Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

We’ve compiled some of the most common questions we get about the DSA. If you have a question not covered below, you can get in touch with us via our social media channels or by email.

A group of young people complete an activity sat on the floor.

Am I a ‘disabled student’?

Although the support is called ‘Disabled Students’ Allowance’, you may be eligible even if you don’t identify as disabled. The allowance covers a range of different experiences and diagnoses, including:

  • Mental health conditions
  • Specific learning difference
  • Neurodiversity including Autism and/or ADHD. 
  • Physical disability
  • Long-term health conditions
  • Deafness
  • Chronic illness and/or chronic pain

What makes a condition ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’?


The Equality Act defines “substantial” as “more than minor or trivial”.

Are the barriers you are experiencing different to those faced by people who don’t have your diagnosis or condition? The Act gives the example of whether it takes longer to “complete a daily task like getting dressed”. It may be helpful to think about this in the context of your university experience; do you notice that you find things harder than your peers, for example:

  • Do you find it hard to complete your assignments on time?
  • Do you have to work around physical barriers at your university, for example, using lifts, ramps or accessible entrances to buildings?
  • Do you notice that your peers seem to find it easier to focus in lectures or classes?

The Equality Act defines “long-term” as either:

  • Has lasted more than 12 months, or
  • Is likely to last at least 12 months.

For example, if you have a progressive condition like HIV or cancer, you will meet the definition from the moment you are diagnosed.

This also applies if you have a condition that fluctuates; for example, if you have a chronic pain condition that gets better and worse over time, you will meet the definition of disability as long as the effects are likely to continue for at least a year.


In Scotland, you will be eligible if you “have extra costs because of your impairment.” The Student Awards Agency for Scotland, which arranges DSA support for students, recommends contacting a Disability Advisor at your college or university to talk through your situation and whether you will be eligible.

The Channel Islands

In the Channel Islands, guidance states that DSA support may be available for students with a disability or specific learning difference. Both the Island of Jersey and States of Guernsey recommend getting in contact with the student finance team to discuss your specific circumstances and find out if you may be eligible:

The Isle of Man

In the Isle of Man, you will be eligible for DSA support if you can show evidence that you will incur substantial extra costs at university because of the barriers you face related to your disability. This includes physical and mental health conditions, and specific learning differences. Find out more about DSA in the Isle of Man.

Does my condition count?

There’s no exhaustive list of which conditions make someone eligible for DSA. However, you can use the guidance for your country to work out if you may be eligible.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

You can access DSA if you meet the definition of disability in the 2010 Equality Act. This means you must have a “physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.”

Can I apply for DSA if I am neurodiverse or have Special Educational Needs?

If you have a diagnosis that falls under the umbrella of neurodiversity or received SEN support during your time at school, it’s likely that you will be eligible for DSA. In Higher Education, the phrase “Specific Learning Difference or SpLD” is usually used instead of neurodiversity, neurodivergence or SEN, but it refers to the same diagnoses. This usually includes ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia (but this is not an exhaustive list).


Do I have to provide evidence of my disability?

If you have a disability, long-term health condition or mental health condition, you will need to provide a copy of:

  • A letter or report from a doctor, or
  • A disability evidence form completed by a medical professional

If you are neurodiverse/neurodivergent or have a specific learning difference, you will need to provide a copy of:

  • A diagnostic assessment from a practitioner, psychologist or specialist teacher

Can I apply for DSA support if I’m a mature student?

Yes, there is no age limit for applying for DSA!

Is my degree type covered under DSA provisions?

You can access DSA if you are studying either an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. This includes Open University and distance learning courses!

Your degree must also be:

  • Full-time, or
  • Part-time, with a course intensity or 25% or more (this means that you complete at least 25% of an equivalent full-time course each year), and
  • Lasting at least one year

Is my course type covered under DSA provisions?

You may be eligible for DSA if you are studying:

  • A degree, for example, BA, BSc or BEd
  • Foundation Degree
  • Certificate of Higher Education
  • Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)
  • Higher National Certificate (HNC)
  • Higher National Diploma (HND)
  • Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE)
  • Initial Teacher Training

You also may be eligible if you’re studying a Level 4 or 5 qualification with HTQ approval (eg Certificate, Diploma, NVQ).

Can I get DSA if I am studying an apprenticeship?

If you’re studying for an apprenticeship, you will not be eligible for DSA support. However, you may be able to:

  • Apply for Access to Work support to get adjustments during your apprenticeship
  • Access support that is arranged through your university (speak to your university disability advisor for more information on this).

Do I have to wait until I have a confirmed place to apply for DSA?

No! You can apply for DSA as soon as you apply for student finance. If you are not applying for student finance, you can begin your DSA application as soon as student finance applications open (usually in February or March).

My course is a sandwich course or includes a work placement or a year in industry. Can I apply for DSA?

You can still apply for DSA if your course includes a work placement or a year in industry. However, usually, students won’t be eligible for DSA while they are on a full-time, paid placement year.

My course includes a year of studying abroad in another country. Can I apply while I am on my year abroad?

You may be able to apply for DSA while you are studying abroad. This depends on the funding you are receiving for your year abroad, as this may include funding for disability support.

Do I have to be receiving student finance to get DSA?

You don’t have to receive student finance to get DSA.

However, if you are receiving student finance, you can submit your DSA application as a part of your student finance application. This includes:

  • Student Finance England (SFE), Student Finance Wales (SFW), Student Finance Northern Ireland (SFNI) or Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)
  • UKRI Studentships
  • NHS Student Bursary