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What learning support can you get at university if you have dyslexia?

There's no reason why having dyslexia should hold you back from applying to university. Here's the lowdown on what kind of support is available, and how you can get it.

It’s estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, so any university or college offering degrees should be offering appropriate support. The level of support available can vary, but generally speaking if you're a dyslexic student, you may be entitled to:
  • special considerations in exams (for example, extra time allowed to finish)
  • extra time for completion of assignments
  • a learning support tutor
  • assistive technology
  • disabled Students Allowances
     

Here the British Dyslexic Association advise on questions you should be asking your uni and explaining more about the extra support you can get.

What should I ask my uni first? 

It's worth contacting a university –  or perhaps speaking to them in person on an open day –  to find out more about:

  • examination criteria — whether poor spelling / grammar will be penalised.
  • assistive technology — whether it can be used for exams, such as a text reader, or voice recognition software.
  • exam format — what format the exams will take, and whether these are likely to be those which many dyslexic candidates find difficult (e.g. multiple choice, particularly on screen, or having to track between hard copy pages). 
  • joint honours – if you are choosing joint honours, what opportunities there are for ensuring that assignment dates are staggered.
    The British Dyslexia Association logo — it's also worth looking for the British Dyslexia Association's Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark in a university prospectus or on its website. This indicates it meets the British Dyslexia Assocation's standards on dyslexia practices and policies. 

    If you would like more information, you can call the British Dyslexic Association helpline on call 0333 405 4555 (Tuesday 10am - 1pm, Wednesday and Thursday 10am – 3pm). 

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    Disabled Students Allowances

    If you have dyslexia you can apply for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) through your student finance funding body (for instance, Student Finance England or the Student Awards Agency for Scotland). These allowances don’t have to be paid back, so they’re worth looking into. They’re added on top of your other student finance.

    Once you’ve applied, you won’t need to again for the duration of your course, unless your circumstances change – if you change from a full-time course to a part-time course, for example.

    For more information on student finance in your country, see our guides to student finance in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    What the DSA cover

    There are three elements to the DSAs. These are:

    • specialist equipment allowance
    • non-medical helper allowance
    • general allowance 
    If you have dyslexia, you'll be able to get the specialist equipment allowance element. You might be able to get the other elements too. Ask your student finance funding body, and take a look at this DSAs guide from GOV.UK.

    Support from the specialist equipment allowance could include:
    • IT equipment
    • assistive software (and associated training)
    • aids such a digital recorder
    • study skills support from a specialist dyslexia tutor
    • allowances for books and photocopying

     This support could be worth up to £5,358  for the whole of your course. This is for full-time and part-time students starting study in 2017-18. Note that this is the maximum you’ll be able to get – the amount depends on your assessment report. 

    Sounds good! How do I get my DSAs?

    Don’t buy any equipment until you’ve gone through these steps so you can be sure you’ll be able to get costs reimbursed. 

    You should also be warned –  since the process of applying for the DSA is lengthy (it can take up to four months), it's a good idea to get your application in and approved ahead of you starting university. You can apply as early as the January of the year you hope to start your degree, on the basis of a provisional offer of a place on a course.

    Apply through your student finance body

    First things first, you’ll have to send in an application to your student finance body. This should be done at the same time as applying for your other student finance. 

    While you’re working through your student finance application online, you’ll be asked if you want to apply for DSAs. If you’ve already applied for student finance but didn’t apply for DSAs at the same time, log into your student finance profile and click on ‘change your circumstances’ to apply. 

    If you don’t have an online student finance account because you applied for student finance by post, you can use a paper form to apply for DSAs. This is available on the GOV.UK website.

    Once you’ve applied for DSAs you can’t apply for student finance online after that, so don’t forget.

    As part of the application you'll need to provide supporting evidence of your dyslexia

    The evidence you need to provide will be explained when you go to apply. However, for dyslexia, this is likely to be a diagnostic assessment report from either an educational psychologist with a HPC (Health Professional Council Practising Certificate) which costs around £400, or a specialist dyslexia teacher with an Assessment Practising Certificate (this will cost less). 

    Unfortunately, the NHS and (most) schools and colleges won't fund an assessment. It may be possible to get one funded by a university, but you will normally need to be already on the course.

    Needs assessment

    When your application has been accepted by Student Finance, you will then be asked to arrange a 'needs assessment' with an Access Centre where a disability specialist will look at what support and help will best suit your needs. Don’t book this before your student finance body tells you to.

    Once the disability specialist’s recommendations have been approved by Student Finance, you and your university’s disability office will be able to organise equipment and appropriate help.


    Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from the British Dyslexia Association (BDA), a not-for-profit organisation working to ensure that all people with dyslexia fulfil their potential.
     

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