Students’ Union UCL’s Advice Service is our free advice service. It is available to all students studying at UCL, as well as prospective students who hold an offer for a UCL programme of study, students on interruption of studies with matters relating to their studies, or recent graduates where there is an ongoing matter.
Students can access support and advice in-person, or via email, telephone, and video/ voice chat on Microsoft Teams. The service offers confidential and independent advice and support. The trained and experienced team provides students with advice about:
The service also oversees a range of financial assistance funds. These include the Sarah Douglas Hardship Fund, Activities Participation Fund, and the Gender Expression Fund.
What did term one look like?
In the first term of this academic year, our Advice Service supported 712 cases. This represents an almost 100% increase in comparison to the same period in 2021. During this time, cases included:
- 38% housing
- 20% academic issues
- 15% Activities Participation Fund
Looking to engagement with our website, this has seen a 110% increase in comparison to last year.
The problems our students face
There has been a 270% increase in cases concerning money and financial support. This increase reflects the impact of the current cost of living crisis. The issues faced by students included budgeting and money management, hardship funds, and activities participation fund.
In term one, the Service awarded over £45,000 of hardship funding to students from the Students’ Union’s own hardship funds – the Sarah Douglas Hardship fund (including emergency grants), Activities Participation Fund, and the Gender Expression fund.
The number of students approaching the Advice Service about housing has risen 295% in comparison to the same period last year. Again, this increase fits into a larger national picture, whereby we have seen demand for rental properties soar, with the number of students far outstripping the availability of affordable options.
Worryingly, 19 cases concerned students who were at-risk of, or who had experienced, actual homelessness.
Within housing cases, the most common issues that students needed advice on included: seeking accommodation (48%), followed by contract checking (14%) and issues with disrepair (8%).
Academic cases saw a slight increase, with 143 academic cases reported this term compared to 129 cases in term one last year. Issues and concerns included, but are not limited to, complaints and disputes over courses (25%), extenuating circumstances (21%), consequences of failure (12%) and plagiarism (11%).
In our Cost of Living survey earlier this year, we found that only 1 in 3 students knew how to access advice or help regarding money and finances.
We want to make sure that you know we have a significant package of support available.
Activities Participation Fund: Our Activities Participation Fund is here to help all students access activities to aid their personal development, avoid loneliness and isolation, and live a fulfilling student life whilst at UCL regardless of their financial circumstances. These grants can support students with society and club membership fees, travel expenses, specialist kit and equipment, and can also be used to help you access developmental opportunities for your studies, such as academic conferences.
Sarah Douglas Hardship Fund: These grants are open to all students and can be awarded to assist with one-off urgent expenses and short-term financial shortfalls for finite periods. The fund is available if you are in financial need and have exhausted all other financial support options. Whilst we ask that you first apply to UCL's Financial Assistance Fund, you can apply to the SDHF if you have been unsuccessful or if you need further financial support.
The SDHF also offers emergency grants. If you find yourself in urgent need, you can apply for an emergency grant. These are for a maximum of £150 and help with immediate urgent living expenses. Click here to hear from one of our students about her experience applying for an Emergency Grant.
Gender Expression Fund: We have created the Gender Expression Fund to provide financial assistance for students who experience stress and anxiety at the disconnect they feel between their gender identity and appearance. Grants up to a maximum of £100 are available for purchasing gender affirming products or for travel to appointments.
Please remember, the university also has support services are ready to help you. You can and should reach out if you need help:
- Student Support and Wellbeing team are on hand to assist students affected by financial, or other, pressures.
- Students can contact Student Advisers for support with study matters, mental health, and wellbeing.
- Student Funding Advisors can help with money management and funding questions.
- You also have access to the UCL 24/7 Student Support Line for out of hours support, providing 24/7 support to students in the UK.