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Durham University

Student Finance

How Applications To The Student Support Fund Are Assessed

Checking

When your application is received by the Student Support Fund administrators it will be checked to see if you have answered all the questions applicable to you and if you have provided all the necessary supporting documentation. Most incomplete applications are due to the following:

  • transaction reports/bank statements do not go back six months from the date on which you submitted your application form;
  • there is no tenancy agreement (for applicants who are living in private rented accommodation);
  • there is no proof that your interest-free student overdraft has been extended to the maximum possible amount available to you.

Check your supporting documentation carefully to make sure it is complete!

One of the Student Support Fund administrators will contact you to ask for any missing supporting documentation.

Sound Financial Plan

Once your application is complete one of the student support administrators will begin the assessment process. The first step of the process is to determine whether you had a sound financial plan in place a) before you started your studies and b) before the start of the academic year in which the application is being considered.

The Student Support Fund rules are very specific about what counts as "a sound financial plan".

A sound financial plan is defined as either:

  • having the money available to cover tuition fees, living costs and any other essential expenditure that could reasonably be predicted at the start of a programme of study, for the entirety of that programme of study;
  • OR having a written offer of sufficient funding to cover tuition fees, living costs and any other essential expenditure that could reasonably be predicted at the start of a programme of study, for the entirety of that programme of study, from a funding body or a donor;
  • OR having an agreement in place with a family member that the family member would provide sufficient funding to cover tuition fees, living costs and any other essential expenditure that could reasonably be predicted at the start of a programme of study, for the entirety of that programme of study, provided that the family member’s own finances made it likely that the agreement was likely to be honoured;
  • OR having the wherewithal to earn sufficient money to cover tuition fees, living costs and any other essential expenditure that could reasonably be predicted at the start of a programme of study, for the entirety of that programme of study.

Applicants who planned to fund their studies by finding paid work, but who did not obtain such work before the start of their studies, or who did not make allowances for reasonable fluctuations in the exchange rate, are not usually eligible to receive support from the Student Support Fund.

The majority of home undergraduates and PGCE students who are funded by Student Finance England (or equivalent) will automatically be counted as having had a sound financial plan in place before they started their studies, even if their money from Student Finance England (or equivalent) isn't enough to cover their essential costs (this does not apply to all home undergraduates and PGCE students and cannot be guaranteed in individual cases).

Income From Another Reasonable Source

The second thing to be considered is whether you can access income from any other reasonable source e.g. have you taken out the full Maintenance Loan/Grant to which you are entitled, have you taken out the full interest-free student overdraft your bank allows you, are your parents/family able to provide you with any financial support, do you have any savings, are you entitled to benefits and/or Tax Credits, are you entitled to an SLC Masters Loan or a Doctoral Loan, or to a loan from the Credit Union? Most other commercial loans and credit cards are not considered to be a reasonable source of income.

We do not count income from paid work during the academic year as another reasonable source of income unless a) income from paid work was part of your sound financial plan or b) your shortfall is so high that you would be ineligible for an award from the Student Support Fund unless we counted income from paid work when we did your assessment.

Shortfall

The final thing to be considered is how much financial support do you need to complete your studies or end them at a logical point e.g. the end of the academic year. To determine this, we use what we call the Assessment Procedure.

The Assessment Procedure adds up the:

  • the money you had available to you on the date on which you submitted your application (including your interest-free student overdraft);
  • and the money which you will receive between the date on which you submitted your application and the end of your academic year.

This is then compared to the minimum level of expenditure for your personal circumstances for the period between the date on which you submitted your application and the end of the academic year.

Award Cap

Unfortunately the Student Support Fund is not able to help students whose shortfall is greater than £5,500, or to make awards totalling more than £5,500 per level of study. This is because the Fund is limited and it would not be fair to use too much of it to support a few students whilst leaving other eligible students who applied later in the academic year without support.

In this context level = undergraduate, taught postgraduate or research postgraduate.

Notification

If it is clear from your application that you meet all of the eligibility criteria and if the amount of your shortfall according to the assessment procedure is less than £2,000 your application will be signed off by one of the Student Support administrators and you will receive an e-mail notifying you of your award.

If it is clear from your application that you do not meet all of the eligibility criteria your application will be signed off by one of the Student Support Fund administrators and you will receive an e-mail notifying you that you are unfortunately not eligible to receive support from the Fund.

Panel Consideration

If there is any doubt as to whether you meet all of the eligibility criteria and/or if you need more than £2,000 to get to the end of the academic year your application will be considered by the panel of University staff which has oversight of the Student Support Fund. The panel meets once a month, and after the panel meeting you will receive an e-mail notifying you of the outcome of your application. If you are in urgent need of money when you submit your application for financial support, but your application needs to be considered by the panel, you will be offered a Bridging Loan so that you can meet your essential costs until the panel meets.

Student Support Fund Panel Membership

  • Chair - Mr Neville Hallam (Deputy Head of Scholarships, Student Funding & Student Immigration Office)
  • Representative of the Colleges - Ms Sandra McDonald (Senior Student Support Officer, Josephine Butler College)
  • Representative of the Student Support and Wellbeing Directorate - Ms Mandy Marlow (Head of the Student Wellbeing & Community Engagement Office)
  • Representative of Disability Support - Mrs Hilary Osborne (Head of Department and Senior Adviser, Disability Support)
  • Credit Controller - Miss Gemma Waggott (Finance Department)
  • Student Support Fund Administrator - Ms Liz Glossop (Student Funding Officer, UG)
  • Student Support Fund Administrator - Ms Helen Holland (Student Funding Assistant, UG)

Debts to the Student Support Fund

Students who started their current level of study with a debt to the Student Support Fund or to the old University Hardship Fund are automatically ineligible for any kind of award from the Student Support Fund.

In this context level = undergraduate, taught postgraduate or research postgraduate.

Under "Resources" you can download the Calculation Sheet we use to assess applications to the Student Support Fund to help you understand how the assessment process works.

We advise you not to try and fill it in yourself to predict whether you will receive an award or not (it's easy to make mistakes and get the wrong result!).

Resources