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Applying to residential or specialist colleges

Information on applying for a place at a specialist or residential college and funding in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

If you are considering applying to a specialist college, is important it is the right decision for you.

Start planning early

If you are thinking about applying to a residential or specialist college, you need to start planning for this as soon as you can. You and your parents should begin to:

  • investigate residential or specialist colleges
  • research opportunities as to where to study
  • arrange to visit colleges
  • consider which college may best meet your needs.

If you’re thinking about going to a residential or specialist college it’s really important that this is written down in your EHCP and discussed at your preparing for adulthood transition review meetings.


To apply for funding for a residential or specialist college, you will have to show that your local mainstream college can't meet your needs, this may involve visiting your local college and having an assessment.

In England

You will need to have an assessment, that may include one or more overnight stays at your chosen residential or specialist college. Following this, the college will send an assessment report to you and to your connexions or transitions advisor. Your advisor will prepare the funding case for you. Funding will have to be approved by your local authority and the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

The process can take some time and so it is best to start looking at colleges about a year in advance of when you want to start. It is important to have the support of your connexions or transitions advisor in your choice of college as without it you will find it more difficult to get funding. If funding is turned down, there is an appeals process.

The National Association of Specialist Colleges (NATSPEC) have more information about applying for colleges on their website.

In Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland you may be able to get funding for a placement in an independent specialist college if your needs cannot be met at an FE college. The funding for a placement would come from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).

In Scotland

In Scotland there are no specialist colleges but you may be able to get funding for a placement in an specialist college elsewhere in the UK through a bursary from your local council's education department. Skills Development Scotland consider individual applications. You can find out more by visiting the Skills Development Scotland website.

In Wales

In Wales, it is crucial that your LLDD Careers Wales advisor is involved at the earliest possible stage as they are central to securing funding for residential and specialist college places. These places are funded by Social Services and the Education departments. To find out more visit the Careers Wales website.

Important information

It is important to be aware that just because you may have been offered a place by the residential provider, this does not mean that funding has been approved. Often you won't hear about funding until very late in the year so it's vital to have a back-up plan securely in place.