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Funding for disabled students in higher education

Student loans can help with course fees and living costs while you study.

You can apply for funding to cover extra costs if you are disabled. This includes Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) and bursaries from universities or charitable trusts. Unlike student loans, you do not have to pay these back.

You may still qualify for some disability benefits while you study.

Warning Disability Rights UK Students Helpline

The charity Disability Rights UK provides advice to students studying in England.

Disabled Students Helpline (Disability Rights UK)

Undergraduate study

You can apply for a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan for living costs.

If you live in England, you’ll need to apply to Student Finance England.

If you live in Wales, you’ll need to apply to Student Finance Wales.

Tuition fee loan

You can apply for a tuition fee loan of up to £9,250.

Your university or college sets your tuition fee. The loan goes directly to them.

Maintenance loan

You can apply for a maintenance loan to help with your living costs. The maintenance loan is paid directly into your bank account at the start of each term. You will need to make repayments on the loan when you start to earn over the repayment threshold.

Repaying your student loans (GOV.UK)

The amount you can borrow depends on:

  • your household income
  • where you live or study
  • your age
  • how many credits you will study over a year if you're a part-time student

Student finance: New full-time student (GOV.UK)

Student finance: Part-time students (GOV.UK)

Student finance: Household income (GOV.UK)

You can only apply for a maintenance loan as a distance learning student if your condition means that you cannot attend your course in person. The DWP classes distance learning courses as part-time study, even if you study full-time.

Special Support maintenance loan

If you are disabled or are eligible to claim benefits as a full-time undergraduate student, you may be eligible for a higher amount of maintenance loan than other students.

You may be eligible if you:

  • get Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • qualify for a disability premium or severe disability premium in means-tested benefits
  • receive income-related ESA
  • are deaf and qualify for DSA
  • are registered blind

Part of the maintenance loan is the special support element. This is worth up to £4,106 and does not count as income in your means-tested benefits.

Warning If you did not finish a degree because of disability or health reasons

You may still be eligible for some funding. 

Check the student finance calculator (GOV.UK)

Postgraduate study

If you’re starting a Master’s degree or a PhD programme, you can apply for postgraduate loans to help with course fees and living costs.

Master’s loan

You can apply for a Master’s loan to help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate Master’s course.

The Master’s loan is not means-tested. The amount you’ll get is not based on you or your family’s income. You can choose how much you want to borrow, up to the maximum amount.

Master’s loan: What you’ll get (GOV.UK)

Doctoral loan

You can apply for a doctoral loan to help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

The doctoral loan is not means-tested. The amount you’ll get is not based on you or your family’s income. You can choose how much you want to borrow, up to the maximum amount.

Doctoral loan: Eligibility (GOV.UK)

Eligibility: Postgraduate study (Student Finance Wales)

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

If you’re studying a higher education course, you can apply for DSA to cover some of your extra disability-related study costs.

You can get DSA on top of your other student loans. You do not have to pay DSA back.

You may get help paying for:

  • non-medical helpers, such as sign language interpreters or specialist mentors
  • specialist equipment, such as assistive software so you can access a computer
  • other disability-related costs of studying, like extra hard copies of materials or a small fridge to store medication
  • extra disability-related costs travelling to and from your university

How much you get depends on what support you need to study, not your household income.

Disabled Students' Allowance

Bursaries, scholarships and awards

You may be able to apply for money from your university or college on top of other student finance. You do not have to pay this back. Your university will have its own rules on who qualifies, the amount you can get and how to apply.

It’s worth checking your university website to find out what funding they offer. Your student support service can also tell you more about what is available.

Charitable trusts

Check if you’re entitled to extra funding from charities and other organisations for your studies or disability-related costs.

Turn2us has a large database of charitable grants. 

Search for grants (Turn2us)

You can also search for charitable funding on the Disability Grants website.

Higher Education grants for disabled people (Disability Grants)

Disability Rights UK has a list of trusts you can apply to. They also have information on the best way to apply.

Funding from charitable trusts (Disability Rights UK)

Organisations

These organisations also offer funding:

University and college hardship funds

You could get extra money from your university or college if you’re experiencing financial hardship.

For example, if you’re:

  • disabled
  • a mature student with existing financial commitments
  • a student that was previously in care (a ‘care leaver’)

Contact the student services department at your university or college for details of how to apply. They’ll decide if you qualify.

Benefits

Your student income does not affect disability benefits like Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA). 

How student funding affects your benefits

Students with children

You may be able to apply for:

Childcare Grant (GOV.UK)

Parents’ Learning Allowance (GOV.UK)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 11/05/2022

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