer specialist needs assessment services for students going into higher education. You will need to choose one and make an appointment to visit. Alternative arrangements can be made if you have an impairment which makes it difficult to travel. Most students can find an assessment centre that is either near home or their preferred university – it’s your choice where to go.

All assessment centres have to meet quality standards and the organisation that sets and checks these standards is called DSA-QAG (Disabled Students Allowance-Quality Assurance Group). Student Finance will direct you to the DSA-QAG website where you can find an up to date list of access centres and enter your postcode to find one near you.

You will need to phone or email the centre for an appointment. If you don’t make an appointment and you don’t have a needs assessment, Student Finance can’t process your DSA application. Nothing will happen until you take this step.

Getting support in place

Once Student Finance receive the assessor’s report, they will write to you to confirm your entitlement and advise you how to order any recommended equipment. They will also recommend that you contact the disability adviser at your first choice university to organise personal support such as one-to-one dyslexia support. You will get a copy of the report too.

These steps need to be completed to get your support in place for the beginning of your first term. If you leave it late, you may find it difficult to get a convenient appointment. You can ask the Student Finance or your first choice university for advice at any time. They are aware that it may seem a bit daunting and are very experienced in helping students through the process. 

7. Further questions

What support should my college or university provide?

DSAs can’t be used to pay for support that the university should be providing. The Equality Act 2010 places duties on universities and colleges to make reasonable adjustments and provisions for disabled students. Since September 2016 universities and colleges have the main responsibility for providing certain types of non-medical helper support. This includes scribes, readers, library support assistants proof readers, manual note-takers and examination support workers.

An exceptional case process has been introduced as part of the recent DSA changes to support disabled students who are in dispute with their college or university about the support or adjustments needed. This may be the case where a college or university refuses to provide support because they feel it’s unreasonable. Interim support would be available to ensure disabled students are supported until the dispute is resolved.

See Disability Rights UK’s factsheets F11 - adjustments for disabled students and F56 - understanding the equality act: information for disabled students.

What if my needs change during my study?

You can apply for help to meet costs throughout your course up to the maximum amount of each allowance. If your needs change and you need further equipment or support, you should contact your needs assessor for further help or advice.  Should you need a new study needs assessment, the cost will only be funded from DSAs where Student Finance has authorised it for you to proceed.

What if I already have some of what I need?

When assessing your needs, awarding bodies may take into account what support you have already received, especially if you got equipment though DSAs on a previous course. Any new equipment or software must be compatible with what you have already.

You can’t use DSAs to reimburse you for something you have already bought yourself.

Will DSAs affect my welfare benefits?

No. DSAs are only for specific study related expenses. They don’t count as funding for daily living costs. DSAs are completely ignored when deciding if you qualify for means-tested welfare benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction.

What if I am repeating periods of study?

Your awarding authority may agree to continue making DSA payments if, for reasons related to your disability, you have to repeat or extend your study in order to complete it. You should contact your awarding authority as early as possible about this.

What happens if I transfer to another course? 

It should be possible for you to transfer your DSA support to another course, even at a different university. Changing course or university may mean that you need to have slightly different support in place, so you may have to contact your needs assessor for a variation on support or have a top-up needs assessment. Contact your awarding authority for advice.

What happens if I leave my course early? 

If you leave your course, you should tell your awarding authority straight away. DSAs can’t be paid after you have left your course.

8. Administration of DSAs


Student Finance England may pay the DSAs to you, or direct to a helper or equipment supplier. If the DSAs are paid directly to you, you must provide proof of expenditure to your awarding authority. If you don’t provide this, they may stop future payments or ask for the money back.

In Scotland, SAAS are responsible for payment of DSAs. If you agree in writing, SAAS can make payments direct to suppliers or service providers.

In Northern Ireland, the regional Education Authority (EA) administers DSA payments. Each EA has its own DSA Officer who is responsible for administering all the DSA applications and payments.

The equipment allowance is usually given to the supplier, who will then give you the equipment. You can usually get equipment before your course starts if you need time to get used to using it.

Depending on who administers the personal support, the non-medical helper’s allowance can be paid directly to you or to the university or an agency. Universities often have a register of support workers who they employ through the DSA. Students are normally advised not to directly employ non-medical helpers themselves, because of the extra burden of paying tax and national insurance. However, you can employ your own support worker if you want to.

