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Additional £50 million to support university students impacted by Covid-19 – Your questions answered

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Student wearing face mask

What have you announced today?

Today we have announced that thousands of students will benefit from an additional £50 million to support them with financial pressures from the pandemic.

The new funding means that universities will be able to help students impacted by the pandemic, for example those facing additional costs for alternative accommodation, loss of employment, or extra costs to access their teaching online. Universities will distribute the funding and will be able to prioritise the funding to those most in need of help.

The increased financial support comes as the majority of students have been asked to continue their studies remotely, as part of measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus.

Why have you decided to help students now?

We recognise that this academic year has been incredibly difficult for students. The £50 million announced today is in addition to £20 million announced last year and on top of the £256m of government-funded student premium which universities can use for student support this academic year.

We recognise that as a result of these exceptional circumstances, some students are facing financial hardship, with some students now incurring additional costs at their alternative address (e.g. for additional rent/heating/lighting/internet connection) whilst students may have reduced income.

I am a student; how will I get access to some of this funding?

The funding will be distributed by the Office for Students directly to universities, which are best placed to assess student hardship locally.

Universities will be able to help students, including international students, impacted by the pandemic, for example those facing additional costs arising from having to maintain accommodation in more than one location, or an inability to maintain employment, such as a job based close to their term-time accommodation for which they cannot access the furlough scheme, or to support students to access teaching remotely.

Students experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 should contact their higher education provider.

We will continue to monitor the situation going forward to look at what impact this funding is having.

I know many larger universities and accommodation providers have decided to offer rent rebates for students who need stay away from their term-time address. But why isn’t the Government asking small private student landlords to offer rent refunds?

We welcome the flexibility that landlords have been able to show to help their student tenants in some way. However, we recognise that this may not be possible for some smaller private providers.

However, the Office for Students will be distributing £50m of additional hardship funding for this financial year to approved higher education providers, which students in all accommodation types in those providers will be able to apply for if they are experiencing financial hardship.

We will continue to monitor the situation going forward to look at what impact this funding is having.

So, if this additional funding is intended to help with accommodation costs, will there be support to refund tuition costs too?

We have listened to the specific issues raised by students relating to accommodation and hardship.

We are working with the sector to make sure all reasonable efforts are being made to enable students to continue their studies. We have seen some fantastic and innovative examples of high-quality online learning being delivered by providers across the country.

The Government expects universities to continue delivering a high-quality academic experience and help students to achieve qualifications that they and employers value.

Whether an individual student is entitled to a refund of fees will depend on the specific contractual arrangements between the student and their provider.

Will this additional funding still be available next term?

We know that some students are facing challenges because of the pandemic.

The additional hardship funding is just for this financial year and is designed to help mitigate against the immediate hardship that some students will experience due to the wider impact of a national lockdown.

In total we have made £70m of additional funding available for student hardship this financial year.

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