Sussex Regional Access Centre


Here is a list of the most commonly asked questions we receive at Sussex Regional Access Centre.
If you have a question that is not answered here, or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sussex Regional ACCESS Centre
York House
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QR

T: 01273 678497

Before arranging your DSA Needs Assessment or Review of Needs
What is DSA?

Disabled Students Allowance.

DSA is support for UK higher education students to pay for additional costs that may result from a disability. Students can apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) if they have a disability, including a:

• long-term health condition (for example diabetes, cancer, CFS/ME, epilepsy)
• mental health condition (for example psychosis, depression, anxiety)
• specific learning difference, eg dyslexia, ADHD
• Mobility, hearing, sight impairment
• Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), including Asperger’s Syndrome

How do I know if I am eligible for DSA?

You must be a UK student and your condition must meet the definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

·   ‘substantial’ is more than minor or trivial, eg it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task  like getting dressed, attending lectures and seminars, concentrating or taking notes                                                        

·   ‘long-term’ means 12 months or more, eg a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection, chronic mental health problems, Autistic Spectrum Condition

 Disabled EU or international students are NOT eligible for DSAs, although some universities do provide assistance and support for disabled overseas students, including mentoring and learning support. See your university’s Disability Service for further information.

What will DSA give me?

DSA is paid on top of other student finance. It helps to pay the extra costs you may have because of a disability. DSA does not have to be repaid.

DSA is divided into three allowances; specialist equipment allowance, for things like laptops, software, ergonomic equipment; non-medical helper allowance for 1-2-1 support from a mental health for support worker, or specialist study skills tutor; general allowance for covering the cost of your needs assessment, printing costs, travel and other miscellaneous costs.

How much you get depends on your individual needs – not your household income. You will have a Needs Assessment once you have applied for DSA and your Needs Assessor will determine what your individual needs, in relation to your studying, are.

2019 to 2021 academic year

Undergraduate students:

Type of student

Specialist equipment allowance*

Non-medical helper allowance*

General allowance*


Up to £5,684 for the whole course

Up to £22,603 a year

Up to £1,899 a year


Up to £5,684 for the whole course

Up to £16,951 a year

Up to £1,424 a year


Postgraduate students:

Single allowance of up to £20,000 a year*.

*These figures are maximum amounts for Student Finance England funded students – most students will get less than these maximums.

How do I apply for DSA?

You should apply for DSA as soon as possible even before you have a confirmed place at university.

To apply for DSA, you will need to complete an application form. If you already have student finance, you can apply through your student account online, or for post graduates, part time or self-funding students, you will need to apply through

You must provide a report or letter to support your DSA application. The letter or report needs to state that you have a condition that is substantial and long lasting. For physical disabilities, sensory loss, mental health or medical conditions a report or letter from your doctor or consultant will be required. For specific learning differences, such as dyslexia, a ‘diagnostic assessment’ from a psychologist or suitably qualified specialist teacher will be required.

For further advice on completing your form, or on what supporting evidence is required, go to your HEI Disability Service.

What is a DSA Needs Assessment or Review of Needs?

The DSA Needs Assessment is an informal meeting with an experienced Needs Assessor to help decide the kind of support that will help you with your own particular needs.

Your Needs Assessor will write a Needs Assessment Report which will list and justify any recommended Assistive Technology and Specialist Support you will need, how much it will cost, where to get it from, and any Specialist Training you may need to make best use of the Assistive Technology.

If you have had a DSA Needs Assessment in the past, you may be asked to have a Review of Needs, rather than a full Needs Assessment.

The report will be sent to your funding body and you will then receive confirmation of your funding and what to do next. Your report can also be sent to your University’s disability service if you are happy for this to be sent.

Who are my funding body?

Your funding body will usually be either Student Finance England (SFE), Student Finance Wales (SFW), Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), or Student Finance Northern Ireland (SFNI). Your funding body is based on the country that you are resident in before you go to university.

Exceptions – if you are doing a Social Work course, you may be funded through the NHS. If you are a doctoral student, your DSA may be funded through one of the Research Councils linked to your course.

The Disability Advisor at your university should be able to confirm who your funding body is.

When can I arrange my DSA Needs Assessment?

Once you receive the approval letter from your funding body (e.g. SFE), you can arrange a Study Needs Assessment. 

You can arrange a Needs Assessment even if you have not started your course. In fact, it is advisable to arrange your assessment before you start your course, so your support is in place ready for the beginning of your time at university.

If you have already started your course, book your Needs Assessment as soon as possible. Even if you are in your final year of studying, you can still apply for DSA, but what is recommended in your Needs Assessment may be limited if you are in the final 14 weeks of your course.

Booking your DSA Needs Assessment
I've been told to have a DSA Needs Assessment. Can I book it now?

If you have already received a letter/email advising you to book a Needs Assessment or Review of Needs, you can contact an assessment centre to book this immediately, even if you have not started your course. In fact, it is advisable to arrange your assessment before you start your course, so your support is in place ready for the beginning of your time at university.

Sussex Regional Access Centre can offer you an assessment appointment usually within 3-5 days, during our centre opening times, Monday – Friday, all year round. Click here to book an assessment.

I've had an assessment for my dyslexia. Do I need another?

A DSA Needs Assessment is different to the assessment that you will have had to assess you for dyslexia. The needs assessment is an opportunity for you to discuss what sort of support you might need when you study on your course.  Your Needs Assessor will review your dyslexia diagnostic assessment report and use the information in the report to inform your Needs Assessment.

I had a DSA Needs Assessment over five years ago. Will I need another assessment?

