Postgraduate education for disabled students
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Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities
Chief Executive: Barbara Waters
Chapter House, 18-20 Crucifix Lane, London SE1 3JW
Tel: 020 7450 0620 Fax: 020 7450 0650
Tuesday 11.30am-1.30pmThursday 1.30pm-3.30pm
Tel: 0800 328 5050 Textphone: 0800 068 2422
Skill is a company limited by guarantee (2397897) and a registered charity (801971)
Postgraduate education for disabled students
2 Applying for a course
3 Funding for disability-related costs3
4 Postgraduate professional qualifications6
5 Regional funding13
6 Research council and other public funding16
7 Finding other sources of funding21
8 Further information25
A postgraduate course can be a master's degree (MA, MSc, MEd, MPhil); a doctorate (PhD); a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE); or other postgraduate diplomas.
Some graduates do a postgraduate course to improve their chances of getting work or to learn more about a subject. You will need to consider some of the same issues as undergraduates. For example, what facilities will the college or university provide for disabled students?
Getting money to do a postgraduate course is often very hard, and most people have to get a mixture of funding from various sources. You may need money for course fees, living costs and for extra costs related to your disability. The average fees for a one-year full-time Masters course are about £2,870, but some courses can be much more expensive.
For most postgraduate courses there is no financial support towards tuition fees. There are extra financial support schemes for people to train and work in shortage areas such as teaching (see section 4).
Most postgraduate students cannot apply for a student loan. However, if you are taking a full-time PGCE course or Initial Teacher Training then you will be eligible to apply for a student loan (see section 4).
The main differences between postgraduate and undergraduate study are the way you apply and the funding available. This leaflet gives information on how to apply for a postgraduate course and possible sources of funding.
2Choosing and applying for a postgraduate course
When choosing which postgraduate course to apply for, you may find it useful to visit your university careers service. They will hold information about postgraduate study.
Prospects have produced 3 directories listing all postgraduate courses in the UK. These should be available at the university careers service.
Prospects have a graduate careers website which contains comprehensive information about postgraduate study. The website has a database that allows you to search for courses. It also has profiles of institutions that offer postgraduate study. The web address is
You can apply directly to individual institutions if you are applying for a master’s or doctorate. They will send you a prospectus and an application form. Check the closing dates, as they are different for each institution. Students wishing to apply for the PGCE, Diploma in Social Work or postgraduate law courses will need to apply to the relevant admission services. See Section 4 for more details.
If the application form for the course does not ask about your disability you may wish to write to the institution to explain your needs and find out about what arrangements can be put in place.
3Funding for disability-related costs
Disabled Students' Allowances
You may have extra costs going into study because of your disability. These may include extra travel costs, a need for specialist equipment such as voice recognition software, or personal assistance such as a note-taker or interpreter.
Postgraduate students from England and Wales can obtain DSA’s to support disability-related costs on their course. The allowances are non-means tested. The maximum amounts for 2001/02 are £5,370 per year for all costs (specialist equipment, non-medical helper, general expenditure and travel). If you begin your postgraduate course straight after an undergraduate course, any specialist equipment that has already been given to you may be taken into account. However, if it no longer meets your needs it can be upgraded or replaced. Students doing more than one part-time course at the same time can only apply for one Disabled Students' Allowance. There is no age limit.
•A designated course such as research and taught masters, doctorates, diplomas and certificates.
•It would normally require a first degree or equivalent before entry.
•It should be a minimum one year in length.
•The course can be either full-time or part-time.
If part-time, the course should be at least 50% of the full-time course equivalent. That is it should not take more than twice the time to complete as a full-time course.
If you gain Research Council funding, you can get Disabled Students' Allowances as part of the council’s award package. See section 6 on Research Council funding for more information.
If you are a student from Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can get DSAs if you get a studentship or bursary. See section 5 on Regional Funding for more information.
Disabled Students' Allowances are now available for open and distance learning courses in postgraduate study. Students from England and Wales should contact their Local Education Authority for an application form. Students at the Open University will need to contact the Open University itself. See Skill’s information leaflet Opportunities in open and distance learning for further details.
Students / courses not eligible for this DSA:
•Students receiving DSAs via research councils or similar bodies.
•If you are fortunate enough to get statutory funding you may also have any disability-related costs paid for. The contact list of funding bodies, and the other sections of this leaflet explain the disability related funding available from each body.
