Funding Your Study-Related Support

For most UK students it is expected that disability support which incurs a cost will be funded through Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA). The following web-pages give information about DSA and how to apply for it.

If you do not meet the criteria outlined in the ‘Are you eligible for DSA?’ section then you will not be able to access DSA funding. However, the University is committed to meeting the cost of any disability-related academic support which you require during your time here. You should make contact with our service as soon as possible so that we can determine what academic support you will need. It may also be useful for you to refer to the What support is available? web-page.

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)

1. What are Disabled Students’ Allowances for?

Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) helps to pay for any extra study-related costs which you incur at University due to your 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 page on What support is available?

2. Are you eligible for DSA?

To be eligible for DSA you must:

  • 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).
  • Have either
    (a) 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.
    (b) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

Who do I apply to?

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

  • Depending upon where in the UK they are ordinarily resident, most undergraduates and self-funding postgraduates will make an application to Student Finance England/Wales or Northern Ireland for DSA funding.
  • Students who are enrolled on courses which make them eligible for NHS bursaries would apply to NHS Bursaries for DSA. Postgraduate students who are eligible for Social Work bursaries would apply to Social Work Bursaries for DSA funding.
  • Postgraduate students who are in receipt of Research Council funding would apply to the individual Research Council they are funded by.

How do I apply?

Applying for DSA generally involves filling out an application form and submitting it to your funding body along with written evidence confirming the nature and impact of your disability. You can read more information about what is considered appropriate medical evidence on our Providing evidence of your disability page.

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.

Different funding bodies require students to apply for DSA in slightly different ways.

Students applying to Student Finance England (SFE)

You will need to complete an SFE DSA application form. Two versions of this form are available online, a ‘full’ form and a ‘short’ one.

  • If you are in receipt of a student loan or bursary - or are applying for one and have submitted your application form - you only need to fill out the short form and send this to SFE with written evidence confirming your disability.
  • If you are either
    (a) a full-time undergraduate student who is eligible for a loan through SFE but are not applying for one.
    (b) a postgraduate student who is not eligible for/in receipt of funding from a Research Council or the NHS.
    (c) a part-time student.

You will need to fill out the ‘full’ DSA application form. If you post/drop your completed form into our service along with your written medical evidence one of our disability advisers will sign and stamp section 5 of it before sending it on to SFE.

You can access this year’s Student Finance England DSA forms and guidance notes on how to complete them at the DSA website.

Please note that whilst this section only refers to Student Finance England the application process is the very similar for students applying to Student Finance Wales or Student Finance Northern Ireland for DSA. Please consult the guidance notes on their web-pages for more detailed information.

Student Finance Wales DSA forms and guidance and Student Finance Northern Ireland DSA forms and guidance are also available.

Students who are eligible for NHS funding

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 through 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.

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.

You can read more about accessing DSA at the Research Councils Funding for Research Training website.

4. Assessing your study needs

After you have made an application for DSA your funding body will write to you to confirm whether or not you are eligible. If you are eligible, at this stage you will be asked 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 National Network of Assessment Centres 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.