Kevin McMullan, Funding Information Services Account Manager at Student Finance England (SFE), explains recent updates to student funding in detail, including what they mean for students and what university and college support staff need to know.
- Adapted policies to help Ukrainian nationals
- Enhancements to the student funding application process
- Cost of living considerations
- The introduction of Repayment Plan 5
- Upcoming changes and initiatives
1. Adapted policies to help Ukrainian nationals
As the conflict in Ukraine continues, a DfE policy change has been made to support individuals granted leave to enter or remain in the UK.
The change applies from academic year (AY) 2022/23 and covers the following SFE support:
- Undergraduate (UG)
- Postgraduate (PG)
- Advanced Learner Loan
- HE Short Courses
The policy change is for Ukrainian students in the UK and helps them through one of the following Ukraine schemes:
- Ukraine Family Scheme
- Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme
- Ukraine Extension Scheme
See page 7 of Kevin’s slide deck for more info on these schemes.
How it works
Under normal circumstances, students would need to satisfy residency requirements (standard practice for SFE, UG and PG funding). See page 8 of Kevin’s slide deck for more info on the standard practice.
However, an exception has been made for the three Ukraine Schemes under the Events Provision (2022/23).
The Ukrainian Exception
The aim is for the policy to be as inclusive as possible.
Therefore, Ukraine nationals will now be assessed without the requirement to have three years of UK residency (as with other protected statuses). Meaning that the requirement to be an ordinary resident in the UK on the first day of the course has been waived.
Instead, evidence requirements may include:
- A Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or a vignette in a passport or other travel document – issued where the applicant has been granted leave for three years
- A Permission to Travel document – confirming leave granted under a Ukraine Scheme
- A document/stamp in their passport confirming they have leave to enter the UK for 6 months – in the case that an applicant does not have a Share Code, BRP, vignette or Permission to Travel document
- [From 2023/24] A Share Code – confirming Ukraine Scheme status and the issue and expiry date of that status (this can be accepted without a BRP or passport)
What is an ‘Event’?
An ‘Event’ is the name given to the list of exemptions to the usual eligibility criteria for student funding, which can be found in the Education (Student Support) regulations.
For example, a student without the required ordinary residence in England would not usually be eligible for SLC support. But if this is because they have become a refugee, this would be classed as an ‘Event’ that would exempt them from the standard SLC funding eligibility criteria.
‘Events’ in Ukraine Schemes
Following the Ukraine crisis, an update to the regulations has been published, adding the Ukraine schemes as an ‘Event.’ Therefore, anyone involved in the Ukraine schemes will be considered an exceptional group able to apply for funding.
Following DfE instruction to clarify policy intent, the change for ‘Events’ assessments in AY 2022/23 is that:
Students covered by the Ukraine schemes can become eligible for support via an ‘Event’ in AY 2022/23 and any subsequent years without the requirement to have been an ordinary resident in England on the first day of the first AY of their course.
This change will only apply in cases where a student applies for funding as an ‘Event’ in AY 2022/23.
Further changes (Events)
Further regulatory changes will be made for AY 2023/24 to reinstate the residence requirements, with some further amendments made to support the policy intent:
- Tuition fee support in the AY in which the grant of leave (i.e, the ‘Event’) occurs (provided the ‘Event’ occurred within the first 3 months of the AY year) and in subsequent course years
- Loans for living costs, Adults Dependants’ Grant (ADG) and Parents Learning Allowance (PLA) (in any subsequent years of the course and in the quarters following the ‘Event’ and the ‘year of the Event’)
- Childcare Grant (CCG) and Travel Grant in any subsequent years of the course and in the quarters following the ‘Event’ in the year of the ‘Event’
- Disabled Students’ Allowances from the date of the ‘Event’
- Full SFE Postgraduate, HE Short Course or Advanced Learner Loan funding for the entire course, provided the ‘Event’ occurs before the end of the course
Other considerations (Ukrainian conflict)
1. Financial hardship will also be open for Ukrainians
Those who are in financial hardship due to the conflict in Ukraine will be instructed to upload:
- Evidence of the hardship alongside a request for support from the SLC Financial Hardship Team
- If the student does not have any suitable evidence, a cover letter explaining their circumstances can be accepted and reviewed on a case-by-case basis
2. Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR)
Ukrainian students who want to resume or request an extra year’s funding need to submit Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR) evidence.
This includes those who have to leave their UK course to return home for personal/family reasons and those conscripted into the forces to join the conflict.
Note: choosing to leave the course to join the conflict would not be a CPR.
3. Change of circumstances
If providers have agreed to suspend or withdraw students for a reason related to the conflict, guidance can be found on the HEP Services website.
For funding assessment and household determination purposes, the definition of ‘separation’ will be adapted from only meaning that the parents are no longer in a relationship.
This is so that funding can be arranged in circumstances where the parents are still in a relationship but ‘separated’ for other reasons, e.g. one may be fighting in the conflict.
For more detail on the adapted policies to help Ukrainian nationals, see pages 5-10 of Kevin’s slide deck or watch the recording from 6:43 to 15:59.
2. Enhancements to the student funding application process
‘How to’ videos
A new guidance page has been added to gov.uk with a number of ‘how to’ videos that address the most frequently asked questions regarding the SFE application process.
Digital evidence uploads
A new guidance page and short film have been created to explain evidence requirements and submission, including digital upload. They aim to help students and their parents/partners to provide the appropriate evidence to support their application.
Changes to digital evidence uploads:
- Birth certificates – UK students applying for SFE undergraduate products can now upload a digital copy of their birth certificate and will no longer have to submit an original physical copy
- Divorce and separation documents – new documents are to be issued following the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. Guidance and student communications will be updated to reflect these. For now, previous documents will still be accepted while they remain in circulation
Find more info on the changes to the digital evidence upload process on pages 13-15 of Kevin’s slide deck.
