The Student Support Fund (SSF) is a discretionary grant, offering non-repayable support to assist with essential living and course-related costs.
When is the SSF open for applications?
The 2022/23 Fund is open for applications from 26 October 2022 until 23 June 2023, subject to the availability of funds.
Who should apply for support?
You should apply to the SSF if you are struggling to meet your basic living costs. All current, normally registered University of Birmingham students are eligible to apply, regardless of level of study or whether you study part time or full time. This includes Doctoral Researchers who are in Thesis Awaited (writing up), so long as you have not exceeded the maximum period of registration for your programme. You may also be eligible to apply to the Fund if you are on a leave of absence (externally registered) for medical reasons. Any students studying at our Dubai campus should apply to the Dubai Emergency Assistance Fund.
The rules surrounding applications vary depending on whether you are a Home or International student. An important eligibility requirement for all Home students is that you need to have already taken advantage of all the statutory support that is available to you. For example, you must be in receipt of the maximum student loan (undergraduate or postgraduate) or NHS Bursary to which you are entitled. You also need to be able to cover your tuition fees as the Fund can only be used to provide support with living costs.
If you are an International student, it is a requirement of your student visa that you must have enough money to pay for your course and support yourself while you are studying in the UK. International students can apply to the SSF for support with one-off costs caused by exceptional circumstances that cannot be met from any other source. Examples of exceptional circumstances might include: emergency situations that necessitate flights home; relocation costs after escaping an abusive relationship; unexpected and unforeseeable application fees for emergency visa extensions; and short-term costs relating to internationally recognised crises. All applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The SSF is unable to help with the payment of tuition fees.
What counts as basic living costs?
All students encounter costs for food, bills, clothes, leisure activities, etc. You may also have to pay for rent, travel and course costs. In meeting these basic requirements, some students may choose to make more expensive choices than others. When assessing applications for support we use pre-set living costs for some expenses in order to ensure parity and that funds are not misused. We refer to these as ‘Reasonable Living Costs’ (RLC). They have been calculated using weekly living costs set by the Department for Work and Pensions, with an additional £30 added for local travel and mobile phone contracts.
RLC therefore provide an allowance for basic costs such as food, household bills, clothes, entertainment, travel and mobile phone use. This ensures that all applicants are treated fairly, regardless of their individual lifestyle choices. RLC take into account the different household needs for different groups of students. The following RLC are used in all standard SSF assessments:
Weekly RLC rates for SSF calculations
| Category|| Weekly RLC|
| Single student
| Additional for each child and/or adult dependent who lives as a family with the student
| Example : Student with partner & two financially dependent children
| Example: Single-parent student with two financially dependent children
We sometimes need to adjust the RLC if, for example, your accommodation is catered or has bills included. This is to ensure that there is no double counting of the same expenditure.
Can anything else be covered by the SSF?
Rent, course costs and childcare will vary quite dramatically between students and are therefore not included in the RLC figure. This means that we assess these items in addition to, and separately from, the basics covered by RLC. To ensure parity and protect the availability of funds, accommodation costs are capped as follows:
- Up to £209 a week if living away from the parental home.
- Students who normally live at home with their parents, or in a house belonging to a member of their family, will have their rent capped at £0. Their food and a contribution to household bills are covered by the RLC.
Course costs (for books, travel, placements, etc.) are also included in assessments. Students on placements, undertaking field work or on a year aboard will receive higher course costs in recognition of their higher expenses. This all means that you do not need to provide evidence of your study-related costs as these are already automatically included in the assessment of basic living costs.
What isn’t included?
Anything not mentioned above is not normally taken into account with a standard assessment. There are a few items that it is worth highlighting in this regard:
- Medical costs: students with long-term and recurring medical costs should instead apply for financial assistance from the NHS via an HC1 form.
- Car costs: We do not include car insurance, road tax or car purchase in our RLC figures but our set rate of travel expenditure may be spent on running a car if any student prefers/needs their own vehicle instead of using public transport.
- Tuition fees: the SSF is unable to help with the payment of tuition fees under any circumstances.
A small number of students may be faced with unforeseen or exceptional circumstances, such as essential household repairs, emergency situations, court action, etc. In these instances we may be able to make an Exceptional Award as a one-off contribution towards reasonable and unavoidable costs, if you are in financial hardship and the unforeseen expenses cannot be met from any other source. If this applies to you, please apply to the Fund in the normal way and outline the exceptional circumstances as part of your application. If you are an International student, please note that all applications to the SSF must be for help with such exceptional, one-off costs, as explained above.
What's the maximum award available?
In any one academic year the SSF can normally provide non-repayable support of up to £2,000 for most undergraduates, assessed over the 42 weeks of their academic year. The maximum possible award for postgraduates and 4th-year Medics is slightly higher at £2,500 in any academic year. This is because these students have a longer academic year and are assessed over 52 weeks. The pro rata rate for all students is the same.
The SSF cannot replace full funding and is instead designed to be a safety net for students who are struggling financially, despite having made adequate provision for their studies. As such, we are unable to make an award if your funding shortfall is more than 2.5 times the maximum award, as such a large shortfall is untenable. It is a requirement of the national guidance for institutions operating support funds that students are protected in this manner. If, for example, you are a Masters student and are relying solely on the postgraduate loan to fund your tuition fees and your living costs, then your shortfall is likely to be too great. You would therefore need to secure additional funding from other sources (for example from earnings or scholarships) before you could be considered for support from the SSF.
How do I apply?
You apply to the SSF through our online application form. For us to assess your SSF application, you will need to upload bank statements for every account that you hold as part of the application. For example: current accounts, savings accounts, international accounts, etc. You will be asked to upload bank statements which cover the last three months and a statement covering the date on which you started your programme of study, which for most students will be September. It’s really important that this statement includes your start date, so if your monthly statements don’t cover the whole month you may need to upload two. It’s always better to provide us with more information.
To reduce delays in your assessment, it's really important that you annotate your bank statements with what obscure transactions were for and who any money paid into the account was from. You don't need to annotate every transaction but it is particularly important to annotate transactions between your own accounts, transfers from family members and wages. We have provided an example bank statement (Word docx 477 Kb) demonstrating how you should annotate your statements. If you are unable to add comments to your statements directly, you can use our template (Word docx 21 Kb) for explaining your transactions. Please note that you will need to provide this alongside the statements. Please make it clear which statement the notes relate to. Annotating your bank statements properly will reduce the amount of time it will take to process your application. Please watch our video guide below for more information.