If you have a disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty, it's a good idea to contact universities and colleges to discuss any support you might need before sending your application to us.
The Equality Act was introduced in 2010, building on the previous Disability Discrimination Act. Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful for universities and colleges to discriminate against disabled students by treating them less favourably when offering places and providing services. They have a legal requirement to make 'reasonable adjustments' so that disabled students are not put at a substantial disadvantage. In addition, all higher education institutions have a Public Sector Equality Duty which requires them to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, foster good relations and generally improve disability equality across their institution.
Most universities and colleges have disability coordinators or advisers. You can look up their contact details on the DSA-QAG website.
The disability coordinator can tell you what support is available and help set up an information visit. This is an opportunity to talk to staff about any adjustments that may be needed. You might also want to talk to the head of department or other academic staff for specific course information.
If you visit a college or university, it might be helpful to take with you a checklist of questions to ask members of staff and students. What you ask will obviously depend upon the nature of your disability, but the following are examples of questions you might include.
Telling the institution about your disability in advance can also help them to prepare and arrange support in time for the start of your course. If you are unsure what to tell your potential universities and colleges, you may find it helpful to read the Telling people about your disability booklet on the Disability Rights UK website.
Disability Rights UK also produces a free guide for disabled students called 'Into Higher Education'. It covers questions such as whether the college or university will be accessible, how to choose a course and what support will be available. In the case studies, disabled students write about their own experiences and the challenges they have faced, providing a valuable insight into what it is like being a disabled student in higher education. The guide is free to download from the Disability Rights UK website.
The university or college will not always pay for everything itself. Instead, you may be able to get funding through Disabled Students' Allowances.
DSAs are designed to help with the costs that you incur, in attending your course, as a direct result of your disability or specific learning difficulty. They are available to full-time and part-time students with disabilities, although part-time disabled students must be studying at least 25% of a full-time course.
How much you get does not depend on your income or that of your household. Unlike student loans, this assistance does not have to be repaid.
Depending on your needs, extra support from the DSA could include:
It is important that you let your funding body, eg Student Finance England, Student Finance Wales, Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) or Student Finance Northern Ireland know straight away if you have a disability and think you will need extra help or equipment on your course.
More advice about DSAs is on the GOV.UK website. For information about applying for DSAs view Student Finance England's guide 'Bridging the gap a guide to the Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) in higher education'.
DSA forms are available to download from the sites listed below.
The NHS Business Services Authority website contains further information for students taking a course which is funded by the NHS and leads to professional registration.