National Network of Assessment Centres

Where does the funding come from?

Students in further education can often obtain funding through their college. Ask your tutors or study advisors for more information.

UK Undergraduate and Postgraduate taught students (both full and part time) can often receive funding through the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) from their funding body (Student Finance England, Student Finance Wales, Student Finance Northern Ireland, Student Awards Agency for Scotland, NHS or Research Councils.  To find out about the DSAs, please visit this website: https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowances-dsas

Postgraduate students may also obtain additional funding through the relevant Research Council. Please contact your Assessment Centre or Disability Adviser for more information. Further information about the Research Council DSAs can be found here: https://www.ukri.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/UKRI-031120-DSA-Framework-February-2020.pdf However, you should contact your University Disability Adviser in the first instance, as you cannot apply directly to the Research Council for your DSA and this is processed by the University.

Postgraduate research students may be able to receive some support if undertaking paid employment, through the Access To Work Scheme. Contact the Disability Employment Adviser in your local job centre. You might also contact your funding body to discuss eligibility for funding through the postgraduate DSA scheme.

NHS-funded students may be eligible for additional support from the NHS Bursaries Office. Contact the Bursaries Office for more information: https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-bursary-students/manage-your-nhs-bursary

International Students may be able to receive some financial support from the British Council. This support is not guaranteed and applicants should also find out about available funding in their country before beginning studies in the UK.

Your institution (or the institution you hope to study at) might have systems in place to help support students who do not receive funding from other sources, but you cannot assume this is the case. Contact the Disabilities Office or Student Services Department for more information.

Who is eligible for support?

Typically, as a UK student, you could be eligible for additional support from the Disabled Students’ Allowances if

  • You are dyslexic or have ‘specific learning difficulties’,
  • You are blind or visually impaired,
  • You are deaf or hard of hearing,
  • You have mobility difficulties or use a wheelchair for mobility,
  • You have a long term medical condition which causes stamina, concentration, mobility or dexterity difficulties,
  • You have mental health difficulties,
  • You have autism or Autistic Spectrum Condition,
  • You have another condition which affects your ability to participate in studying.

If you do not think any of these categories apply to, contact your disability officer, funding body or local Assessment centre for advice.

How do I apply for the DSA?

You will need to have clear documentary evidence that a disability or other difficulty exists and this will usually need to have been produced quite recently. Ask funding body about the type of evidence they need from you.

You should complete a DSA application form and provide a copy of this evidence to the relevant department in your funding body.  They will then confirm your eligibility for the DSA and will ask you to attend a Needs Assessment at a registered Assessment Centre. .Before you arrange an Assessment Centre assessment, you need to have confirmation from your funding body that they agree for you to have a Needs Assessment/Study Aids and Strategies Assessment at an Assessment Centre (some will automatically refer you to an Assessment Centre). When you have this confirmation, contact your nearest (or preferred) Assessment Centre and arrange for an assessment.

We suggest you seek the advice of your college/university Disabilities Office before beginning an application for Disabled Students Allowances. However, If you are concerned about confidentiality (i.e. you didn’t want to tell the college/university about your disability) then you may instead want to consider discussing your application with your local Assessment Centre.

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.

You should be aware that if you have already had a Needs Assessment and your needs have changed or you require additional support, you will need to go back through your original assessment centre in order for them to either make additional recommendations, or to carry out a review of your needs.

Members of the National Network of Assessment Centres (NNAC) 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.

The 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 arrange for an assessment?

Before you arrange an assessment or a DSA review, you must have written confirmation from your funding body that they agree for you to have one.  You can then approach your local or preferred Assessment Centre to request an appointment.

You can ask your college or university disability officer to help you arrange for the assessment. Alternatively, get in touch with your nearest or preferred Assessment Centre and book an assessment yourself.

If you cannot get an appointment soon enough in your local Assessment Centre, you could try another one! If you do this, please remember to let the original centre know if you decide to cancel an appointment so someone else can have it.

Find your nearest assessment centre here.

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 require any personal assistance or communication support you might need during the day or if you will be bringing your own 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.
How long does this process all take?

The whole process can sometimes seem very long-winded. The length of time it takes from making an appointment to getting your equipment very much depends on how busy your local centre or funding authority is with processing assessments. The busiest time can be the first few months of the academic year (September to December).

To help things run smoothly, you could do the following:

  • Apply to your Funding Body for the DSA as early as possible – do not wait until you get your A Level results! Applications can usually be made from the February prior to your September start date
  • Don’t assume things are happening – If you don’t hear anything within a couple of weeks of your application, give your funding body a call.
  • f you have a significant physical or sensory disability you should arrange your assessment early, maybe late spring or early summer.
  • If you cannot get an appointment soon enough in your most local or preferred centre, try ringing around the other centres in your area to find out if they can see you sooner. Make sure that you attend your appointment with the Assessment Centre as it could take some time to arrange another one.
  • Remember to provide any relevant information (such as the Funding Body approval letter and your medical or psychological reports as well as tutor comments) in advance of the session. Your assessor might not be able to carry out the assessment without this information. Your funding body will not have forwarded a copy of your documentation to the Assessment Centre, so don’t assume it’s been sent to the centre in advance.
How long will it take to get my report?

You should expect to have the report to be written up and sent out within two working weeks of your appointment – although occasionally it can take longer if very specialist equipment needs to be identified. If you don’t get your report within this time frame, call the centre to find out what is happening.

Check the report carefully – if you are not happy with the contents of your report you should contact the centre as soon as possible.

Some universities can arrange to lend equipment to students who are waiting for DSA funding – contact your disability officer for more information.

When you receive the final copy of your assessment report, your funding body should also have received it at the same time. If you don’t hear from your funding body within a reasonable time (usually two to three weeks) you should call them and find out what is happening.

Wait for your funding body to approve the report before ordering any equipment. It is important to note that if you purchase any equipment and software either prior to your assessment, or before the recommendations that have been made in your report have been approved by the funding body, this will not be retrospectively funded or reimbursed.

If your funding body doesn’t agree with the recommendations of the report, let the Assessment Centre know as soon as you can.

How do I order my recommended equipment?

The Assessment Centre usually can’t help you order equipment. Clear instructions and contact details should be provided in the report and in the approval letter you will receive from your funding body. If you are not sure how to go about ordering equipment or arranging the support recommended in your report, go and see the disability adviser at your university/college. Your disability adviser will also help you to make any other arrangements recommended in the report and it can be useful for you to contact them if you think you need to add new items later on in your studies.  However, any recommendations for additional DSA-funded items need to be made through the Assessment Centre where you had your assessment. 

If you have any more questions about the assessment process why not contact your nearest centre.

How do I find out if I am eligible for DSA?

To find out if you may be eligible for support from the DSA, contact your funding body. You could also contact the Disability Adviser in your college or university (or the college / university you are thinking of going to).

Although it’s called the ‘Disabled Students’ Allowances’, you do not have to be ‘registered disabled’ or in receipt of disability benefits to be eligible for support. For example, many people who are dyslexic receive additional support through the DSA.

Click here to find out more about Funding