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The below explainer relates mainly to 2019-2020 academic year financial assistance.

The Financial Assistance Funds are hardship funds for students who have found themselves in unexpected circumstances that have put them into financial difficulty.

UCL have now created 3 separate funds to support different students in different circumstances. There are eligibility criteria for each fund and you will need to demonstrate not only your current financial situation but also that you had made realistic and reasonable provisions when you started at UCL which is now, for whatever reason, no longer adequate or available to you.

Please note, these funds are offered to support living costs only and will not be awarded to pay tuition fees. If you are currently in tuition fee debt to UCL you are not able to apply to the funds.

(Covid-19) Emergency Assistance Funds

Following on from the previous Emergency Assistance Grant, UCL have now formed 2 Emergency Assistance Funds (one for PGR and one for UG/PGT). These funds are restricted to students in priority groups who are now in financial hardship as a result of Covid-19.

When applying to these funds you must be able to demonstrate that your previous realistic and reasonable financial support has been impacted by Covid-19 and, as a result, you need financial assistance. If you have already received support from the Financial Assistance Fund this year, you shouldn’t apply to the EAF unless your circumstances have changed significantly since you made your FAF application.

The maximum awards that can be made from this fund are £2500 for students without dependants and £3000 for students with dependants.

For Postgraduate Research Students (EAF-PGR)

To apply for EAF-PGR you must be currently enrolled on a postgraduate research (PGR) programme at UCL. Research students who are on CRS (Completing Research Status) are not normally eligible, but applications will be considered on a discretionary basis.

You must also be in one (or more) of the following priority groups:

  • self-funding students (not receiving or eligible to apply for any sponsorship or alternative funding)
  • students with children (particularly single parents)
  • disabled students

For Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught Students (EAF-UG/PGT)

To apply for EAF-UG/PGT you must be currently enrolled on an undergraduate or postgraduate taught programme (including teacher training and PGDip) at UCL.

You must also be in one (or more) of the following priority groups:

Full-time undergraduate students:

  • students with children (particularly single parents)
  • students from low income families
  • mature students
  • disabled students
  • students who have previously been in care
  • students from Foyers or who are homeless
  • students receiving the final year loan rate and who are in financial difficulty

Part-time undergraduate students:

  • students receiving the full statutory support package

Graduate students:

  • students with children (particularly single parents)
  • disabled students
  • self-funding students (not receiving or eligible to apply for any sponsorship or alternative funding)

Financial Assistance Fund

The FAF continues to support students with unforeseen financial hardship that is not related to Covid-19.

Financial Assistance Fund (FAF)

A recent update from the Provost confirmed the FAF limit has been increased to a maximum of £3000 to support PGR students currently in need in 2019/2020. For all other UCL students up to £2,000 can be awarded for those without dependants and, depending on circumstances, up to £2,500 for students with dependants.

The FAF is open to students who are currently enrolled and are paying fees to UCL. This includes:

  • all levels of study (undergraduate, PGT, PGR and teacher training),
  • all academic departments (including if you are studying for the preparatory certificate at the Language Centre),
  • any year of your course (including placement and study abroad years),
  • any mode of study (full-time, part-time, modular/flexible or distance learning),
  • any fee status (home, EU or overseas).

Research students who are on CRS (Completing Research Status) are not normally eligible for FAF. However, if you are in financial hardship it is still worth applying as it may be considered on a discretionary basis.

Priority Students

UCL does prioritise certain groups of students, which is in line with their Widening Participation Policy.

