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What is a DSA study needs assessment?

The DSA study needs assessment is an informal discussion about what you need, or may need, to enable you to make the most of your studies in higher education. It is not a test.

The DSA is student finance administered with reference to an official guidance document. In summary, the guidance states that the DSA intended to meet additional costs arising from the affects of disability on study. These additional costs are incurred by an individual student on a particular course of study; hence the requirement for a study needs assessment focused on you. Your DSA is held and administered by your ‘funding body’ (eg Student Finance England, NHS Bursaries, postgraduate research councils).

During the study needs assessment interview, you will be asked about study strategies that you already use (for example, using audio books as an alternative to print-based reading, using a camera to make visual notes, keeping a planning diary, working with a personal assistant in practical classes, or typing rather than handwriting).

Within the context of your course and your particular ways of working, the interview will explore ‘activities of study’ like reading, producing coursework, making notes, keeping track of deadlines, going out on field trips or working in a laboratory. There will also be demonstration and a chance to try some equipment and software.

The DSA includes funding for personal assistants to enable study activities (it does not cover daily living such as cooking). For students who have additional costs relating to travel to study-venues such as lectures and libraries, there is provision within the DSA to meet additional costs (but not full costs). If appropriate, sections of the DSA will be covered in the study needs assessment.

Your assessor will provide a summary of recommendations for you to take away. After your study needs assessment, you will receive a full written assessment report within 10 days. With your permission, the study needs assessment report is sent to the DSA funding body as a means of advising them what should be funded through your DSA. A copy can also be sent to the disability adviser at your university if you wish.

Assessment centres charge students a single assessment fee, which will cover all work required for the duration of course study. The cost of the assessment of need is paid from the General Allowance the DSA. Students will not personally be asked to make any payment for an assessment of need..

The assessment fee includes:

  • Additional needs with which a student presents Any activities undertaken by the assessor or centre to review the student’s DSA support, for the duration of the original course.
  • Liaison with funding bodies, equipment suppliers HEIs or other stakeholders for the purpose of review of the student’s support needs.

Students who present with an additional diagnosis during the course will receive a response from the original centre, in accordance with the above points.

The centre will contact the student a minimum of twice at agreed intervals to gain feedback.

The first contact will be with the issue of the final copy of the needs assessment report to seek the student’s views on how the assessment was for them. The second and third points of contact will be approximately 3 months and one year from the date of assessment in order to check the efficacy of the support strategies recommended.

Postgraduate and PGCE students may be eligible for a formal Review of their needs, funded through the postgraduate DSA. All Reviews must be authorised in writing by the funding body in advance.