The University of Birmingham Student Support Fund

The Student Support Fund (SSF) is a discretionary grant, offering non-repayable support to assist with general living and course-related costs.

When will the SSF open for applications? 

The SSF for the 2021/22 academic year is now open to applications from continuing postgraduate students and 4th and 5th-year Medics and Dentists. If you belong to this group of students you can apply for support through our online application form

Undergraduate students and new postgraduate students will be able to apply for support from 22 November. This is to allow sufficient time from the start of the new academic year for income and expenditure to be established, so that we can assess applications accurately and fairly.      

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 nationality, level of study, or whether you study part time or full time. You may also be eligible to apply to the Fund if you are on a leave of absence (externally registered) for medical reasons. The rules surrounding applications vary depending on whether you are a Home or International student. Any students studying at our Dubai campus should apply to the Dubai Emergency Assistance Fund.  

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. 

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 in excess of £5,000 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 more than £5,000. 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. 

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. As such, International students can only apply to the SSF for support with exceptional circumstances. Awards can only be offered to International students who have to meet unexpected one-off costs that cannot be met from any other source. Examples of emergency costs include: repairs to equipment that is essential to the completion of their studies; unforeseen medical costs for treatment of the student or a dependant thereof; emergency situations that necessitate flights home; relocation costs accrued when escaping an abusive relationship; unexpected and unforeseeable costs relating to visa extensions; and internationally recognised crises (highlighted by the University’s Responding to International Students in Crisis Committee(RISC), for example). 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  £109
 For every other adult/child who lives as a family with the student   £103
 Example : Student with partner & two financially dependent children  £418
 Example: Single-parent student with two financially dependent children  £315

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 SSF, these amounts are capped at realistic levels.

Capped amounts exist to take into account different types of accommodation

  • Up to £208 per week for students in Halls, or who live with their partner and/or children, or if they have a mortgage;
  • Up to £120 per week for all other students 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 bills expenditure is covered by the RLC.

Course costs (for books, travel, placements, etc.) are included in assessments using a rate that is set annually, which is detailed on the SSF application form. 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:

  1. Medical costs: students with long-term and recurring medical costs should instead apply for financial assistance from the NHS via an HC1 form.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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 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.

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