We’re here to put your mind at ease
Here at Access For Students, we’ve assessed thousands of students on their journey towards receiving Disabled Students’ Allowance support. Each student we assess is unique and with their own personal set of challenges, but we always approach each assessment with the same goal: to help you receive the support you deserve to aid your studies.
To get the most out of your assessment, we understand that you’ll need to feel prepared, and understood. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to help you understand what to expect during your DSA study needs assessment. By providing you with an insight into some of the DSA study needs assessment questions, the Access For Students team and the application process post-assessment, we hope this will make you feel more confident and reassured going into your assessment. We really do have your best interests at heart, and we’re a very friendly bunch! Have a read through our blog below to learn more about the DSA study needs assessment process from our Study Needs Assessor, Liz.
What is the purpose of the DSA assessment?
The aim of the DSA assessment is for us to work with the student to design a plan of support and adjustments that would help them complete their studies. It’s designed to help students explore study strategies, but also to help us understand the difficulties that they face as a result of their disability, so we can do our best job in making the recommendations of support!
Assessments can be nerve-wracking, is this the same?
We completely understand how intimidating an assessment can be, but despite the name, a DSA study needs assessment is very informal and you can’t fail, unlike with an academic assessment! Whilst the application process leading to the study needs assessment can feel a little more formal, the assessment itself is really just a friendly chat that’s led by the student. We listen to the challenges the student is facing and then introduce them to DSA support and together, we figure out how those two things can be combined to improve their experience. There’s nothing to be nervous about as we aren’t judging or scoring you, but instead are just getting to know you in person rather than on the page.
How do you help to put people at ease?
Well, we always start our assessments with a friendly chat to ease into the discussion. So, we’ll ask how your day is going, what you’re currently studying and how your course is going. As assessors, we’re always mindful of the challenges a student may be experiencing as a result of their disability and try to gauge them on the day. In this sense, we take a very holistic approach to each assessment and understand each student’s experience, making slight adjustments to the assessment accordingly.
Once the introductions are out of the way, we’ll explain what Disabled Students’ Allowance is and how it can benefit the student. We’ll also explain what’s happening before we begin each stage of the assessment so that the student can understand the aim of the questions and ask any of their own.
How might students prepare for their DSA needs assessment?
Again, this isn’t a formal assessment so there is no right or wrong way to prepare or answer our questions. But we understand that it can help students to relax if they feel prepared. We don’t expect students to do any formal preparations, but it is helpful if they consider the areas of study they need help with beforehand.
We recommend that students who have received prior support for a disability consider the types of help they’ve received in the past and how effective it was. It’s important to consider the technology they use daily and how DSA may be able to provide you with the right equipment to support your studies. It might also help to talk with other students if they feel comfortable doing so. The Student Room has a helpful assessment support section where you can hear from other students who have experienced the DSA process, so having a read-through there might help you to understand what to expect.
What questions do you ask in a DSA assessment?
It usually follows a set structure which we can slightly alter based on the student’s needs. To begin with, we’ll ask the student to share a summary of their experience with their disability as this encourages us to find areas of their study experience that might be problematic and to begin considering appropriate support.
We ask about any previous support they have received and how effectively it helped, we ask about their course and any equipment they already use, and we also explore their experience of their studies. For example, we might ask how they find note-taking, or how they find the exam experience.
With the DSA needs assessment questions, we try to cover the student experience as comprehensively as we can, so our topics include reading and research, writing assessments, note-taking, assessments, practical activities, general organisation, communication and travel, to name a few. So, under the reading and research question, we’ll be looking to understand how well the student reads, any problems they might experience with seeing the text itself, how they access the library and how they access library books. For the writing assessments topic, we’re interested to know how the student plans their written assessments, if their writing comes across the way they want it to and if they find proofreading a challenge.
As much as we are asking the questions, they’re very open-ended and give the student a chance to share as much information as they would like. We also invite the student to ask any questions they might have throughout the assessment to allow them to direct the conversation towards how we can help them.
How long does it take to hear back about the outcome of the assessment?
Once the assessment is complete, we send our report to the funding body to review and approve and, with the student’s permission, we also share the report with their university’s disability support service. By sharing the report with the university’s disability support service, we can make suggestions to them for any additional disability support we think is appropriate for the student, such as suggesting you may need extensions on essay deadlines and exam time. Please note: these suggestions cannot be guaranteed as this is at the discretion of the higher education provider. Should you wish to read the report prior to it being sent to the funding body, you can let your assessor know during the assessment and we will ask you to check it first.
With all these steps in mind, there is a typical timeline. The assessor has 10 working days to write up and send off the report and once received, the funding body usually takes 10 to 15 working days to process the report. Once the student has been contacted by the governing body, their equipment order is typically fulfilled within 10 days, and their support plan begins to roll out. So all in all, you’re looking at about six weeks to hear about the outcome and begin receiving your DSA support.
When might the DSA study needs assessment need to be repeated?
If a student undergoes a needs assessment at the start of their course, they won’t typically need to complete a review assessment during that course of study, but some circumstances are an exception.
For example, if the student takes a break between undergraduate and postgraduate study, they will need a review to account for any changes and developments they might have experienced during that time. If they also developed any additional conditions, that would also require a review. If any of the equipment supplied as a result of DSA support breaks down, we’d also need a review to understand what happened or why that particular piece of equipment isn’t working for the student.
As a rule of thumb, the DSA study needs assessment should see you through your entire course of study.
What do students need to know about the £200 laptop contribution?
Whilst all other equipment, services and support are funded by the DSA, if a student requires a laptop to support their studies, they will be expected to pay the first £200 in most instances. An exception to this rule is that the Welsh government doesn’t require the £200 contribution, but all other UK funding bodies do.
This contribution is designed to keep DSA support fair as a lot of students already have some of the equipment they require when they go to university. As technology is now very mainstream, laptops have become expected for all students to complete their studies, so it is no longer considered a disability-related cost as such. The £200 contribution takes this into account, whilst still ensuring the student gets a laptop that will support their study requirements.
Got any questions for us?
We hope Liz has helped to clear up any concerns you may have ahead of your DSA assessment. Whilst today’s blog works as a rough guide for the DSA assessment, we understand that no two students are the same, so each will have different needs and a different set of outcomes from the assessment. We’re here to make sure that they’re the right ones for you.
If you’d like to speak with a member of the Access For Students team about a query you have ahead of your assessment, please call us on 01633 660 632 or email us at email@example.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.