Everyone’s definition of financial hardship is different. However, as the Access to Learning Fund (ALF) is a government-funded scheme administered by the University, we are bound by their definition, namely that “hardship occurs where reasonable expenditure exceeds expected income”, as well as by the fund's administrative framework.
For undergraduates, your “expected income” is defined as the maximum statutory support you are eligible to receive. To establish this you will need to apply to be means-tested by your relevant Student Loan Company agency (or the NHS if applicable) and will need to have taken out the maximum Tuition Fee Loan available to you.
Postgraduates (in addition to paying your tuition fees) are expected to have funding in place to meet your day-to-day living costs and course costs for the entirety of your studies before commencing your course (the basic level of this is known as your Notional Postgraduate Income (NPI) and is currently set at a minimum of £170 per week).
The ALF guidance describes “reasonable expenditure” for students as being equal to the amount someone in the same circumstances would receive in welfare benefits if they were not a student.
Financial hardship, according to ALF, should therefore not be from a lack of budgeting and/or poor cash management. Students who may be affected by these issues should visit our budgeting web pages, seek advice from the Advice and Representation Centre (ARC) in the Guild or attend one of our workshops on financial capability skills.
The full ALF guidance is published each year by the Government. In areas where discretion is allowed, the University publishes its own policy guidance document (Word - 17KB).