You are in a priority group if you are a:

  • student with children (particularly single parents)
  • student with disabilities (especially if your Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is unable to meet particular costs)
  • self-funding graduate student
  • part-time undergraduate student in receipt of the full statutory support package

If you are a full-time undergraduate student, then you are also in a priority group if you are a:

  • student from a low-income family
  • mature student (especially if you have existing financial commitments, including priority debts, which if not paid could leave you without basic subsistence),
  • student who has previously been in care,
  • student from Foyers, or are homeless,
  • student receiving the final year loan rate and are in financial difficulty (including if you are unable to work due to academic pressure)

Application Deadlines

Applications for the FAF opened on 1 October 2019 and will close on the following dates:

  • for UG students - Friday 12 June 2020
  • for PGCE students - Friday 31 July 2020
  • for PG students - Friday 31 July 2020

Principles of the Assessment and Awards

Awards cannot be used to pay tuition fees

An award will not be made if it is to be used to pay fees. In effect, this would amount to UCL paying itself and this is not really seen as an appropriate use of a hardship fund. There are very few (if any) hardship funds that would offer support towards fees payments/fee debt. As part of the calculation, the team will look at any assets or income you have and will deduct the fees from this before including it in the calculation. For example, if you had £15,000 in savings and your tuition fees were £14,000, then only £1,000 of savings would be considered in the application. The advice if you are struggling to meet a fee payment is that you should approach the fees team ( or your department to discuss a payment plan.

Applications are considered for the current year only

The team will only look at financial difficulties for this academic year (so, at the moment, up to August 2020). This is because the calculation looks at actual shortfall rather than anticipated shortfall, so if you are wanting to apply for any support for the 2020/2021 year, you would need to apply in October 2020 when the fund opens for the year. In light of the current situation, it is possible that the closing/opening dates for applications may change – we will make sure to keep you updated on any developments.

Awards will not be made if you did not make a realistic financial provision for your studies

The calculation uses a baseline ‘notional’ income for all applicants (sometimes called the ‘minimum reasonable provision’). This is where an assumption is made about the minimum income/funding you would need to have in place in order to study. Even if you are telling them you have no income now, this figure will still be entered as part of the calculation. This is done on the basis that if there really was no income/financial provision then it would not be an appropriate or equitable use of a hardship fund to provide support if you had not made suitable arrangements in the first place. We have been assured that in situations where a student reasonably planned to earn a certain amount through part-time work but is now unable to, this will be taken into account in the assessment.

Awards will not be made if you have savings (even if these are set aside for another purpose)

During the assessment all available funding you have will be considered, which includes savings. If you are retaining an amount in savings for another reason then this is unlikely to be taken into account (unless a very compelling argument is made). This similar to a welfare benefits application – before granting a regular benefit payment, you are expected to have used all other resources available to you first. This does reinforce the idea that this is a hardship fund (there to offer assistance when there are no other options) rather than a grant, bursary or scholarship. It is true that students often have more complex lives than we imagine and so the idea that you may be expected to use all available funds when you also want to be responsible and safeguard some money for other purposes can be uncomfortable, but it is the approach taken.

Awards will not be made simply to avoid incurring debt

The application process will also expect you to have exhausted all other funding options available, such as loans and grants. It will be taken into account if you are not taking a loan or Student Finance England funding for religious reasons, but it will still consider if you made realistic provision from other sources in light of this.

Awards are unlikely to be made to clear pre-existing debts

It is very unlikely you will be given money to clear debts such as overdrafts or other ‘non-priority’ debts (such as credit card bills, payday loans or money owed to family and friends). If you began your studies with a debt (it was ‘pre-existing’) then you will be expected to have taken this into account when planning how you would fund you’re your studies, but it may be looked at on a case-by–case basis. However, if the debt is urgent (for example you are subject to a CCJ or bailiff action) and it was incurred whilst you were studying then it will be taken into consideration as part of the overall assessment.

Awards are only offered where there is a financial shortfall

Finally, and perhaps most relevant to a lot of students in the current climate, unforeseen costs or a loss of income alone is not enough to qualify for an award. Awards are granted based on the overall shortfall, which is why the notional income, any savings and any other funding streams that could be accessed are so important. This also underlines the approach that anticipated issues are not considered; only your current situation and the impact on this academic year will be looked at.