Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA)

1. What is DSA for?

DSA helps to pay for any extra study-related costs which you incur at University due to a disability.

DSA can help with the costs of:

• support workers like specialist study skills tutors, support and guidance mentors or sign language interpreters

• specialist equipment you need for studying, like digital recorders or computers and assistive software

• travel to and from University

For more examples of the kinds of support which students can be funded for through DSA see our 'What support is available?' page.

2. Are you eligible for DSA?

To be eligible to apply for DSA you must:

1. Be a UK national who is ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK on the first day of the first academic year of your course. Being ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK means that this is where you usually live apart from occasional absences (e.g. for holidays).

2. Have either

  • Been living in the UK for the three years immediately before the start date of your course, and not wholly or mainly to get full-time education.
  • Acquired ‘settled status’ – which means you can live permanently in the UK without the Home Office placing any restrictions on how long you can stay.

3. Be studying on an undergraduate or postgraduate course either full or part-time. If you started your part time course on or after September 1st 2012 you must be undertaking your course at a rate of at least 25% of the full-time equivalent – in most cases this means you must be taking at least 30 credits worth of modules per academic year.

4. Be able to provide written evidence which indicates that you have a disability which is likely to impact upon your academic life. For more information about what evidence you need to provide see our page on medical evidence.

3. Applying for DSA

How/when do I apply for DSA?

Applying for DSA will involve submitting an application to your funding body along with written evidence confirming the nature and impact of your disability. You can make an application for DSA from the point that you have applied to study on a course at University level, or at any point after you have started your course.

DSA is provided to students by the funding body that they are eligible to claim student finance (i.e. a student loan or bursary) from.

In the case of the majority of undergraduates and self-funding postgraduates the funding body they apply to is determined by where their home address is, with English students applying to Student Finance England, Welsh students applying to Student Finance Wales and Northern Irish students applying to Student Finance NI. However, students enrolled on particular courses will instead be eligible for funding from NHS bursaries (e.g. Medicine or Dentistry degree programmes, or postgraduate Social Work courses) or Research Councils (generally students on PhD programmes who have funding in place).

There is specific information on different funding bodies' DSA application processes below:

Students applying to Student Finance England (SFE)*

*Please note that whilst this section only refers to Student Finance England the application process is very similar for students applying to Student Finance Wales for DSA. However, Welsh students should consult DSA guidance on the Student Finance Wales website for more detailed information/to access the appropriate DSA application form.

Northern Irish students should refer to guidance relating to the DSA application process on the Student Finance NI website.

Scottish students should refer to the guidance on applying for DSA on the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) website 

If you are a full-time student who has applied – or plans to apply - for student finance (e.g. a loan) online, you can apply for DSA online via your student finance account.

If you are a part-time student or a full-time student without an online student finance account (either because you applied for student finance by post or because you haven’t applied for any other student finance), you will need to apply for DSA using a paper application form. The form finder on the Gov.uk website will determine which form you should complete based on the answers you provide to set of questions.

Students who are eligible for NHS funding (e.g. Students on Medicine or Dentistry degree programmes)

You should apply for DSA through your Bursary Online Support System (BOSS) account. There should be a link to ‘Disabled Students’ Allowances application’ on your BOSS homepage. NHS students who do not currently have a BOSS account will need to open one in order to prove that they are eligible for NHS funding before they can apply for DSA.

You can access information on creating a BOSS account and applying for DSA on the NHS bursaries website.

Students who are in receipt of a postgraduate Social Work Bursary

You should complete the Social Work Bursary DSA application form, but will also need to have filled out a bursary application form to prove that they are eligible for Social Work Bursary funding.

You can access information on applying for postgraduate Social Work Bursary and DSA on the NHS bursaries website.

Postgraduate students who are in receipt of Research Council funding

You are likely to be eligible for DSA funding through your individual Research Council. In these cases the University makes the application for DSA on your behalf. If you are funded in this way and wish to apply for DSA you need to make contact with us so that we can begin this process.

4. Assessing your study needs

After your funding body has assessed your DSA application, they will write to you.

If they have deemed you eligible for DSA, they will ask you to attend an assessment of need. This is not a medical assessment; it is a discussion between you and a study needs assessor which aims to ensure that any study-related disability support requirements you have can be met. You will discuss the demands of your course and the impact of your disability with the assessor, who will talk to you about different bits of equipment and support available to help you to perform academically to the best of your abilities.

There is a network of assessment centres around the country and you can attend whichever one it is easiest for you to get to. You can find a list of all of them on the DSA QAG website.

If you have any questions about how to arrange your needs assessment or would like to discuss the process further, please contact us.

What happens next?

After your meeting, the assessor will draft a needs assessment report. This document recommends an individually-tailored package of support which you should be provided with through DSA. After you have signed an agreement to indicate that you are happy with what the report says, copies of it will be sent through to your funding body and to our service. A member of staff at your funding body will look through the report and write back to you to let you know what support funding will be made available for. Our service will also be sent a copy of this letter.

5. Setting up your DSA-funded support

When you receive confirmation from your funding body of the support they are happy to fund for you it is often possible to order equipment and arrange training simply through following the instructions given on the letter.

In most cases some of your support (such as referrals for support workers) will need to be arranged through our service. When we receive confirmation of your DSA funding entitlement we will email you to invite you to speak with a disability adviser in order to talk through all of the support you’ve been approved funding for and set it up.

If you are yet to start your course at the University of Sheffield but have already received your funding letter please contact our service so that we can advise you on what steps to take next.