'My university experience' by Jo Crawford, BDA Youth Ambassador.
Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)
The university's Learning Support Officer can tell you about the support available, and how to apply for a Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA). This is a grant which can help pay the extra essential costs you may have as a direct result of dyslexia.
To apply for a DSA, you will need a Diagnostic Assessment Report from a:
- Psychologist registered with the Health Care Practitioner Council (HCPC), or
- Specialist dyslexia teacher with a current Assessment Practising Certificate (APC).
As of February 2019, this report can be from an assessment carried out at any age. It does not need to be a post-16 assessment.
Check with the Learning Support Officer whether there is financial support available to help fund an assessment. If not, you may have to pay for the assessment yourself.
You can arrange a Diagnostic Assessment through the BDA.
You can apply for the DSA at any stage, you do not have to wait for an offer from a university. It's beneficial to have this in place before you start your course.
You do not have to tell your university that you are applying for a DSA, but you may find it helpful to make them aware of any additional needs to make sure you get the right support.
If you are eligible for a DSA, Student Finance England will ask you to contact a Needs Assessment Centre for a Needs Assessment. This is an informal meeting with a Needs Assessor to discuss what equipment and support will help you during your time at university or college.
The DSA will cover the cost of the Needs Assessment.
You'll then get a report detailing the equipment and support, such as a specialist study skills tutor, you can get for your course. The support you receive will depend on your needs rather than your income.
The university's Learning Support Officer (or similar) will be able to tell you what other support is available.
Questions to ask a potential university
It's worth contacting a university – or speaking to them in person on an open day – to find out more about:
- Examination criteria: is poor spelling/grammar penalised?
- Assistive technology: can you use text readers, or voice recognition software during exams?
- Exams: what format will these be? Many dyslexic people find multiple choice or tracking between hard copy pages difficult.
- Exam Access Arrangements: what support is available for different styles of test?
- Joint honours: can you stagger assignment deadlines?