Skip to main content

Disabled Students’ Allowance


The Disabled Students' Allowance is government-funded support for disabled students studying in higher education. This is non-means tested funding which you don’t have to pay back. It can contribute towards equipment such as a laptop with assistive technology software, mentoring/study skills support and transport.

In this context, disability covers a range of conditions, from mental health conditions, physical and sensory conditions, long-term health conditions, and specific learning difficulties (e.g. dyslexia, ADHD and ASD).

It must be a long-term condition which is categorised as 'have been, or expected to be' at least 12 months in length.



  • It can take up to three months to receive a Disabled Students’ Allowance so the earlier you apply, the better chance you have of arranging your support before your course begins. 
  • If this is your first time applying for the Disabled Students’ Allowance, it can be quite complicated and confusing. We can simplify the process in three steps:
    • Complete an application form and send your medical evidence. The medical evidence must be recent and explicitly state your condition, how it impacts you and how long you have been diagnosed with it.
    • On receipt of written confirmation of your eligibility from Student Finance England, you'll attend a needs assessment once your application has been completed. This is not an exam but rather an assessment of the support you require to succeed on your course. The assessor will write a report which is sent to SFE. 
    • You will receive an entitlement letter based on the assessor’s report. It is your responsibility to contact all the suppliers and arrange for delivery of equipment, training and support services. 
  • You can use the UK Government website to search for your nearest Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) assessment centre.
  • Please note, students are required make a £200 contribution to the cost of any computer equipment. If you are on a low income, please  to discuss funding options. 
  • If you enrol late and have not already applied for a DSA, we may ask you to defer your entry to ensure we can arrange appropriate support


  • If you have a disability, medical condition, illness or a mental health condition, you will need to provide medical proof, for example, a letter from an appropriate medical professional.
  • We recommend that you ask your medical professional to complete the disability evidence form and draw to their attention that the Department for Education advises that, “as the student can’t reclaim any charge made for completing this form via DSAs, we ask that it is provided free of charge.”  
  • The letter should include a short history of your condition, any diagnosis, how long you have had these difficulties, any treatment or interventions you receive, and how it affects you daily. It needs to be dated within the last 12 months. 
  • If you have a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, you must provide evidence in the form of a diagnostic assessment report from a psychologist or suitably qualified specialist teacher. 
  • If you had a diagnosis before you were 16, it may need to be updated. In addition, letters from school or college about support you needed while studying there will not be acceptable evidence for the purposes of applying for Disabled Students' Allowances. Please  to discuss.


  • Part of the application for the Disabled Students' Allowance will involve having a needs assessment. This is not an exam or a test. You will meet with a professional needs assessor who will look at your course requirements and evidence of your disabilities. 
  • With this information, they will write a report on what measures will support you to succeed on your course. This can involve recommending equipment, software, transport and non-medical support (such as a specialist study skills tutor or a mental health mentor).
  • Birkbeck has an arrangement with the CLASS access centre to conduct needs assessments for our students. They have a comprehensive understanding of the needs of part-time and mature students. They are currently conducting needs assessments remotely. When booking your needs assessment, please enter CLASS's postcode (W1T 3UW), not your home postcode.


  • Once your needs assessment has been completed, you will receive an entitlement letter. Your Student Finance England entitlement letter may include information on the following:
    • specialist equipment such as a high specification computer with specialist hardware and software
    • ergonomic aids including specialist seating, desks, etc.
    • human support in the form of specialist tutors and mentors.
  • Please note, students are required make a £200 contribution to the cost of any computer equipment. If you are on a low income, please  to discuss funding options. 


  • Non-medical helpers is the (non-medical) human support recommended in a students Disabled Students' Allowance Student Finance entitlement letter which may include the following:
    • specialist study skills tuition for students with specific learning difficulties (SpLDs), including dyslexia and dyspraxia
    • specialist mentoring for students with mental health difficulties and chronic health conditions (including chronic fatigue syndrome/ME)
    • specialist mentoring for students with autism spectrum disorders or Asperger’s syndrome
    • note takers to assist students unable to take their own notes
    • orientation support on arrival for new students with visual impairments or who have difficulty route finding
    • assistive software training. 
  • If you miss or cancel two sessions of non-medical helper support with less than 24 hours’ notice, the Disabled Students' Allowance will not fund any further support for the remainder of the term. Please bear this in mind before cancelling a session as Birkbeck will not cover the cost of any missed sessions. 


  • If you are an EU student who is applying for the 2020/21 academic year and have lived in the UK for five years or more, then you will be eligible to apply for the Disabled Students' Allowance.
  • However, if you are an international student (international student fee status) or applying as EU student for the academic year 2021/22 onwards, you are not eligible for UK government funding for disabled students (Disabled Students’ Allowances).
  • It is therefore extremely important that you contact us early in the application process so that we can assess your support requirements and investigate possible sources of funding.
  • It is advisable to see what other funding may be available through grant giving trusts and charities. 
  • Further information on fees, funding and support for international students can be found on the UKCISA website.