Student Support Fund (SSF)

Please note that the Student Support Fund for 2020/21 has now closed to undergraduate students, as we have reached the end of the undergraduate academic year.  Any continuing undergraduate students who have accommodation contracts that need to be paid over the summer, but who have no means to pay these, may be eligible to apply to the Summer Crisis Fund for support.  Postgraduates can continue to apply to the Student Support Fund up until 17:00 on Friday 30 July 2021. 

The Fund for the 2021/22 academic year will open to postgraduates and 4th-year Medics and Dentists on 1 September 2021, with most remaining students able to apply from the end of October onwards. 

The Student Support Fund (SSF) is provided by the University to offer financial assistance to all current students studying at our Birmingham campus (including by distance learning) if they are struggling to meet their basic living costs. We understand that the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and national restrictions mean that many of our students are facing added financial difficulties. We have therefore substantially increased the funding available through the SSF and have also made changes to the assessment criteria to make it easier to access. 

The Funding, Graduation and Awards team continue to be here for our students during this challenging time, working to assess SSF applications and provide funding advice as quickly as we can. If you need help with making your SSF application, or if you would like to talk to an advisor about the other sources of funding that may be available to you, then you can book a one-to-one virtual appointment. Further information about the SSF, including how to apply, can be found below.  

Please be aware that the SSF is a discretionary grant, offering non-repayable support to assist with general living and course-related costs. All applications will be means-tested to ascertain financial hardship. As such, some applications will be unsuccessful. As explained below, the SSF uses pre-set living costs for some expenses in order to ensure parity and that funds are not misused. The SSF is unable to help with the payment of tuition fees.  

 

What changes have you made in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

In response to the challenging economic circumstances facing many of our students as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the following revisions have been made to the SSF for 2020/21:

  1. Doctoral Researchers in Thesis Awaited status (writing up their PhD) will be able to make an application to the SSF;
  2. The Expected Provision (EP) requirement for undergraduate students has been removed and we will use actual amounts of income instead (disregarding the first £1,000 of any savings or earnings); 
  3. The Minimum Required Provision (MRP) requirement has been removed for all postgraduate students, in light of the exceptional circumstances presented by the pandemic;
  4. £500 has been added to every student's living costs when calculating an award, in recognition of the increased expenses faced by many as a result of the pandemic. This includes £250 for purchasing IT equipment;
  5. The maximum accommodation costs have been raised to £120 per week for students renting privately.

As the SSF cannot replace full funding we will need to continue to withhold an award where the shortfall is in excess of £10,000 until it has been reduced. Such a large shortfall is untenable and it is a requirement of the national guidance for institutions operating support funds that students are protected in this manner.

Am I eligible to apply?

All current students are eligible to apply, regardless of nationality, level of study or whether you study part time or full time. Students who are studying at our Dubai campus, however, should apply to the Dubai Emergency Assistance Fund instead of the SSF. Please contact your Welfare Tutor if this applies to you.

In order to be eligible to apply to the SSF you must be normally registered, unless you are absent for medical reasons. Doctoral Researchers in Thesis Awaited status (writing up their PhD) are also eligible to apply to the SSF during the exceptional circumstances presented by the pandemic.

If applicable, you must have also received at least the first instalment of the maximum loan or NHS Bursary to which you are entitled. If you are entitled to receive a student loan (either undergraduate or postgraduate) or NHS Bursary then you must take advantage of this funding before applying to the SSF.

I have already made an application to the SSF this academic year – can I reapply following these changes?

We are currently reassessing all applications received in the 2020/21 academic year to see if anyone is entitled to an award, or to an increased award, following the changes that we have made in response to the economic impact of the pandemic. This includes a second reassessment based on the increases to the maximum award and permissible shortfall implemented in February. We will contact anyone who is entitled to additional support with details of their new award. Please do not make a new application.

 If you are in Thesis Awaited status and had previously been ineligible to apply to the SSF please now complete an application if you are in financial hardship. 

What is the maximum award?

In any one academic year the SSF can normally provide non-repayable support of up to £2,000 for undergraduates, assessed over the 42 weeks of their academic year. The maximum possible award for postgraduates and 4th/5th-year Medics and Dentists 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.

For 2020/21 we have launched an enhanced version of the SSF in order to provide more support to students experiencing extreme hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a temporary measure we are now able to issue awards of up to £4,000 (for 42-week assessments) or £5,000 (for 52-week assessments) on an exceptional basis. This increase to the maximum level of award will be kept under review and may be subject to change later in the academic year.   

My circumstances have changed since I made my initial application – can I get more support?

Assessments take into consideration the predicted financial situation of the applicant for the whole academic year. As such, under normal circumstances you can only make one application to the SSF in any academic year. If, however, you have experienced a change of circumstances during the year, and have not yet received a maximum award, you may be eligible to ask for a reassessment. Any SSF award already received will be included in the assessment as income. If you believe that this applies to you, please contact us at ssf@contacts.bham.ac.uk to discuss your case.

If you are in receipt of a means-tested student loan from the Student Loans Company (SLC) and your household income has dropped by 15% or more compared to the tax year the SLC used to assess your eligibility for the maintenance loan, then you can ask the SLC to recalculate your entitlement to support. This is called a current year income assessment. This could provide you with additional support in the form of an increased maintenance loan and should be explored before making an application to the SSF for reassessment. 

How will my application be assessed?

Your application will be considered with care by experienced members of the Funding, Graduation and Awards team. There are two types of awards available:

Standard Awards
Most applications will be assessed for a Standard Award, where your expected income and that of any partner/spouse will be compared against your reasonable expenditure. If there is a clear deficit between the two, we will make a Standard Award to cover the deficit up to the maximum award rate (as detailed above).  