•Students receiving a National Health Service (NHS) bursary or award, such as for a Nursing and Midwifery course or other medical courses.
•You should apply to the institution where you are studying, for any additional disability-related support and funding.
•ITT and PGCE courses.
•You will have access to the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs), subject to the usual rules of the undergraduate DSA scheme. Students on these courses should refer only to the information provided in the information leaflet Disabled Students' Allowances.
•Students in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
•Bursary and discretionary award schemes contain Disabled Students' Allowances. See section 5 on regional funding for full information.
•Students need to be ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years and meet other residency conditions before they can be eligible.
Disabled Students' Allowances are not meant to pay for fees or living costs.
Applications should be made to the Local Education Authority (LEA). A needs assessment will usually be required, from an appropriate organisation such as an ACCESS centre. However, if you begin your postgraduate course straight after an undergraduate course, your needs will probably not have changed. So, a new needs assessment may not have to be carried out. This assessment can be paid for via Disabled Students' Allowances. However, funding for any diagnostic assessments cannot be claimed from the DSAs.
•Skill information leaflet Applying for Disabled Students' Allowances
•Skill publication Disabled Students' Allowances: Evidence required by awarding authorities and guideline prices for support services
•Skill information leaflet The needs of disabled students in further and higher education
•Skill information leaflet Specialist equipment in education
Hardship / Access funds
If you are not eligible for statutory funding, but face extra costs because of your disability, you could apply to the college or university Access Fund. Many universities make these needs a priority for their Access Fund and may not take your income into account. You could argue that a non-disabled student would not have to meet such costs, and so it would not be fair to expect you to meet them yourself.
Finally, you may be able to get help from a charitable trust or foundation. Skill lists those that fund disabled students in particular. See Skill information leaflet Applying to trusts.
4Postgraduate professional qualifications
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
PGCEs are unlike other postgraduate courses, in that they attract a similar package of support to undergraduate higher education courses. This means that you can apply for student loans to help with living costs. If you are taking a full-time course, or in certain circumstances a part-time PGCE course, you should be eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) to cover extra costs of studying due to your disability. See Skill information leaflet Applying for the Disabled Students’ Allowances. You will also be able to get your tuition fees waived and so you will not have to contribute to fees yourself. Also, most PGCE students will receive a £6,000 training bursary. For eligibility details contact the Teaching Information Line.
If you go on to a PGCE straight after your undergraduate study, and you were then classed as an ‘existing student’, you will be able to carry on getting your loan and grant as an ‘existing student’ during your PGCE. The ‘existing student’ package is usually more generous. See Skill information leaflet Funding for students with disabilities in Higher Education for more details on how ‘new’ and ‘existing’ students are treated.
Initial Teacher Training courses
If you are on a full-time or part-time course of Initial Teacher Training, and it is not a first degree course, you should not have to pay towards your tuition fees. If it is a first degree course then you may have to contribute up to a maximum of £1,125 (your contribution towards the fees is means tested). If it is a postgraduate course, you can apply for a student loan and also the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) that undergraduates are eligible for. See Skill information leaflet’s Funding for students with disabilities in Higher Education and Applying for the Disabled Students’ Allowances for more details.
Other incentives and schemes
In England there are additional incentives including a £4,000 golden hello to teach mathematics, science, English, modern languages, design and technology or ICT if you take up a teaching post in a maintained school straight after qualifying.
In England there is also a Secondary Shortage Subject Scheme, if you train to teach a shortage subject. The amount you get is dependent on your income and age. If you are under 24 years old the maximum is £5,000 per year, and if you are over 24 years old the maximum is £7,500. In 2002 shortage subjects included: maths, science, modern foreign languages, design and technology, information technology, music, religious education and geography. There is a similar scheme in Wales, the Priority Subject Recruitment Initiative, where another shortage subject is Welsh language. Teacher training providers run these schemes.
Note that on any teaching qualification, the student support such as loans are means-tested. However, the £6,000 bursary for teachers is not treated as income in the means-test.
For more information:
•Teaching Information Line (Teacher Training Agency): 0845 6000 991. Fax: 01245 261 668. E-mail: Website:
Skill has produced a publication called Into Teaching. It offers advice about the fitness to teach regulations and financial and other support on the course.
