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I’m a disabled student – what extra higher education funding can I get?

By David Malcolm

Friday 15 March 2013 Higher education

If you’re a student in higher education in the UK and you’re physically disabled, have a long-term health condition or mental health condition, or a learning difficulty (eg dyslexia, dyspraxia), you may be entitled to extra higher education funding from the government. Here’s an overview of what’s available.

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What government funding is available for full-time undergraduate (or equivalent) disabled students?

England, Wales and Northern Ireland: if you get your funding from Student Finance England, Wales or NI and you’re studying full-time for an undergraduate or equivalent level qualification, or a postgraduate level initial teacher training qualification, you may be able to apply for a special support grant instead of a regular maintenance grant or assembly learning grant.

You may get a special support grant if you have a disability and qualify for disability and income-related benefits or other disability allowances. The amount you get is the same as the maintenance grant or assembly learning grant, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of maintenance loan or loan for living costs you can borrow, and isn’t taken into account when calculating the means-tested benefits you’re entitled to.

For more information, see:

What extra government funding is available specifically for disabled students?

If you need to pay extra costs while studying because of your disability, you can apply for extra funding, depending on the kind of main funding you get and who provides it. The following figures are for 2013/2014.

England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland: if you get your funding from Student Finance England, Wales or NI or the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) you can apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance. The money you get depends on your individual needs, not on your household income. You don’t need to pay it back.

If you’re studying full- or part-time for an undergraduate or equivalent qualification (including Open University or distance learning) or a postgraduate qualification for which you get government funding, eg a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) or Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), the allowance helps with the costs of:

  • specialist equipment (eg computer software) – for England up to £5,161 for a whole course,  £5,166 for Wales, £5,266 for Northern Ireland and £5,160 for Scotland
  • non-medical helpers (eg a note-taker or reader) – for England, Wales and Scotland up to £20,520 a year for a full-time course (or £15,390 for part-time in England or Wales) – for Northern Ireland £20,938 for full-time and £15,703 for part-time
  • other costs (eg Braille paper, photocopying) – for England up to £1,724 a year for a full-time course or £1,293 for part-time (for Wales £1,729 for full-time or £1,296 for part-time, for Northern Ireland £1,759 for full-time or £1,319 for part-time, and for Scotland £1,724 a year for full-time)
  • extra travel that you incur because of your disability.

You can apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance on top of any other student finance you get from the government, and you don’t have to pay it back. The money is paid directly to whoever provides the service or equipment, or directly into your bank account.

When you apply you need to prove you’re eligible (eg with a letter from your doctor or specialist). If you have a learning difficulty like dyslexia, you need to provide a diagnostic assessment. If you were assessed when you were younger than 16 years old, you’ll need a new assessment – if you can’t afford to pay for one, you may be able to get financial help through the Access to Learning Fund in England, the Financial Contingency Fund in Wales, Support Funds in Northern Ireland or Discretionary Funds in Scotland.

You may not be eligible for the allowance if you’re an EU student or you get equivalent support from elsewhere (eg your university or an NHS bursary). Postgraduate courses (other than those for which you can get the undergraduate package of support) must be eligible for a studentship award from a UK research council (or be equivalent to an eligible course) – but if the studentship offers its own allowance for disabled students (usually they’re more generous), you must apply for that. See What funding is available for postgraduates studying in the UK?

For more information about the Disabled Students’ Allowance, including how to apply, see:

England, Wales and Northern Ireland: if you’re a full- or part-time postgraduate student (but not studying for a PGCE), you can get a single allowance of up to £10,260 for your course: £10,260 for England and Wales, and £10,469 for Northern Ireland.

Scotland: if your full- or part-time postgraduate course is funded by SAAS you get the same allowance as undergraduate level students – and even if you’re studying on a course that SAAS doesn’t support, you may still be able to get the allowance.

I’m studying healthcare – what extra funding can I get?

England, Wales and Scotland: if get a bursary because you’re taking a healthcare course funded by the NHS in England or Wales, or the Scottish Government Health Directorate, you can’t get a regular Disabled Students’ Allowance, but you can apply for a very similar Disabled Students Allowance as part of your bursary instead. For more information, including how to apply, see:

Northern Ireland: if you’re studying for a healthcare qualification in Northern Ireland and you get a bursary from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), you may get a similar allowance. Contact your local Student Finance NI office for advice.

I’m studying social work – what extra funding can I get?

England and Wales: if you’re studying for a postgraduate qualification in social work and you get a social work bursary from the NHS in England or the Care Council for Wales, you can get a Disabled Students’ Allowance as part of your bursary. The amount you get is the same as for undergraduate students described above. For more information, including how to apply, see:

However, if you’re an undergraduate student with an NHS social work bursary, you need to apply for your Disabled Students’ Allowance through Student Finance England in the same way as other undergraduates.

What other funding is available for disabled students?

As a disabled student you may be entitled to get benefits such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. See Can I claim government benefits as a student? for more information.

Related topics

Can I get higher education funding in the UK?

I’m studying medicine, dentistry or healthcare – what higher education funding can I get in England or Wales?

I’m studying medicine, dentistry or healthcare – what higher education funding can I get in Northern Ireland?

I’m studying medicine, dentistry or healthcare – what higher education funding can I get in Scotland?

I’m studying social work – what higher education funding can I get in England?

I’m studying social work – what higher education funding can I get in Wales?

I’m a disabled student – what extra further education funding can I get?

This information was updated in March 2013. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.