Here’s your handy guide to grants for disabled students in the UK
If you’re one of the 60,000 students with a disability such as a specific learning difficulty, physical or mental health condition applying to study at a college or university in the UK this year, we want you to get the most support you can. Beyond Disabled Students Allowance (DSA), there are various sources of funding available to meet your needs.
We’ve gathered all of the additional funding and grants for disabled students in the UK, as well as details of the eligibility criteria and application process below.
What do I need to know about university bursaries, scholarships and grants for students with disabilities?
Each university offers a range of bursaries, scholarships and grants that are non-repayable. Not only does this mean you can benefit from an additional source of funding during your time as a student, but they also won’t contribute to the overall cost of attending university, so it’s worth querying whether there are any available specifically to disabled students.
These bursaries, scholarships and grants for disabled students may be available to help with the general costs of living and studying or to pursue certain activities, so the specific eligibility criteria for each source of extra funding may differ.
What is Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)?
Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is needs-based funding available to support undergraduate or postgraduate students with specific learning difficulties, sensory impairments, and long-term medical, physical and mental health conditions in their studies and everyday activities.
A DSA grant is available to provide you with equipment and resources, such as a laptop, printing credit and a learning support mentor, on top of your other student loans and you don’t have to pay it back. The amount of support you receive from DSA is determined by your disability and whether your course is full or part-time, not your household income. It pays for any specialist support you require, including non-medical human support and specialist equipment.
Do I qualify for DSA?
If you’re studying a higher education course that lasts longer than a year and have qualified for student finance in the UK, you are eligible to apply for a DSA grant. You must not be eligible for the NHS Students Allowance or be receiving equivalent support from another funding source, such as a social work bursary.
You will need to provide proof of your eligibility based on your condition, from a suitably-qualified Health Care Professional.
What is Personal Allowance Payment (PIP)?
Personal Allowance Payment (PIP) is a non-means tested benefit for people who require assistance in everyday life. As it is non-means tested, PIP payments are provided on top of other benefits, with the amount dependent on the extent and impact of your condition as well as the level of care you require.
Do I qualify for PIP?
You are eligible to receive PIP if you are aged 16 or over and have a disability, long-term physical or mental health condition that impacts your ability to perform everyday tasks and get around.
You must have experienced these difficulties for at least three months and expect them to last for at least another nine months.
What is a student hardship fund?
Hardships funds are emergency sources of funding that universities grant to students experiencing financial difficulty. Once you have contacted your university student services department to request a student hardship fund, your university will determine whether you qualify, how much money you receive and whether this will be a single lump sum or distributed in instalments.
Though student hardship funds are usually non-repayable, you may have to get a loan that you will have to repay in future.
What is a Special Support Maintenance Loan?
As a disabled student, you may be eligible for a higher amount of maintenance loan than other students. A Special Support maintenance loan is available for anyone who:
- Receives PIP or Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Receives income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Qualifies for a severe/disability premium in means-tested benefits
- Is registered blind
- Is deaf and qualifies for DSA.
The amount of Special Support Maintenance Loan you receive is the same as the Maintenance Grant, but it will not reduce the amount of Maintenance Loan you are entitled to.
Where can I find additional support?
Outside of your university support system, several national organisations offer bursaries and grants for disabled students. We’ve included a list of some of the charities that support disabled people, or those with learning differences, mental health conditions and long-term illnesses below:
- The Student Health Association offers a bursary to support disabled students in managing their studies
- The Snowdon Trust offers a grant to meet the disability-related costs physically and sensory disabled students face that are not covered by statutory funding
The Journalism Diversity Fund awards bursaries to assist journalism students from diverse backgrounds with their NCTJ training.
Frequently asked questions
What can you get with Disabled Students Allowance?
- Specialist equipment, including a computer, printer, voice recognition software and assistive software to help you access a computer
- Non-medical helpers, such as one-to-one mentors or sign language interpreters
- Disability-related costs of studying, including hard copies of materials
- Extra photocopying, Braille paper or a dictaphone
- Transportation costs, incurred as a result of a disability, to travel to and from your university, such as using private transport.
Can you get PIP and Disabled Students Allowance?
You may already be receiving Personal Allowance Payment (PIP) if you need assistance in caring for yourself and getting around. As DSA is a non-means-tested grant that only pays for equipment and non-medical human support, you can claim both of these forms of support.
If you need any help or support, contact the Access for Students team. We are more than happy to advise you and answer any questions you may have about the DSA.