If you have changed course and have had a break in study of more than two years, you will probably be asked to book a Review of Needs, where the recommendations from your previous assessment will be reviewed and new recommendations made, if necessary. You should apply for DSA through your funding body and you will be advised as to whether you will require a further assessment.

If you are unsure whether you need to book a new assessment or a review, contact your Needs Assessment Centre where you had your original assessment carried out or ask the Disability Advisor at your university.

Do I have to have my DSA Needs Assessment at Sussex Regional Access Centre?

No, you can have your DSA needs assessment at any DSA registered centre. You can choose to have your assessment near to your home address or close to the university that you will be studying at – whichever is the most convenient.  To find an assessment centre go to

Do I have to pay for my DSA Needs Assessment?

You don’t have to pay directly for your assessment, but the fee for your assessment will be taken out of your DSA funding after your assessment has been carried out.

How long will it take to have a DSA Needs Assessment?

Needs assessments usually take about 1-2 hours. Following your assessment, your report will be written up and sent to you within two weeks.

If you are having a Review of Needs, this will usually take about an hour.

Do I have to come in to the centre to have my DSA Needs Assessment?

No, assessments can be caried out via Zoom, phone or Skype, or, if you would like an in-person assessment, this will take place at our assessment centre at the University of Sussex Falmer campus.

Will I need to bring anything?

You will be asked to send in evidence of your disability before your assessment is booked and you will be asked to complete a pre-assessment form to help your assessor prepare for your Needs Assessment. You should not need to bring anything with you to the assessment, unless specifically asked.

Can someone come with me to my DSA Needs Assessment?

Yes, you can ask someone to come with you when you have your Needs Assessment, although you do not have to have someone with you. Please let the assessment centre or Needs Assessor know beforehand that someone will be joining you at your assessment.

At your DSA Needs Assessment or Review of Needs
Will I be tested?

No, you will not have to complete any tests. A DSA Needs Assessment is an informal meeting with an experienced Needs Assessor to help decide the kind of support that will help you with your own particular needs. The assessment is an opportunity for you to discuss how your disability may impact on your studying and to explore what support may help to overcome any barriers that you might face.

Will I get a new computer?

When you have your needs assessment, your assessor will discuss with you whether any assistive technology, including software and computing equipment, will be required to support you in your studies. If a computer is required, and you do not have a suitable computer for running any assistive software, a new computer may be recommended as part of your package of DSA.  If a computer is recommended, you will need to make a £200 contribution towards your new computer.

Will I get a desktop computer or laptop?

Usually your Needs Assessor will recommend a laptop, so that you are able to take your computer onto campus and use in different locations; however, if you and your assessor decide that a desktop computer will suit your individual needs better than a laptop, then a desktop computer with monitor, keyboard and mouse will be recommended.

Can I buy a computer and get the money back?

If you have purchased a computer before your Needs Assessment, you will not be able to claim the costs back; however, any assistive software that your Needs Assessor recommends for you, will be paid for from your DSA. If the computer you purchased is of too low a specification to run any recommended software, your assessor may need to recommend a DSA funded computer, which you would need to make a £200 contribution to.

We would advise you against buying your own computer before attending your Needs Assessment.

What specification computer will I get through DSA?

If a computer is recommended by your Needs Assessor it will meet minimum specifications that are required to run assistive software. For a standard laptop computer this will be:-

                Intel i5 10thgeneration or AMD Ryzen 5 4000 processor

                8 GB memory

                512 SSD storage

                Windows 10 64 bit operating system

                15.6” screen


For a desktop computer, the specification will be:-

                Intel i5 10thgeneration or AMD Ryzen 5 4000 processor

                8 GB memory

                512 SSD storage

                Windows 10 64 bit operating system

                19” screen

Will I get a Mac computer?

Unless there is a specific disability reason for you to have a Mac, rather than a personal preference, and a Windows computer cannot meet your needs, a Mac will not be recommended. You can, however, decide to upgrade the DSA recommended computer to a Mac and pay the difference in costs.

Can I upgrade the computer that has been recommended for me?

You can decide to upgrade the DSA recommended computer to a higher specification computer or equal specification computer of a preferred brand, however you will need to pay the difference in costs.

After your DSA Needs Assessment or Review of Needs
I'm changing university. Do I need to have a new DSA Needs Assessment?

No, if you are studying on a course that is at the same level as your original course, you will not need a new Needs Assessment. Your funding body will contact your Needs Assessment Centre and ask for any adjustments to be made to the recommendations due to the change in your university.

Can I keep the equipment that is provided through the DSA?

Yes, you can keep your DSA funded equipment, even after you have finished your course. You will only be asked to return equipment, if you do not start on your course.

What happens if I don't receive what is recommended in my DSA Needs Assessment?

In the first instance, you should contact the supplier of the element of DSA that you have not received – check on your DSA entitlement letter to see who is the supplier is. If you still don’t receive what was recommended, contact your Needs Assessment Centre, who will investigate this for you.

Can I change the supplier of my support?

Yes, if you contact your Needs Assessor, explaining why you wish to change your supplier, they will consider your request and contact your funding body, where necessary.

I have a new condition or my needs have changed - can I get support?

Yes, you can get extra support for a new condition, or if your needs have changed. You will need to present evidence of your new condition to your funding body, or provide an indication to your Needs Assessor of how your needs have changed since your original assessment.

For a new condition, you will normally need to have a Review of Needs at the assessment centre that carried out your original assessment. This can usually be done by phone, Skype or Zoom, or if you prefer, an in-person review can be arranged. A Review of Needs usually takes up to an hour.

If your needs have changed since your original assessment, your needs assessor will usually discuss this by email, phone, Skype or Zoom to see if additional recommendations are required.