How to access disability support | University of Oxford
Disability support needs
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How to access disability support

This page provides a step-by-step guide to arranging and funding support.

In order to access support your disability advisor will help you with the following steps:

  • Disclosing a disability;
  • Providing evidence of your disability;
  • Applying for funding for your disability-related support needs;
  • Arranging a study needs assessment if needed;
  • Agreeing your Student Support Plan (SSP);
  • Sharing your SSP
  • Keeping in touch 

This process takes time so it is important that you are in touch with the DAS as soon as possible. If you are a UK student applying for a Disabled Students Allowance see the Overview of the DSA application process and timeline.

Disclosing a disability

  • Contact the DAS and complete the registration form. You may make an appointment to see your disability advisor in person or by telephone or Skype. You can then explore potential support options and decide if you do, or do not, wish to take them up.
  • Matriculated students can also update the disability field on Student Self Service; the DAS will then contact you directly to explore your support requirements. 
  • Talk to a tutor, or your college or department disability coordinator. They will be able to refer you to the DAS.

Providing evidence of your disability to meet University guidelines

You will need to provide evidence of your disability in order for the University to arrange support. The Providing Evidence tab at the top of this web page will take you to detailed information.

Applying for funding for your disability-related support needs

At your initial appointment, your disability adviser will discuss possible support with you. Some types of support require you to apply for funding. The funding available, and the methods to access it, varies depending on your home country, your course of study and the body who is funding your studies. Your adviser will guide you to the appropriate paperwork. The Funding tab at the top of this web page will take you to detailed information. 

Arranging a study needs assessment

In order to decide on the most appropriate  package of support for you the DAS might ask you to attend a study needs assessment, depending on the complexity of your needs and how your disability support will be funded. A study needs assessment is not a test, or an evaluation, or any kind of medical or educational diagnostic process. It is an opportunity for you to discuss your approach to study and for the DAS to explore the various study aids and strategies available. This might include technological or human support.

Agreeing your Student Support Plan

When the DAS has appropriate evidence of your disability and have talked to you about its impact, they will summarise briefly any recommendations for your support in a document called a Student Support Plan (SSP). If your SSP includes working with a tutor, mentor or other support worker you will need to be in contact with them. If your plan includes any technology then you might have to arrange delivery and any training. The DAS will advise and help you with these steps.

The SSP represents recommendations only. Final responsibility for decision making in respect of reasonable adjustments rests with the appropriate body legally responsible for meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2010: colleges in matters relating to college provision and the University in matters relating to departments and faculties. The DAS recommendations are made in order to support colleges and the University as they consider their obligations to make reasonable adjustments.

Sharing your SSP

The DAS recommends you share your SSP with people who are supporting you. Sharing your SSP might help you discuss your disability with others and ensure that relevant staff are aware of your disability. In addition, the DAS will send your SSP to:

  • the disability coordinator at your college;
  • the disability coordinator in your department (the lead department if you are doing a joint course); and
  • the Disability Librarian at the Bodleian Library (if you have library-related needs).

These people will then share this information but only to those core members of staff who need to know about your disability to allow them to support you.

Keeping in touch 

If during your studies your needs or circumstances change or your support is not working you can discuss making changes with the DAS. Whatever your concerns stay in touch with your disability advisor, or your disability coordinator in your college or department. Let the DAS know about any questions, queries or concerns and they will do their best to help.

The University asks that you supply up-to-date, specialist information about the nature of your disability or learning difficulty, and its impact on you. The type of evidence you need depends on the nature of your condition. If you do not have any formal evidence, you are still encouraged to contact the Disability Advisory Service (DAS) who will be able to advise you about how to get new or updated evidence if it is needed.

You will find details below of evidence requirements if you experience:

  • mobility or sensory impairments or long-standing health conditions;
  • mental health conditions;
  • autistic spectrum conditions;
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); or
  • a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or dysgraphia.

All evidence must be signed and dated by the professional who has prepared it. Any foreign language evidence must be translated by certified translation services. The DAS is unable to pay for the cost of obtaining medical evidence. In some cases the DAS is able to contribute to the costs of investigating specific learning difficulties.

The evidence must give the University information on the following:

  • your condition or impairment (including any diagnosis);
  • how long you have had the condition or when you were diagnosed;
  • the likely impact on your studies of your disability;
  • any medical treatment or support which you are currently receiving (or that is recommended); and
  • if you are likely to require any alternative examination adjustment. If so, the medical letter must state what the adjustments should be and why it would benefit you. There is guidance available for medical practitioners on typical adjustments at the University.

It is recommended that your GP or consultant uses the Oxford Medical Certificate for the purposes of providing evidence. 

Mobility or sensory impairments, long-standing health conditions: for most types of mobility or sensory impairments and long-standing health conditions a medical letter from a GP or consultant is sufficient. Evidence from other professionals is unlikely to suffice.

Mental health conditions: a letter from your GP, psychiatrist or specialist consultant is required. It should give the same information as listed above. A letter from a mental health nurse, or treatment centre support worker is not sufficient.

Autistic spectrum conditions: a letter from your GP or specialist consultant, or a statement of educational need or an Education Health and Care Plan, completed after the age of 16.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): a letter from your GP, an adult psychiatrist or a consultant at a specialist ADHD clinic, or a diagnostic assessment report from an educational psychologist, an appropriately registered practitioner psychologist, or a suitably qualified specialist teacher, confirming substantial attentional difficulties.

A specific learning difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or dysgraphia: you will need a full diagnostic assessment report carried out by an appropriately qualified practitioner psychologist or specialist teacher with a valid practising certificate. The report must meet the Guidance on SpLD diagnostic assessments.

