Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is a vital aid for many disabled students. As the government announce £20,000 worth of funding for disabled postgraduate students, we speak exclusively to Universities Minister, Chris Skidmore.
After visiting Brunel University to highlight providers going the extra mile to give disabled students any additional support required to complete their studies, Universities Minister Chris Skidmore has further dedicated time to allow disabled students to go into higher education.
“I was keen as Universities Minister to look at what we could be doing on increasing access and participation for disabled students,” explains Chris.
And now disabled students interested in postgraduate education can expect an increase in their DSA funding.
Chris continues: “The funding was originally set at £10,993, for undergraduate levels, and we have increased the funding to £20,000 for the academic year 19/20.
“We are really keen to ensure we provide support for disabled students, not just at an undergraduate level.”
“DSA is having a really positive effect as we’ve seen 94,120 new students with a disability enrolled in the 2017/18 academic year. This has been an increase of 6,000 students in the previous year, and up 26,000 by 2013/14. DSA has really allowed us to provide the opportunity to give students that extra support.”
Going onto higher education is a right that everyone should have.
With the introduction of DSA, figures have shown a positive increase in, not only, the number of students attending university or college, but also an increase in retention.
With DSA, more students are inclined to finish their studies and the support has provided students with confidence to find adapted accommodation, PAs and more to successfully complete their education.
However, the new funding increase will now allow more disabled students to go onto receive vital financial guidance when completing a postgraduate degree.
“When it comes to a postgraduate environment we feel there is a greater independence and flexibility – almost like a personal budget – and students who have been through the undergraduate process will know best themselves how to spend the money,” adds Chris on the decision to increase DSA funding.
Acknowledging that a single allowance may not be beneficial for some disabled students spurred the government on to ensure people are adequately supported.
“All eligible students will be interviewed to ascertain the level of support they require, and that needs assessment will be done through a group of independent needs assessors,” explains Chris when asked how students with different disability needs will receive the correct amount of funding.
He continues: “This doesn’t mean that people will have to travel a long distance to find a needs assessor, students can choose where to go for their interview at home or in their place of study.
“What I’ve been struck by when talking to disabled students is that the income from DSA doesn’t usually happen until after they have started their course. Some also are not aware of the ability to apply to DSA until they have arrived at university.
“There is a clear need for better communication around this opportunity for DSA – I am keen to highlight that this is possible for our disabled students.
“I don’t want disabled students to think they shouldn’t go to a certain university that they want to go to, because it might be difficult. I want students to know there is support for them. Also, I want universities to be welcoming environments.”
With the additional increase in DSA allowance for postgraduates, it is hoped more disabled students will further their educational career.