Jo Rowland, dyslexia and learning support advisor

Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) are grants to help toward meeting the additional studying costs or expenses that students face as a direct result of a disability or specific learning difficulty. DSAs help disabled students study on an equal basis with other students. Full-time, part-time and postgraduate students all qualify for help. DSAs are paid on top of the standard student finance package and are not means-tested.

DSAs are not provided by the University, but we can help you with your application (see Help applying for DSAs section below)

What do they pay for?

DSAs can help cover essential extra costs you might have during your course as a direct result of your disability. The Disabled Students Allowance consists of three elements:

  • Equipment Allowance
  • Non-medical Helpers Allowance
  • General Allowance
In addition to this, in certain circumstances, there is the possibility that additional travel related expenses may be met.

For further Information, please view the Government website: Help if you're a student with a learning difficulty, health problem or disability.

DSAs don’t pay for personal care. DSAs don’t depend on household income – what you can get depends on your individual needs. DSAs are not a loan you have to repay after graduation

Who can apply for DSA?

 Students can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) if they have a:

  • disability
  • long-term health condition
  • mental health condition
  • specific learning difficulty/difference including dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder

They must also:

  • be an undergraduate or postgraduate student (including distance learning)
  • have a condition that affects their ability to study
  • qualify for student finance from their funding body
  • be studying on a course that lasts at least a year

Students cannot get DSAs from Student Finance England if they are an EU student, an Overseas/International student or Apprentice. Students can contact the University of Plymouth's Disability Inclusion Services team at further advice and Apprentices can contact the Central Apprenticeship Hubfor more information about support available.

When can students apply?

New students: Students don't have to wait until they’ve been offered a university place before they apply for the DSA, they can apply as soon as they’ve submitted their UCAS application.

Current students: Students can apply for DSA at any time during their studies. The sooner they apply for their DSA, the sooner they’ll receive their support.

How do students apply?

To apply for DSA, students will need to complete an application form – these are available from their funding body, online at Student Finance England paper applications are available in the Student Hub.

When applying they will need formal, written evidence of a disability to determine the extra support they may require when studying at university.

Proof of disability or medical condition:

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

Proof of specific learning difficulty:

There are certain requirements regarding SpLD diagnostic reports which need to be met to qualify for a DSA. It is strongly recommended that students check the requirements and start their DSAs application before they go to university.

Students need to send a copy of their medical evidence and/or their specific learning difficulties assessment with their application form. Medical evidence forms for SFE are available in the Student Hub.

Once they have sent in their application, their funding body will email them, usually within 10 working days. This email will confirm whether they are eligible for DSAs. They can get their eligibility letter posted to their online student finance account within 24 hours of receiving this email, the letter will also be posted to their registered address.

If their application has been accepted, the letter will ask them to arrange a study needs assessment. If their application is not accepted, there may be other actions they need to take, such as providing more up to date evidence (see Help applying for DSAs section below).

What is a needs assessment? 

A one-to-one meeting between the student and the assessor which can last up to two hours.

The DSA needs assessment is not a test but an opportunity to evaluate a range of strategies to support their studies. These will be considered in relation to the impact of their disability and the demands of their chosen course of study.

How do students book a DSA needs assessment?

Students can find their nearest registered assessment centre and book an appointment via the website.

What happens next?

The assessor will make recommendations by sending a report to the student’s funding body who will then inform them about the next steps.

How are DSAs paid?

Money is paid directly to the organisation providing the service or equipment. Students should not buy any equipment until they’ve been assessed as they won’t be reimbursed for it. The Needs Assessment is paid for through any DSA entitlement they have – students do not pay for the assessment themselves.

Help applying for DSAs

Our Student Services team can help students if they require support completing the form or require further information regarding the Disabled Student’s Allowances (DSA) process. Student Services are available by phone: +44 1752 587676, email:

Students can also book in for an appointment to speak to one of our Disability Advisors on +44 1752 587676.