Funding, including Disabled Students’ Allowance

An overview of the funding and funded support available to you in your studies. Advice about how and when to apply for this support.

Background

General Student Finance (e.g. tuition fees and loans)

Students are often eligible to apply for a loan which can help to pay for university tuition fees and to help with living costs. Funding arrangements differ depending on the personal circumstances of the student and the chosen course. This process can take a long time so we would recommend applying early to give you the best possible chance of having funding in place in time for the start of your course.

You can find general information about student finance here. See also Student Funding – Falmouth University and Student Finance – University of Exeter.

 

Disabled Students’ Allowances

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is government funding intended to cover the extra costs of having a disability, long-term condition, mental health condition, or specific learning difficulty such as an autistic spectrum condition, dyslexia or dyspraxia. You can apply to your funding body (e.g. Student Finance England) for Disabled Students’ Allowance. See the Disability Rights Factsheet Applying for DSAs and the links under Practical Tips, below.

 NB: We recognise that not everyone who has an autistic spectrum condition would use the word ‘disabled’ about themselves. This includes a lot of the students we spoke to in our surveys. However, Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is the main way to access support for your study needs at the start of your course and beyond, so it is important to know all about it.

Most autistic students who have been officially diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition, and are studying on an eligible course, are entitled to DSA – it is not related to any other benefits (even DLA or PIP) or means-tested and you don’t have to pay it back.

DSA can help with the cost of any additional support you might require whilst studying, such as:

  • One-to-one support (such as a specialist mentor)
  • Specialist equipment (including useful software, such as mind mapping to help you make sense of a topic)
  • Travel (like getting taxis when public transport is challenging)

DSA won’t cover costs that all students would have to pay for, like buying textbooks or standard laptops or tickets for the bus to and from university.

DSA is not paid directly to the student. Instead, the funding pays the providers of the equipment and support directly.

How could this affect me?

Autistic students who claim DSA are less likely to drop out of university and more likely to achieve their full potential.

University life is very different from the type of study you have been used to and getting the right support in place can make your life a lot easier. DSA is intended to level the playing field for students who have disabilities, long-term conditions, mental health conditions, autism and specific learning difficulties like dyslexia and ADHD.

Students in our Autism&Uni surveys who told the university about their autism and got support early in their course were more likely to enjoy their time at uni and graduate with good grades than those who didn’t get any support.

The timing of the support is important too – students who had all their support in place before the end of the first semester had a much better experience than those students who did not access support. This means applying for DSA as early as you can is a very good idea – it doesn’t matter if the university you end up going to changes.

You can also choose to access support at any point throughout your studies, even if you haven’t previously told the university about your autism, or you receive a diagnosis of autism after starting your studies.

Your support can also be reviewed and amended at any time if you find your needs have changed during your course or the support you have in place is not really working for you. Your Accessibility Adviser is available for you to contact at any point.

What to do next?

Apply for DSA and book your Study Needs Assessment

Practical tips

You can apply to your funding body for Disabled Students’ Allowance. See the links to different UK Student Funding bodies below:

Once your application has been approved you will receive a DSA1 letter advising you to book a Study Needs Assessment.


Booking your Study Needs Assessment

The Study Needs Assessment is an essential part of the process of applying for Disabled Students’ Allowance. Your funding body will send you a letter when your application for DSA has been approved and will tell you to book a Study Needs Assessment.

There are Assessment Centres throughout the UK that can undertake your Study Needs Assessment; it doesn’t matter which University you are going to, or whether you have decided on which one. You can find your local Assessment Centre here. There is also a Needs Assessment Centre at Penryn Campus.

The Study Needs Assessment tends to be a structured but fairly informal one-to-one discussion with a Study Needs Assessor which will usually take between one and two hours. You won’t be tested or have to complete any assessment yourself, but the Study Needs Assessor will have specific questions they need to ask in order to explore your support needs.

The Study Needs Assessment is an opportunity to talk to somebody in depth about:

  • the positive and negative aspects of studying in the past
  • the positive and negative aspects of any support you have received in the past at home/school/college
  • any worries you might have about going to uni
  • what you’re excited about and think you will do well at
  • what you think might help you achieve that success

You will also get to learn a bit more about the kind of help that is available to you – many students don’t really know much about this and are amazed to find out what is out there and how it may work for them.

Questions to think about

  • How do you feel about making notes in lectures, where most of what is said does not end up on a whiteboard or the PowerPoint slides? It is also not possible to write down every word that is said.
  • Would being able to record lectures help you?
  • How do you make and organise your notes when reading or revising?
  • Do you enjoy going to new places?
  • Do you find new places easily?
  • Does it help to have someone with you when you go somewhere for the first time?
  • What are you most excited about when it comes to your course?
  • What would you like to know more about or might need support to do before you get excited?
  • How do you feel about group work?
  • How do you manage your free time?
  • Are you always on time for appointments without help from someone else?
  • Do you like to be in busy, lively places or quiet places?
  • How do you find out about new topics?
  • Do you find it easy to organise your ideas and structure them in writing?
  • Do you find academic writing easy? How about spelling, punctuation and grammar?
  • Would you like somebody to talk to about your autism who has a good understanding of both autism and university?
  • Do you have any other conditions like dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD?
  • Does it help you to read information from the internet if you can print it out?
  • Who supported you with your work at school and what did they do that was helpful?
  • What helps you when you’re stressed? Music, exercise, art, reading, playing games, talking to others?
  • Did you use any tools like visual schedules, social stories, coloured overlays, coloured paper or alarms to help you at school or college?
  • How do you feel about talking to people about your autism, including tutors and other students?