University Hardship Fund (UHF) | University of Oxford
University hardship fund
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University Hardship Fund (UHF)

The University Hardship Fund aims to assist students who experience unexpected financial difficulties due to circumstances which could not have been predicted at the start of their course.

Students must demonstrate the following in their application:

  • How their financial situation has changed since their studies began.
  • Why these changes are unexpected and could not have been predicted at the start of their course.
  • What steps they are taking to find alternative funding. Students in the early years of their course must demonstrate that they have thought about how they are going to fund the rest of their studies.

Who is eligible to apply?

Students can apply to the University Hardship Fund (UHF) if they are experiencing unexpected and unforeseeable financial difficulties. Those with a home fee status will first be assessed through the Access to Learning Fund (ALF) and will only be considered for UHF if a shortfall remains after the ALF assessment has been completed.

Awards will not be made to the following groups of students:

  • non-matriculated students;
  • students who are not currently enrolled. This includes suspended and lapsed students;
  • research students who have submitted their thesis. This includes students who are resubmitting;
  • Visiting students who are not eligible for funding from the University as detailed in the Examination Regulations Section 28, 7. (No Visiting Student shall be eligible to be a candidate for any examination, or scholarship, prize, or other award of the University);
  • Home students who have not applied for and/or been financially assessed by their regional funding agency unless there is a valid reason;
  • students who have not applied to their College Hardship Fund even if a decision has not been made;
  • students who do not appear to have a funding shortfall. Assessments are made on the basis of a comparison of a student’s income for the current academic year with the University’s lower range figures of estimated living costs.

Awards will not normally be made to the following groups of students unless there are exceptional circumstances:

  • students undertaking a nine month or one year (full-time equivalent) course;
  • students whose situation is financially unsustainable. The Committee needs to be assured that students have sufficient funding in place for the remainder of their course.
  • students who have already received assistance from the University Hardship Fund;
  • students who are applying for assistance with a funding deficit in the next academic year. These students should apply at the start of the next academic year;
  • research students who are beyond their fourth year of study.

How does the Committee define unexpected circumstances?

The following circumstances are not considered unexpected and will not result in an award:

  • students who, in the opinion of the Committee, had inadequate funding at the outset of their course;
  • research students whose funding has run out before they are ready to submit their thesis. The Committee does not normally consider this to be sufficient grounds for an award as it is expected that students will have made provision for the realistic length of their studies and to be making academic progress in accordance with expectations. However, the Committee is able to use its discretion in deciding individual cases where research has been disrupted for reasons beyond a student’s control;
  • students who have been affected by fluctuations in exchange rates. The Committee will generally only consider awards where this has been catastrophic or combined with other circumstances;
  • students applying for financial assistance with their research and/or fieldwork. These are normally part of projected course costs so are not considered unexpected;
  • students who are unable to obtain paid employment unless a contract was in place prior to commencing their studies;
  • students who require assistance with childcare costs, where this has not been taken into account at the start of their studies. It is expected that all students will have made full provision for themselves and their family before beginning their studies. Assistance cannot be given to students who need to increase their childcare because they have underestimated their study needs;
  • students who need assistance in repaying debts which were in existence prior to start of their course. It is expected that students will have taken these into account when deciding whether they can afford their studies;
  • assistance will not normally be given to support maternity or paternity leave for children born whilst a student is on course, unless there are exceptional circumstances;
  • students who require funding to replace damaged or stolen belongings will be expected to report losses to the police and make any insurance claims before applying to the University Hardship Fund;
  • students whose parents or sponsors have allegedly withdrawn their support unless there are exceptional circumstances.

What is the application procedure and deadlines?

Students should contact their College Hardship Officer to request an application form and discuss their application. The College Hardship Officer varies across colleges but could be your Senior Tutor, Bursar or Academic Administrator. Please contact your college office if you are unsure of who to contact. Complete application forms should be submitted by the student or their college to Student Fees and Funding as soon as possible and by the appropriate deadline listed below. The form include sections for the student, college and tutor or supervisor to complete, and applications will only be considered if all sections have been completed.

Applications are considered by the University Hardship Committee, which meets termly. The relevant dates are listed below:

Term

Application deadline

Committee meeting

Michaelmas term 2016

Friday of Week 3
28 October 2016

Thursday of Week 6
17 November 2016

Hilary term 2017

Friday of Week 3
03 February 2017

Thursday of Week 6
23 February 2017

Trinity term 2017

Friday of Week 1
28 April 2017

Thursday of Week 4
18 May 2017

It is possible, in emergencies, for the Chair to consider applications between meetings. This must be requested when the application is submitted and is subject to the availability of staff and the Chair.

Awards and assessment

Applications are assessed against the University’s standard estimates of the lower range living costs for a single student studying full time at Oxford in the current academic year. The Committee regards these figures as a guideline and will treat them with as much latitude as it sees fit in any particular case. It is expected that students whose expenses are particularly heavy, for whatever reason, will clearly draw the Committee’s attention to this fact in their application.

If appropriate and relevant to the case a student may need to provide medical evidence. The Oxford Medical Certificate may be used for this purpose, though this does not preclude the provision of appropriate information in other formats.

The Committee has some flexibility over the level and type of award that can be offered to students, but the following points should be taken into consideration:

  • The maximum award is £5,000. Awards of this level will usually be a combination of a grant and loan.
  • Students in their final year will normally be given a loan as it is expected that they will be able to take on paid employment on completion of their studies.
  • In determining whether to make an award, the Committee reserves the right to take into account the willingness and capacity of Colleges to contribute towards a loan or grant.
  • Depending on the circumstances, the Committee can ask the relevant department or faculty to confirm what assistance they might be able to provide.

How are students and colleges notified of the outcome?

The outcome of an application will be sent via email to the student, with their college copied in. Payment of any award will be made directly to the student, to the account specified in their application.

If a student is not happy with the outcome of their application, they must submit an appeal in writing within 28 days of the date of the decision letter. Letters should be sent to the Chair of the University Hardship Committee, c/o Secretary of the University Hardship Committee, Student Fees and Funding, Examination Schools, High Street, Oxford, OX1 4BG or to student.funding@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Appeals

Appeals will be considered by the Chair of the University Hardship Committee and the results of the appeal will be sent to the student within 28 days of receipt of the appeal, copied to their College.

An appeal must either:

(i) Contain new or more detailed information relating to the applicant’s situation which was not available to them at the time of their original application.  Applicants must be able to provide compelling reasons why the information was not available in the first instance, or

(ii) Dispute the application decision by demonstrating that the decision was procedurally flawed, for example that the decision was not taken in accordance with the funding criteria.