Page last updated: March 2020
Further education (FE) includes any study after secondary education that’s not part of higher education (that is, not taken as part of an undergraduate or graduate degree).
Courses range from basic English and maths to Higher National Diplomas (HNDs - more specific work-related courses).
Further education can be part-time or full-time and students usually live at home while studying.
Information about finding a course, financial help and grants and bursaries for mature students can be found on the Gov.uk website here: www.gov.uk/further-education-courses
You usually have to be 18 years or older to take a higher education course, which can be part-time or full-time. They’re usually taught in universities, colleges or specialist institutions like art schools or agricultural colleges
Higher education qualifications include:
- bachelor degrees
- foundation degrees
- post-graduate degrees
The Gov.uk website has general information on Universities and Higher Education, including links to finding and applying for full-time and part-time courses: www.gov.uk/browse/education/universities-higher-education
As a student taking a Higher Education course, you may choose to live at home. Or, like many students studying a full-time Higher Education course, you may choose to study away from home (see section below).
Study Away From Home
Study away from home is probably most common following straight on from secondary school or college, or after a Gap Year, but it can be an opportunity at any age. There are many things to consider, so exploring options and planning as far ahead as possible is standard advice.
Disability Rights UK produce a really comprehensive range of factsheets and guides, including their ‘Into HE’ (Into Higher Education; college or university) guides which are updated each year. These guides are for anyone with a health condition, learning difficulty or disability who’s thinking about studying in higher education and they include sections on:
- Fees and funding
- Flexible study options
- Choosing where to study
- Disability support services
- Visiting universities and colleges
- How to apply
- Being open about your disability
- Disabled Students’ Allowances
- Personal care and support
- Other financial help
- After you arrive
- Student stories
Disability Rights UK also run a Disabled Students helpline.
To browse the information, download sheets and guides or contact the helpline, see: www.disabilityrightsuk.org/how-we-can-help/benefits-information/factsheets/education-factsheets
Funding Your Higher Education Study
If you’re going to study a Higher Education course at college or university, you may need funding to cover tuition fees, living costs and disability-related costs.
- Student finance
If you’re studying for a Higher education qualification, you may be eligible for student finance, which includes student loans.
There’s different funding if you’re studying to be a doctor or dentist, social worker or if you’re a postgraduate student.
Student Finance now offer loans for Taught Masters' Degrees and are starting a loan scheme for PhDs.
For general information, to check if you’re eligible for student finance, to find out how much you can get, how to apply and when you start repaying, see: www.gov.uk/get-undergraduate-student-loan
Disability Rights UK Factsheet F5: Funding higher education for disabled students 2019/20 explains about the financial support that is available and where to apply for it: www.disabilityrightsuk.org/fundinghighereducation
Information about student loans is also included in the Disability Rights UK’s: Factsheet F5: Funding higher education for disabled students 2019/20
The Gov.uk website has a section on Student finance which covers loans, grants, bursaries for students in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales: www.gov.uk/browse/education/student-finance
- Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)
Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) are separate from student loans and help pay for extra costs a student might have as a direct result of their disability, including a long-term health condition such as SMA. If you’re awarded a DSA, you don’t usually have to pay it back, unless you leave your course early.
The sort of support you may be able to get could include:
- General Allowance - used to help pay course-related costs which are a direct result of disability.
- Specialist Equipment Allowance - used to help buy equipment needed because of disability.
- Non-Medical Helper Allowance - used to help pay for support workers such as British Sign Language interpreters, scribes or mobility trainers. These might be hired through the university or you / a care agency might arrange to invoice Student Finance for them. If hired through the university, remember that you'll also need a PA with you or on-call to assist you with care needs such as toileting and preparing food.
- Travel Allowance - used for any additional study-related travel costs which are a result of disability.
You may have to attend an appointment at a study needs assessment centre to talk to a specialist about what type of support would help you.
There are different processes depending on whether you’re in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales - there’s detailed information about how and where to apply in the Disability Rights UK Factsheet F18 Applying for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs): www.disabilityrightsuk.org/applying-disabled-students%E2%80%99-allowances-dsas
For England, there’s also information on the Student Finance England website: www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/products/full-time-undergraduate-education/full-time-disabled-students-allowances
Funding Personal Care
Disabled Students’ Allowances only cover education, not care costs. When you go to university your care package should be funded by the local authority where you’re 'ordinarily resident'. You can’t be ‘ordinarily resident’ in two areas. You’ll need to show which local authority area you have the strongest links to. For many students this is the area they come from. This might be because they plan to go home at holiday time, their friends and family live there, and they plan to return after graduating.
For more information, see Disability Rights UK’s Guide F40, Into HE 2019, Section 10: Personal care and support: www.disabilityrightsuk.org/how-we-can-help/benefits-information/factsheets/education-factsheets
If you need an additional room for your PA, the cost of this and who funds it seems to vary, so ask whether the university provides an additional room free of charge and, if not, ask them to clarify the cost and whether there are any funding sources to support this.
Marni shares: "I have heard of people receiving housing benefit to cover the extra cost, however I did not so can't confirm how to apply. The Disability Rights UK link states DSA would pay, but as far as I'm aware this isn't so. If people are not able to get housing benefit they could apply to The Snowdon Trust for a grant up to £3000 per year for extra accommodation costs"
You may also find it helpful to read our information on Health & Social Care.
Whatever your age, it’s not all about study – living away from home, becoming more independent and accessing a new world of study and social opportunities is part of the whole student experience.
Alex - National Star College
"I love being at the Star College. There’s more freedom and the social life is great! I’m really happy to be here and hope to make more friends."
As part of some courses, there’s the option to study for a period of time abroad. Having SMA can mean that this takes a lot of planning and there are extra challenges to overcome, but it may be an option for you. Your college or university should be able to tell you about how it works and support you to achieve this if it’s what you want.
There’s some general information about studying abroad here: www.gov.uk/travel-grants-students-england
We’re working to collect some experiences from students who’ve been there and done that, in the hope this will give you some more pointers and ideas.