Needs Assessment Information

National Network of Assessment Centres

About the assessment

The Needs Assessment or Study Aids and Study Strategies Assessment will identify strategies you can use to participate in all aspects of higher education (despite any adverse effects your disability or learning difficulty might have). These strategies often include assistive technology equipment and specialist support.

The assessment is a meeting between you and an assessor – a person qualified by their experience and knowledge of the equipment and support that disabled students need to study successfully at university. At this meeting, your needs and the demands of your course will be discussed and the assessor will aim to agree with you all the equipment and support that you need for your studies.

After the assessment the assessor will produce a written report (Needs Assessment Report) and this will be sent to you and to your Funding Body for their agreement.

The Needs Assessment Report is used by your funding body to work out the support they are willing to pay for from the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA.

The assessment report will also contain advice and guidance to help you and your university or college agree reasonable accommodations they can make to help you get the most out of your course. During the assessment session you will have the opportunity to:

  • Consider how your course is delivered and assessed and all the things you will need to be able to do when taking the course, such as take part in lectures and take down notes, read up on subjects, write essays, use computers, take part in field trips  or lab work etc.
  • Think about how your disability (or dyslexia, etc) might affect you when studying.
  • Look at various strategies you can use, some of which might involve using assistive software or technology aids, to participate in the course as independently as possible.

More information about the assessment

Assessment sessions usually last from one and a half to three hours. Sometimes the session needs to be spread over more than one day, especially if quite a lot of equipment needs to be tried out or if you become tired very easily.  Although assessments are usually carried out face to face, due to current Covid-19 restrictions and also in other exceptional circumstances, your assessment can be carried out remotely via video call.

You won’t be ‘tested’ to prove your disability in the session.

More than one assessor can be involved: you might meet with an ergonomic specialist or other professional who can help work out exactly what you need to participate in the course.

The assessor has to make appropriate recommendations in the final report. All recommendations need to be clearly justified to enable your funding body to release funding from the Disabled Students Allowances (or other funding sources) based on your disability-related needs for the course.

Recommendations usually include the following:

  • details of costs and suppliers of specialist equipment;
  • maximum weekly/annual hours and rates of pay for any study-related personal assistants (non-medical helpers) you need;
  • details of any reasonable claims for additional miscellaneous or travel costs you might have while studying.

The report is only sent to your college / university with your permission. The college or university won’t know how best to support you if they don’t know about you. You can choose not to inform your college or university about your disability or assessment, although this could impact on the support that they can put in place

Remember: you don’t get ‘tested’ in an assessment – we’re assessing the aids and strategies you need, we’re not assessing you! Student feedback indicates that students find the assessment a most useful and informative process.

For more information about the DSA, please refer to:

Why use an Assessment Centre?

Your funding body will expect you to attend a registered Assessment Centre to ensure that your disability-related support needs and appropriate study aids and strategies are identified.  Assessment Centre assessors provide specialist advice and guidance on the wide range of specialist assistive technology devices, personal assistance types and study strategies that disabled students can access to participate in education and subsequently in employment.

Members of the National Network of Assessment Centres (NNAC Ltd) are required to provide specialist, professional and unbiased advice. Assessors do not have financial interests in suppliers, nor do they receive any financial reward from recommending particular items of equipment or software.

Assessment Centres have close links with further and higher education. Centres are based in colleges or universities or in private businesses. Assessors are education professionals and understand disabilities and the particular demands of further or higher education.

NNAC is a national network and holds regular discussions via email, in meetings and at training events. This allows assessors to share information about new technologies or strategies.

An Assessment Centre assessment will provide details of appropriate assistive technology equipment, but you should also leave your assessment with a better idea of the kind of other strategies you can use to get the most from your studies.

How do I prepare for the assessment?

1. Although your Assessor should research information about your course, it is also useful for you to find out about the activities the course will expect you to participate in:

  • How is the course delivered (do you need to participate in lectures, seminars, group work and so on)?
  • How are you assessed (through coursework, presentations, exams)?
  • Do you need to use any specific equipment or software?
  • How many teaching hours are there every week?
  • Do you need to go on placement or undertake field trips?

2. Think about how effective your previous study strategies were at school or college. Did you have help from family, friends or teachers – people who might not be able to help as much now? Maybe your classes were very small compared to university lectures.

3. Make sure you know how to get to the centre. If you plan to drive there make sure parking is available first.

4. Let the centre know if you need any personal assistance or communication support, or if you will be bringing your support worker with you

5. Make sure you have all the right documents you will need to provide to the Assessment Centre in advance of the session. This includes a letter from your Funding Body to confirm they have agreed you can have the assessment. You will also need recent medical evidence or a report that confirms dyslexia etc and many Assessment Centres will also ask you to complete and return a Pre-Assessment Form which provides them with useful information to enable them to prepare for your assessment.

You can help the assessor by doing the following:

  • Bring along a few recent examples of your written work, such as class / lecture notes or essays – especially if these have been marked and commented on by your teachers or tutors.
  • Speak to your tutors and disability support staff about your specific needs – they could have useful suggestions e.g. about compatible computer hardware. A letter from a tutor or disability adviser giving details of any specific concerns can be brought to the assessment or sent (or emailed) in advance.

If you require any further information, please contact your nearest assessment centre.