Common Professional Exam (CPE), Legal Practice Course (LPC) Bar Vocational Course (BVC)
Common Professional Exam (CPE)
This is a one-year conversion course for non-law graduates who wish to undertake the LPC inorder to become a solicitor or the BVC to become a barrister. There are approximately 20 institutions that provide the course. To obtain a list of course providers and an application pack you will need to contact the Common Professional Examinations Central.
Common Professional Examinations Central
PO Box 84
Tel: 01483 451 080
Legal Practice Course (LPC)
The LPC which follows the qualifying law degree or CPE is the next stage for aspiring solicitors. A Student Guide is available from the Law Society. The Student Guide includes information about the course, details of course providers and an application form.
The Law Society
Student Enquiry Line: 0870 606 2555
Bar Vocational Course (BVC)
The BVC follows either the law degree or the CPE as the next stage of vocational training for those seeking to become a barrister. It is a one-year course. All applications for the BVC must be done through the Central Applications Clearing House (CACH). The application pack includes a list of the institutions that provide the course.
The General Council of the Bar
Education and Training Department
2/3 Cursitor Street
Tel: 020 7440 4000
Website: and Training Department (General website)
Scottish students wishing to become a solicitor must undertake four stages of training: Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice; Post-Diploma training contract; The Professional Competence Course; The Test of Professional Competence. For more information and an application pack, contact the Law Society of Scotland tel: 0131 226 7411.
Trainee solicitors in Northern Ireland must register with the Law Society of Northern Ireland. For more information and an application pack, ring tel: 028 9023 1614. Trainee barristers need to register with the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland. For an application pack, ring tel: 028 9072 4699.
Financing the CPE, LPC or BVC can be expensive. General sources of funding include:
•High Street Bank Loan Schemes
•Local Authority Discretionary Awards
•Career Development Loans
•Charities/Grant Making Trusts.
For more detailed information about the above sources of funding, see the Inns of Court website, or contact the The Law Society (see above)
The Law Society gives a limited number of bursaries for CPE and LPC courses based on ability and hardship. Information on the bursaries and loan application forms are available by contacting the Student Enquiry Line (see above) or the 24-hour automated packline, Tel: 01527 504455.
Sponsorship may be available from law firms, mainly for LPC courses. There is a list of sponsoring companies every term in The Lawyer magazine, which you should be able to find in your careers service.
Inns of Court give bursaries for the CPE and BVC. You can get further information on these sources of funding from Students Officers at the Inns of Court.
Disabled Students' Allowances
These are available in England and Wales and will apply to any designated CPE, LPC and
BVC at particular institutions. The allowances will be available to students on either full-time or part-time courses. Students need to apply to their Local Education Authority (LEA) for this support. Contact the Department for Education and Skills or the institution to find out if your course attracts this funding.
Scotland – the Scottish Awards Agency for Scotland give awards for full-time vocational courses. Awards include the Disabled Students’ Allowances. See Regional Funding section for more details.
Northern Ireland – Bursaries are available from the Department of Employment and Learning. See section 6 for more details.
Skill has produced a publication Into Law. It sets out career routes into law and funding available. The publication includes profiles of disabled people who have pursued careers in law.
Diploma in Social Work (DipSW)
There are a variety of routes to get into Social Work. Students with a degree can enter the two-year programme which is offered by many universities and colleges. To find out about careers in social work, course requirements and where the postgraduate social work programmes take place in your region, contact the relevant care/services council. See useful contacts section.
You can apply for a DipSW course through the Social Work Admissions System (SWAS)
New Barn Lane
Tel: 01242 544 600
Fax: 01242 223 707
The General Social Care Council (GSCC) (which replaced the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work) pays bursaries to students taking full-time DipSW courses and Post Qualifying Study Programmes. The GSCC administers bursaries for students in England, Wales and Scotland. GSCC bursaries can include provision for disability-related costs as shown below:
GSCC Disabled Students Allowances 2001/2002
Bursaries Office Equipment £4,460
Goldings House General expenses £1,490pa
2 Hay’s Road Non-medical helpers £11,280pa
Tel: 020 7397 5835 (10am-12 noon)
Fax: 020 7397 5849
Part-time students are not eligible for the bursary. However, students can apply for the Disabled Students Allowances from their LEA. Part-time courses must be 50% or more of the full-time equivalent and last for a minimum of one year.
The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) administers bursaries for students from Northern Ireland.
Social Services Inspectorate
C4.22 Castle Buildings
Tel: 028 90520 514
Fax: 028 90520527