All students encounter costs for food, bills, clothes, leisure, plus they may have to pay for rent, travel and course costs, however some students will choose to spend more than others. To ensure parity, we will use pre-set values that are considered reasonable for each of these costs when assessing your application.

Please note that anything you have in earnings or savings (including net balances) over £1,000 will be taken into account as part of your income. 

Exceptional Awards
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 these costs if it can be demonstrated that these costs are necessary, reasonable and that the student cannot meet these costs from any other source. Such students should apply in the normal way, as described below. Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

Further information is provided in the SSF Regulations.

How do I apply?

Please note that the Student Support Fund for 2020/21 has now closed to undergraduate students, as we have reached the end of the undergraduate academic year. Postgraduates can continue to apply to the Student Support Fund up until 17:00 on Friday 30 July 2021. 

You can complete your application for support online. To get started, please complete our release form. This will ask you to confirm that you meet some of the key eligibility criteria for an award before taking you to our online application form. 

It's really important that you submit a complete SSF application and that you provide all of the supporting evidence requested on the form. These documents need to be legible and as such we are unable to accept mobile phone images (jpegs). Failing to provide sufficient evidence may result in a significant delay with your application, so please take the time to collect everything you need to support your application before you submit. Here are our five 'top tips' for ensuring that we are able to process applications as quickly as possible:

  1. Complete all of the relevant sections of the application form, providing as much detail as you can.
  2. Include all of the supporting evidence that we ask for when you submit your application (there's a checklist included as part of the form). We often have to go back to ask for bank statements, statements from savings accounts and so forth. It really helps to speed things up if we are sent statements from all accounts held straight away, even if there is nothing in the account! 
  3. Try to make everything as easy to read as possible, preferably by providing documents as a PDF.
  4. Annotate your bank statements so that we know what you have coming in and going out. For example, if you make a regular transfer to savings explain this or if you received a one-off payment from a family member for a special occasion let us know that this was the case (so we know not to include this as part of your regular income). Further guidance is provided below and on the application form.
  5. Please try to hold off on emailing us to ask for updates on your application - we are working through them as quickly as we can and any time spent answering these enquiries is time taken away from assessments. If you need help or advice though then we are of course here to help.   

Please note that all documents must be in English or accompanied by an English translation.  

How should I annotate my bank statements?

You must provide statements for every bank account that you hold, including any online or savings accounts. The statements will need to cover the most recent three months and the start of the 2020/21 academic year (September 2020).

You need to annotate all of your statements (free software allows you to make comments on a document), to explain any money that has been paid into your account so that we can identify the source of income and how regular it is. For example, if you received £100 from your aunt for your birthday you would explain that this was a one-off gift. If you transferred money into your current account from your savings account you need to explain that the money came from your savings account and whether that was a one-off withdrawal for a specific reason, or just about managing your finances. Money paid into your account from your employer(s) should be marked up as wages, refunds should be clearly labelled as such, and so forth. It is really important that you explain all transfers into your account as whilst they may seem obvious to you they might not be to anyone else. We don’t want to delay your application by having to go back to you for clarification so the time you spend on this now will save you time in the long run.

You must also explain any payments (transfers out) made from any of your bank accounts to another bank account, so that we can verify your expenses. This does not mean that you have to explain all payments made from your account, for example if you bought food at the supermarket or a pair of shoes. What we do need you to explain is funds moving either between your accounts, for example if you make a regular or one-off transfer to savings, or being paid out to other parties, for example if you had been loaned £100 by a friend and were paying them back. Again, we do not need you to do this if you were paying a company, such as your heating bill.

Please note that if you do not provide these details then we will not be able to assess your application, which means that you will be asked to resubmit it with the missing documents and annotations. If you require assistance with completing the form you can book a private virtual appointment with one of our funding advisors.

When is the deadline for applications?

Undergraduate students: The 2020/21 SSF closed to undergraduate applications at 17:00 on Friday 25 June 2021.

Postgraduate students: The deadline to apply for support from the SSF for 2020/21 is 17:00 on Friday 30 July 2021.

2021/22: The Fund for the 2021/22 academic year will open to postgraduates and 4th-year Medics and Dentists on 1 September 2021, with most remaining students able to apply from the end of October onwards. This will help to ensure that any new income streams for the year (such as earnings) have become established and can be evidenced one month after any statutory (or other support) paid at the start of the academic year has been received. 

What happens after I submit my application?

You will be notified via your University email account that your application has been received. The member of Funding, Graduation and Awards who is looking after your application may contact you to ask for clarification or for further evidence to enable your application to be processed. Please check your University email account regularly as any delay in submitting this information will cause a delay in the assessment of your application. 

You will receive a decision on your application within four weeks of our having received all of the documents required in support of your application. If you need support while awaiting the outcome of your SSF application, please book a private appointment with one of our funding advisors.

Where can I get more advice?

If you have any queries about the SSF, please refer to the SSF Regulations 2020-21 for further details. If you are unable to find the answer to your question, you can email us at ssf@contacts.bham.ac.uk for further advice. You can also book a private appointment with a funding advisor to talk through your application, should you need advice on how to complete the form.

If money worries are causing you anxiety, please speak to your Welfare Officer/Tutor. You can also get help from from the Mental Health and Wellbeing team. You can also talk to Guild Advice in the Guild of Students.  

If you need advice about debt management then you will need to speak to a debt counsellor. The Money Advice Service and Citizens Advice offer free, confidential and impartial advice about managing debt. 

If you are struggling with gambling, the Young Gamers and Gamblers Educational Trust (YGAM) provides useful information about sources of advice and support. 

 

Colleges

Professional Services