EU Share Codes
Where an EU/EEA or Swiss national student indicates they have an EUSS status, they will be required to provide a valid Share Code.
Until an automated system can be established with the Home Office (date TBC), a manual process will be used to request Share Codes and status issue dates. Students will be contacted after submitting an online application.
- Share codes are valid for 90 days, and students are strongly advised to provide/generate them as soon as possible following the SLC’s request
- The SLC aims to digitally validate uploaded Share Codes within 10 days of receipt.
- Students who apply using a paper Tuition Fee Only form or a paper PN1 form can input their EUSS Share code details onto the form manually (the 90-day period still applies if they apply on paper – students should be mindful of this and generate Share Codes as close to submitting their paper application as possible)
- A valid Share Code is required in place of sending a passport as proof of identity.
Share Codes can be generated at: www.gov.uk/view-prove-immigration-status.
See pages 16-17 of Kevin’s slide deck for more info on Share Codes.
How to apply (online or paper)
Applying for student funding is now a complete end-to-end online process for:
- UK Nationals – home status
- EU Nationals – settled status
- Irish Nationals – 3 years
- Rest of world applicants
- DSA with UG
- CCG with UG
The following will be redirected to forms on gov.uk:
- EU Nationals – pre-settled status (fee support)
- EU Nationals – fee-only students (fee support)
- EU Nationals – migrant workers (full support)
- Irish Nationals – 3 years UK / Irish residency
- DSA Separate Application (DSA1 Form)
- CCG Separate Application (GFD form)
3. Cost of living considerations
In the face of the cost of living crisis, the SLC has put some measures in place to try and better support students.
Guidance on living costs
A gov.uk page has been created to help students consider the range of living costs they may face, as well as the funding available to them.
The page includes info on means testing for student funding, budgeting, sources of additional support, and links to useful resources, including Student Space.
Amendments to the financial hardship application process
The process has been updated, making it easier and quicker for students to apply for financial hardship.
The main new benefits are that:
- 3 separate hardship forms have been replaced with one new Financial Hardship Confirmation PDF – this will be sent directly to students via email (or posted if the student requests this)
- Undergraduate students can upload the form and all supporting evidence digitally from their online account, so there’s no need to post any documentation (note: postgraduate students will still need to return their form and evidence by post)
- The amendments mean that the SLC team can process applications faster so students can receive a decision quicker
Hardship applications can be considered from students who have:
- Received an overpayment and entitlement has been reduced
- Suspended and want funding to be extended
- Scheduled payment brought forward
- Withdrawn from study having been awarded grants (more info on page 21)
Learn more about the amendments to the financial hardship application process on pages 21-23 of Kevin’s slide deck.
Change of address
The cost of living crisis and increasing issues with student housing could lead to frequent changes in address for some. Students can change their contact details over the phone at any time during the academic year.
If the student is moving from the parental home to elsewhere (or vice versa), this will require a reassessment.
In exceptional circumstances (e.g. between addresses, homelessness), a student may wish to use a third-party address (or email address) on their account. They can do so with the third party’s permission (ideally written confirmation uploaded digitally).
Students also have the option to change their preferred contact method to electronic to ensure they don’t miss out on any information due to a change of address.
Change of circumstances (CoC)
The SLC currently has a campaign underway for students who change their course early or take a break from studying.
The campaign encourages students to talk to their organisation’s support services to ensure they’re making an informed decision.
For CoCs involving Ukrainian nationals, guidance and advice can be found on the HEP Services website.
4. The introduction of Repayment Plan 5
The government will introduce a new repayment threshold for new borrowers who commence study from the academic year 2023/24 and earn upwards of £25,000 a year.
This threshold will be maintained up until April 2027, when the students on the new loan terms have finished three-year degrees and become eligible for repayments.
After April 2027, the repayment threshold will increase in line with inflation (RPI).
The maximum loan repayment period for new borrowers starting study from the academic year 2023/24 onwards will extend from 30 to 40 years.
Estimated repayment example
- A student completes their degree in summer 2026 with a loan under Repayment Plan 5
- They start a job with a salary of £28,000 a year
- They would expect to pay back around £17 a month from the start of the financial year 2027/28
According to the government, compared to borrowers on Plan 2 loan terms, those on Plan 5 will repay, at most, up to £30 per month more over the financial year 2027/28.
More info on Plan 5
More info on the student finance reforms can be found in the government statement and on the DfE Education Hub blog page.
See also pages 27-30 of Kevin’s slide deck.
5. Upcoming changes and initiatives
Keep an eye out for the following upcoming changes to student funding:
SSIN financial memorandum
This is expected anytime now at practitioners.slc.co.uk.
Critical for students’ budgeting and decision-making, the figures will give an indication (after a period of parliamentary scrutiny) of what the maximum maintenance loan rates will be for 2023/24.
HE short courses
To test demand for short, modular learning, the SLC is currently running a short course trial with 22 agreed providers who are running courses of 30 or 40 credits that last no longer than 12 months.
Loans will be available for these courses for the duration of the trial (1st September 2022 – 31st August 2025). More info can be provided around this, particularly if your organisation is an agreed provider, by contacting your SLC Account Manager.
Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs)
From the academic year 2023/24, designation for HE student finance will extend to Level 4 and 5 courses and qualification types that are not recognised as standard HE qualification types (e.g. Level 4 and 5 certificates and diplomas).
Watch the recording
Watch the recording from our CPD-accredited staff training webinar on the changes to funding with expert speaker Kevin McMullan from Student Finance England.
Kevin is based in the North East – you’ll find his contact details and those for the Account Manager for your area here.
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