While they can't finance your tuition fees, needs-assessed, non-repayable Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) can assist with the cost of specialist equipment, non-medical helpers and other course-related expenses
How much can I receive?
Eligible postgraduates can receive up to £10,362 per year. While DSAs are paid alongside any other student finance, they don't cover disability-related costs that you'd still have if you weren't studying. You must also make provision for tuition fees and basic living expenses.
DSAs aren't means tested, so your income, background and savings won't be accounted for when determining how much you'll receive. Instead, a needs assessment - paid for through any entitlement you may have - will decide what help you require.
Is my programme eligible for DSAs?
Full-time postgraduate courses lasting for at least one year are covered; so too are part-time programmes, though you must study at a rate of at least 25% of the full-time equivalent. This means that Masters degrees, PhD study, the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), and postgraduate diplomas and certificates all qualify.
Course intensity affects how much you receive, and programmes containing a paid work placement are ineligible.
Am I eligible?
- have a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010, such as a long-term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning disability such as dyslexia or dyspraxia;
- not be receiving equivalent support from another funding source, or any financial assistance from the National Health Service (NHS) or through a Research Council grant;
- have lived in the UK for three years and meet other residency requirements.
Physical disabilities and mental health conditions must be proven by a report or statement from a specialist medical professional. Specific learning disabilities like dyslexia should be proven through a full diagnostic assessment. You must finance any tests yourself.
How do I apply for DSAs?
You must submit a DSA1 application form to the relevant administrative body, which depends on your country of study. In England and Wales, postgraduate DSAs are processed by Student Finance. Students in Northern Ireland must contact their local Education and Library Board, while allowances in Scotland are provided by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).
Once your eligibility is confirmed, you may be asked to undergo the needs assessment. The assessor will informally discuss your course, and identify the equipment and support that you might need, before sending a report to the awarding body.
You shouldn't book your needs assessment until you're asked to, nor buy any equipment until it has taken place - you won't be reimbursed. If you have the same requirements as during your undergraduate study and are beginning a postgraduate qualification immediately, you may not require another needs assessment.
The application process can last up to 14 weeks. If you're successful, the money is paid into either your bank account or directly to the organisation providing support - in one lump sum, unless you're from Scotland. If your bid is rejected, you can appeal.
If your condition worsens during your studies, you should contact your administrative body as you may be eligible for extra help.
What are the alternative methods of disability-related funding?
Research Council-funded students can apply for disability-related financial support from their awarding body. These are also called DSAs, but aren't related to those discussed elsewhere in this article.
Application processes and the amounts awarded vary dramatically between each of the seven Research Councils. Most Research Council-funded study includes DSAs at undergraduate rates.
If you're ineligible for the DSA, you could be eligible for a scholarship or bursary from your university, or a charity, foundation or trust.