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Are you worried about the impact of a disability, learning difficulty or chronic illness on your postgraduate course? You may be eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) during your Masters degree. This funding can help pay for any additional costs you may have to bear.
Our guide covers the type of support you can claim funding for and how much money you could receive, as well as making sense of the application process.
You can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance as a Masters student if you live in the UK and have a:
By the time you apply for a postgraduate degree, you may have previously been diagnosed with one of these conditions. If so, your doctor should be able to confirm this. Of course, conditions may also arise later in life (including during your Masters degree). You can still claim for DSA if so, provided you have supporting evidence.
Any disability you claim for must affect your ability to study. This could be through mobility issues, the ability to work as quickly as you would like, or anything else that would require additional support.
Likewise, you must qualify for funding from your local student finance body and be studying on a course that lasts at least a year.
If you are unsure whether your condition qualifies for DSA, you can consult an official guide to the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010.
Part-time students can qualify for DSA, but eligibility depends on where you are in the UK:
You will not be eligible for DSA if you’ve been granted equivalent funding from a different source such as:
EU students usually aren’t eligible for DSA unless they’ve been living in the UK for five years before the start of their course.
Note that you can apply for DSA if you have already applied for other student finance, such as a postgraduate loan.
A disability, illness or learning difficulty shouldn't stop you studying a Masters. Our guide offers tips for a successful postgraduate experience and explains how to access support from your university.
Individual Disabled Students’ Allowances vary, depending on both your study and situation. The money is paid to you alongside other compatible loans that you may receive for your course. In addition, DSA will not need to be repaid.
You could receive funding for:
These are the maximum amounts of DSA available to students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland:
Note that the word 'maximum' is important here – most students will receive less.
In Scotland, however, postgraduates receive DSA at the same levels as undergraduate students. This means that you could be eligible for the following:
Once approved, you can use DSA funding to help pay for various expenses during your Masters degree. These could include:
You may be eligible to receive help with the cost of a new computer if you don’t have one that meets the specifications required for your postgraduate course. If so, you will need to budget at least £200 of your own money. This is the minimum amount the Government expects a typical student to spend on computer equipment.
Other expenses include:
DSA funding can be paid directly to you, equipment suppliers or to the helpers that you require.
You can’t receive Disabled Students’ Allowance for costs that you wouldn’t incur if you weren’t completing a Masters, or for student expenses that aren’t related to your condition.
For example, you can’t request DSA to pay for standard course books or materials (unless these are in braille or another accessible medium). Nor can you claim for alterations to your home or other costs that aren’t directly associated with your studies.
In September 2016, the UK Government made changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance, requiring universities to take on more responsibility for disability support. In practice, this means that universities are now obliged to provide support for disabled students that was previously funded by DSA. As such, DSA is now available for a smaller range of expenses.
Each university is required to pay for its own non-medical support staff to cover needs such as transcription and reading. Funding for specialist accommodation and note-taking has been reduced. The Government will still cover the costs of sighted guides, though it’ll be the responsibility of the universities to fulfil their duty under the 2010 Equality Act.
To claim postgraduate DSA you will need to demonstrate that you have a condition which affects your ability to complete your Masters degree.
You’ll need to have taken the relevant assessments to prove your disability. These could include:
If you are qualified for DSA, you may be asked to contact an assessment centre to discuss your needs and your funding on the whole. Don’t book this until asked.
Likewise – and this may sound obvious – do not buy any equipment or pay for anything that you wish to be reimbursed for prior to clearing it through the proper channels: you could be left out of pocket.
The application process depends on where you live:
Additional paperwork may need to be filled out by parents, doctors and other people supporting your application.
If you’re applying through Student Finance England, there is a helpline for alternative format applications such as braille, large print and audio version: 0141 243 3686. Alternatively, you can request one of these formats via email: email@example.com.
You can still apply for DSA if you receive one of the UK Government’s Masters degree loans. These loans are designed to contribute to your basic postgraduate fees and living costs, while the Disabled Students’ Allowance is separate funding to help mitigate a disability.
Depending on your country of residence, this means that you can potentially apply for a £11,222 Masters loan and up to £20,580 in Disabled Students’ Allowances. Remember, unlike your loan, you DSA won’t need to be repaid.
If you apply for your postgraduate loan online you will be asked whether you also wish to apply for DSA.
Last updated 01/05/2020