Your assessment must have been:

  • conducted after your 16th birthday;
  • conducted within five years (for undergraduate students) or eight years (for graduate students) of the start date of your course at the University;
  • conducted on an individual basis; and
  • have used tests designed for adults.

Oxford students continuing directly from undergraduate to graduate study will not normally require a new diagnostic assessment but should still contact the DAS for advice.

The following list gives examples of documents which are not acceptable evidence (please note the list is not exhaustive):

  • evidence prepared before you were 16 years old;
  • the UK “Form 8” – prepared for examination access arrangements at schools;
  • a letter from a school, college or university stating previous support or examination arrangements;
  • a childhood report of dyspraxia from a physiotherapist;
  • a letter from a medical professional; or
  • a diagnostic report written in a foreign language. Any foreign language assessments must be translated by certified translation services – the contents must then meet the University’s guidelines.

Note that many of these documents provide useful background information and you are welcome to supply them but they will not be accepted as ‘core’ evidence of your disability.

Updating an SpLD assessment

If you have an existing diagnosis but your report does not fully meet the Guidance on SpLD Diagnostic Assessment, your disability adviser will be able to establish whether a new assessment is necessary, and then help you to arrange an appointment.

Arranging a new SpLD diagnostic assessment

If you think that you might have dyslexia, dyspraxia or another SpLD but have not been diagnosed formally, you should contact the DAS, who will discuss your concerns with you and see if there is sufficient background evidence and history of difficulty in order to recommend an assessment. With that in place, the DAS will help you to arrange an appointment and the University can contribute to the cost. 

Note: University-funded diagnostic assessments are not available for students in their final year of study after Week 4 of Hilary term. The key purpose for the University in conducting these assessments is to facilitate study support. After this point, the time taken to organise, conduct and report on an assessment makes it highly unlikely that any recommendations could be implemented usefully. Also, after this point the deadline for examination adjustment applications has already passed and the DAS believe the disruption to study at such a crucial time makes an assessment inadvisable.

The funding available, and the methods to access it, varies depending on your home country, your course of study and the body who is funding your studies. There are different processes for UK and international students.

UK students - the Disabled Students' Allowance

To access the full range of disability-related support, all UK students are encouraged to make an application for the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)This is available for students undertaking undergraduate and graduate studies, including those studying through the NHS Bursary Scheme and those working with the UK Research Councils.

DSAs are non-means tested grants awarded to help pay for additional costs you incur while at university as a direct result of your disability, long-term health condition or specific learning difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia. DSAs fund disability-related study support, including human support, items of specialist equipment and software, and some travel costs.

You must be able to provide documentary evidence that you have a disability that affects your ability to study and you must also:

  • be eligible for financial assistance from your funding body – such as tuition fee/maintenance loans (even if you decide not to apply for this assistance); and
  • be studying or have an offer to study a course at a rate of at least 25% of an equivalent full-time course in each academic year, and that lasts at least a year.

You should apply for DSA as soon as you have been made an offer (conditional or unconditional) to study at the University of Oxford as it can take up to 14 weeks to process DSA applications and for support to be fully implemented. Please refer to the DSA application process and timeline (PDF) for further information. The application process depends on your funding body. Your funding body is the one to which you would apply to receive financial support for your course such as tuition fees or maintenance loans.

Funding bodies 

Student Finance England (SFE)

Full guide to DSAs

Information and application forms

Student Finance Wales (SFW)

Information and application forms

Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS)

Information and application forms

Student Finance Northern Ireland (SFNI)

Information and application forms

Republic of Ireland

Information and application forms

States of Jersey Student Finance

Information and application forms

States of Guernsey Student Finance

Direct disability support enquiries to

NHS Student Bursaries

Students can tick the relevant box in their online bursary application indicating that they would like to apply for DSA, and more details will then be sent to them. 

Alternatively, the NHS DSA application form is available. Information and application forms

Undergraduate medical students:

Apply to SFE (or other relevant funding body) for DSA for years 1-4, and then to the NHS Student Bursary from year 5 onwards (when students are only eligible for a reduced rate maintenance loan from SFE or other funding body). 

Graduate-entry medical students:

SFE (or other relevant funding body) administers the DSA for year 1 graduate-entry medical students and the NHS from year 2 onwards. 

UK Research Councils (RCUK)

Contact the Disability Advisory Service (DAS) who will establish your eligibility, arrange a study needs assessment, ask your research council to approve funding and facilitate the implementation of any recommended study aids and strategies.

Information about RCUK DSAs

DSA framework document

On receipt of your application, your funding body will determine if you are eligible for support.  If you are, you will normally be asked to attend a study needs assessment to investigate what study aids and support might be necessary.

International students

The University has a policy of contributing to disability-related study support for international students who are not eligible for DSA and those whose independent sources of funding are exhausted, eg from your home country’s government sources or from your home or sponsoring Higher Education Institution. 

International students must independently fund any personal care needs. 

Visiting students: please note that disability-related support requiring additional funds must be paid for by the institution sponsoring the studies of visiting students.

To apply for funding you will need to register with the DAS and provide evidence of your disability. Do not wait until you arrive in Oxford as the process can take some time and it is preferable to have your support ready for your arrival. Initial appointments can be conducted by telephone or Skype. Your disability advisor will discuss with you the support which might be applicable in your circumstances. In some cases, you might be asked to attend a study needs assessment if the DAS determine that additional information is needed.

International students should check whether they are entitled to free medical treatment under the NHS. Visit the Doctors and nurses web page for more information about NHS and private medical treatment available. 

Additional sources of funding for UK and international students

The Fees and Funding pages include information and advice about sources of hardship funding, student prizes and awards. 

Student Health Association: a fund to help students with disabilities to keep up with their studies.

Snowdon Trust provide grants to physically disabled and sensory impaired students studying in the UK to help with additional disability-related costs that are not fully covered by the available statutory funding.

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