Hardship – Student Finance

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  • The Access to Learning Fund
  • Am I Eligible?
  • How Much You Could Get
  • Applying
  • What Happens Now?
  • Will My Benefits Be Affected?
  • Other Sources of Help
  • Budgeting

Education, sadly, isn’t always affordable for everybody. Increases to tuition fees in recent years have meant that there have been changes made to the way that student finance and loans operate, too, meaning that from the outside looking in, navigating exactly which funding applies to you and your circumstances isn’t necessarily so obvious. However, there are plenty of avenues open to those who wish to study further beyond school and who require a helping hand in terms of additional finance.

Whether it’s a tuition fee loan, maintenance coverage or even outright bursaries and grants, there are more options open and available to you than you may already realise. For those students who are experiencing hardship, too, there are plenty of ways in which you can pick yourself back up and learn for less.

The Access to Learning Fund

The Access to Learning Fund, or ALF, was available for some time through universities and colleges as a form of financial assistance for those students who may have been struggling to pay for their education or costs of living.

However, this system has been streamlined to make way for further support and financial respite on behalf of institutions where people are currently able to enrol. GOV.UK has extensive information available through their online guide under the ‘Extra Money’ section, where you can learn more about additional funds which may be made available to you.

Am I Eligible?

Eligibility for extra money from the university or college you are attending will reside with the institution in question – meaning that you will, in most cases, need to speak with their financial team in order to make your case.

All universities and colleges have a system and process for hardship, meaning that they are always ready and willing to help answer any questions and support any issues that may arise as a result of considerable hardship. There may be various reasons as to why you could be struggling to support yourself or your education – meaning that you shouldn’t ever think that you will be ineligible for such bursaries by default.

‘Hardship’ as a term can apply to several different circumstances, and not always those whereby it appears that you are struggling on a day-to-day basis. For example, you could have extensive financial commitments, be a single parent or be responsible for childcare.

However, there are always going to be provisions in place if you are disabled, if you come from a household on low income, or even if you are homeless – beyond the loans and grants system available, you can always request assistance from the university or college you are currently attending.

How Much You Could Get

Each hardship case will be evaluated from one to the next – meaning that everyone’s circumstances are slightly different – and it is therefore down to the discretion of the institution you are appealing to when it comes to how much you could receive in the form of a grant.

You may receive a lump sum or several increments – this will, too, be advised to you before anything takes place. You may find that, in some cases, you may be granted a loan as opposed to an outright grant or free bursary. This, again, will largely depend upon your exact circumstances and needs, meaning that it is a good idea to have certain documentation and proofs with you wherever possible so that an informed decision can be made – we will cover this in a little more detail further down.

Regardless of how much you could receive and in which amounts, it is important to consult your institution if you do find yourself in a position whereby you find it difficult to fund either your course or the costs of living day to day. While you won’t be able to claim for hardship before you attend a university or college, you will be able to set yourself up on a loan or grant system depending upon your circumstances – and this will also put you in good stead to seek additional support if applicable.

It isn’t always possible to work alongside studying and other issues or circumstances which could be contributing to your financial situation – and this is why there are still procedures and plans in place to ensure that everyone has access to fair financial respite wherever possible.


Applying for additional financial help is as simple as speaking with the relevant student services department within the college, university or other institution you are set to attend. You can do this in writing or in person – but you will also need to make sure that you have certain documentation or proofs with you so that a decision can be made on a fair basis.

You’ll need to provide evidence of how much financial support you are already receiving from your relevant student finance body – this will likely be a confirmation letter detailing what you have been awarded and what you stand to receive and when. In addition to this, you will be required to provide proof of your existing financial situation.

This means providing copies of bank statements, wage slips or otherwise – anything which can feasibly prove, in addition to your student finance statement, how much you are in receipt of. This way, the university or college you are appealing to can make a decision as to how much you are entitled to.

What Happens Now?

Once you have appealed to your institution and have provided enough evidence to confirm your financial situation, you will be advised of when you will hear a response – and what that may likely be. This, again, may vary from college to college and from situation to situation – meaning that, unfortunately, we’re unable to advise you on exactly what to expect. With the Access to Learning Fund having been streamlined down, it is now down to the admissions and student services teams to deliver fair judgment and financial assistance to those who apply for it. This doesn’t mean that you should ever shy away!

Will My Benefits Be Affected?

If you are applying for additional financial help from your institution as a result of hardship or circumstances whereby you are struggling financially, you may already be in receipt of certain benefits, such as disability allowances or child support. You can, of course, still apply for hardship support from your student services team – and what’s even more comforting is the fact that any money you receive on this basis generally won’t be seen as income, unless you explicitly receive money from your college or university for maintenance or living costs alone.

Therefore, if you are in receipt of benefits and are concerned as to how an additional financial boost may affect it, you very likely won’t have to worry about future payments you’ll receive. Providing you are up front and provide evidence to all parties involved, you will continue to receive funding and support as normal.

Other Sources of Help

The hardship procedure may not be the first process you need to consider when it comes to funding your education and your life around it. While there are loans and grants available head-on from student finance bodies, there are also bursaries, grants and scholarships becoming more and more readily available from a variety of different sources. You may be able to sign onto an award or scholarship scheme if you show particular academic promise in your field of expertise or study – or you could find funding with a local authority or business from within your area of speciality.

For example, funding and bursaries are always available from the likes of the NHS (National Health Service) if you are invested in attending a medical degree or course, and there are also arts bodies who help to support students who are registered to learn more about English and humanities, and more besides.


If you are suffering financial hardship or are finding that you are struggling to finance your education or living costs, there are many different sources of help both online and offline. For one, your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau will be able to offer you various options as to where you can seek financial help, and may even be able to help you with a budgeting plan.

The DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) and JobCentrePlus also have many different budgeting tools and schemes which could help you make your money travel that little bit further.  Beyond this, there is always support online via the likes of comprehensive guides at The Student Room and even through the likes of Money Saving Expert, which aims to cover just about everything when it comes to saving and financing in the UK – for students and more.

Therefore, never give up hope – your institution may be able to help you find that extra bit of cash to help you get by – alternatively, there are other routes for support available, and what’s more, there’s never been a better time to get online and get looking for tailored financial guidance.