Going to University with dyslexia? About the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).

Who is eligible?

Higher education students living inEnglandwith any of the following:

  • disability
  • long-term health condition
  • mental health condition
  • specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia (or other SpLD)

What is it?

A non-means tested, non-repayable grant to cover specialist equipment and non-medical helper support.

In dyslexia terms this usually means:

  • specialist 1:1 support from a dyslexia-trained professional
  • assistive software such as text to speech or mind-mapping applications
  • digital voice recorder

How can I apply?

You must have a full diagnostic assessment report done since you were 16 by a specialist assessor with an assessment practising certificate – either a specialist teacher (STA) or an educational psychologist (EP).

Exam Access Arrangements reports are not enough. Your school or college may be able to advise, or you can find a list of specialist assessors through the Hampshire Dyslexia Association or PATOSS.
Try to book early – many assessors do not work over the summer.


A full diagnostic assessment will give an up-to-date insight into your pattern of strengths and weaknesses and clearly state whether you have dyslexia. Assessments typically cost between £350 and £600; STAs are usually cheaper than EPs.  If you also have any medical condition it will help if you get medical evidence from your GP and add it to the same application.

The application process

This can seem a bit daunting – but it is worth persevering.

If you are applying to Student Finance England (SFE) for your student loan, you will also apply to them for DSA and you can use the ‘short’ DSA1 form.
Part-time, self-funded or postgraduate students must use the ‘full’ DSA1 form.
Health Sciences students with an NHS bursary apply to the NHS for DSA.




  1. Send your application to SFE with a copy of your full assessment report.


  1. If your application is accepted, they will tell you to book a ‘needs assessment’. The Wessex Needs Assessment Centre covers the local area: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/edusupport/wnac/


  1. Your needs assessment report, outlining the support you will need, will be sent to you and to SFE. Check your emails!


  1. SFE will send you a letter or email telling you what funding they have approved and give you instructions for ordering your equipment.


  1. SFE will pay suppliers direct – you do not have to get involved in that side of it. The NHS will credit your account and expect you to order, pay and send them the receipts.

Accessing support at University

Whichever university you go to, it is essential that you register with the dyslexia support services as soon as possible after you enrol.
Take your diagnostic and needs assessment reports with you.
If you have already arranged your DSA, the specialist advisors will be able to help you book specialist 1:1 support and also make arrangements for additional exam arrangements. If you have not been able to get a full diagnostic assessment, they should be able to arrange this – take your old reports with you. The cost may be cheaper than ‘going private’ – it depends on individual university policy – but it is unlikely to be free.

Useful websites:


Jane Warren, MSc (SpLD), AMBDA, APC

Specialist Dyslexia Practitioner and SeniorTeachingFellow
University ofSouthampton