If you’re frequently making large payments, to a support worker for example, the awarding authority may make provisional payments in advance and ask for evidence afterwards that the service was provided. Payments for regular costs such as books or stationery may be made in instalments, and you will probably need to keep and send in receipts.

If the DSAs are not arranged in time for the start of term, ask the disability adviser or other staff at your university about temporary arrangements. They may be able to:

  • put support in place at the university’s expense and then reclaim the money from your DSAs. Interim support will need to be recommended by the needs assessor and justified. It is not granted on all occasions but it is something Student Finance can consider.   
  • make a loan payment from the Hardship Fund until your DSAs are paid
  • lend the equipment or make available the support you need
  • explain to academic staff that you don’t have your support in place yet.

Appeals and complaints

Appeals should be made to the relevant awarding bodies. You may want to get advice from your university before doing this. See Disability Rights UK’s Factsheet F47 - making a complaint.

9. Other funding

For general information on funding in higher education, such as loans and bursaries, see Disability Rights UK’s Factsheet F16 funding higher education for disabled students.

You may qualify for benefits, or be already receiving them. The Disability Rights UK student helpline can give you information on applying for Housing Benefit and what happens if you are claiming ESA.

The Hardship Fund at your college or university may be used towards initial diagnostic assessments of dyslexia or the £200 contribution you have to make towards the cost of a laptop or computer.. This will depend on the college or university’s policy.

If you have additional disability costs that have not been covered by Disabled Students' Allowances or you don’t qualify for DSAs, then you may be able to get funding from charitable trusts. See Disability Rights UK’s Factsheet F25 - funding from charitable trusts.

10. Further information

Disability Rights UK Student Helpline

For further information on the support that is available for disabled students, please contact our Disabled Students Helpline - 0330 995 0414.

We also produce a range of education factsheets covering these subjects and frequently asked questions which you can access through the education and skills section of our website at

Student Finance England resources

  • Extra help, Disabled Students Allowances A quick guide to Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) - what, when and how to apply
  • Student Finance-new full-time students
  • Student Finance – loans for art-time study

Useful contacts

Department for Education (DfE)
Tel: 0370 000 2288

Email: Online contact form

Disabled Students' Allowances Quality Assurance Group (DSA-QAG)
Tel: 0141 227 6771

Provides students with a database of registered assessment centres offering needs assessments for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs). They also have information about university disability officers and suppliers of disability equipment.

Lead Scotland
Tel: 0131 228 9441
Textphone: 18001 131 228 9441
Helpline: 0800 999 2568



Organisation enabling disabled adults and carers to access inclusive learning opportunities in Scotland. Lead also runs an information and advice service for disabled students in Scotland.

Money Saving Expert

See Students & Schools section for money saving tips. 20 key facts on tuition fees, student loans and grants.

NHS BSA Student Bursaries
NHS Student Bursaries

Helpline: 0300 330 1345
Email (general): Online contact form

Social Work Bursaries

Tel: 0300 330 1342

Email: Online contact form

Information on NHS and social work bursaries, payment dates and downloadable application forms.

NHS Student Awards Unit, Wales
Tel: 029 2037 6854

Administers the NHS bursary and DSAs in Wales.

Open University

Tel: 0300 303 5303

Phone line open Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-5pm.

Email: Online contact form


The OU administers DSAs for its own students. 

Research Councils UK

RCUK is a partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils covering medical and biological sciences, astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences and the arts and humanities. For information about contacting individual Research Councils see the contacts section of the RCUK website.

Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS)

Tel: 0300 555 0505
Textphone: 0131 244 5107

Phone line open Monday to Thursday 8.30am-5pm, Friday 8.30am-4.30pm


Email through the website by selecting an enquiry subject and completing an online form. SAAS is the awarding authority in Scotland.

Student Finance England

Tel: 0300 100 0607

Phone line open Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-4pm


Central system for information on financial support and online applications for grants, loans and Disabled Students Allowances’ (DSAs) in England.

Student Finance England also has a facebook app to walk you through the steps to applying at

Student Finance Northern Ireland
Tel: 0300 100 0077
Textphone: 0300 100 0625

Phone line open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-4pm


Information on financial support in Northern Ireland and contact details of regional Education Authority’s.

Student Finance Wales
Tel: 0300 200 450
Textphone: 0300 100 1693

Phone line open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm


Provides information and administers financial support for HE students in Wales.

9 January 2018

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