The Oxford Hardship Fund (OHF) aims to assist students who are experiencing financial difficulties during their course. The level of support available and students’ eligibility for assistance vary based on the categories set out below.
For enrolled and suspended Home students (UK and settled status students who qualify for government maintenance support): Home students who have a shortfall in their finances will be assessed by the Student Fees and Funding team and considered for a grant of up to £2,500. Applications will be assessed in line with national guidance (previously known as the Access to Learning Fund scheme). Eligible applications from enrolled students who are assessed as having a greater shortfall may be referred on for further consideration by the University Hardship Committee at its termly meeting to assess whether students may receive additional support.
For all other students: Students must be experiencing unexpected and unforeseeable financial difficulties due to circumstances which could not have been predicted at the start of their course. Applications are assessed by the University Hardship Committee at its termly meeting. Students are considered for an award of up to £6,000 (usually a combination a grant and loan at this level).
What is the application procedure and deadlines?
Students should contact their college hardship officer to request an Oxford Hardship Fund application form and discuss their application. The hardship officer varies across colleges but could be your Senior Tutor, Bursar or Academic Administrator. Application forms should be completed electronically and submitted to Student Fees and Funding along with the relevant supporting documentation as soon as possible and by the appropriate deadline listed below:
For Home students: applications are accepted from Monday 4 October 2021 (MT0) until Friday 17 June 2022 (TT8) and are assessed on a rolling basis by the Student Fees and Funding team.
For all other students: applications are accepted from Monday 4 October 2021 (MT0) until Friday 29 April 2022 (TT1) and will be prepared by the Student Fees and Funding team for consideration at the next scheduled University Hardship Committee termly meeting.
The following termly committee deadlines apply:
Michaelmas term 2021
Friday of Week 3
Thursday of Week 6
Hilary term 2022
Friday of Week 3
Thursday of Week 6
Trinity term 2022
Friday of Week 1
Thursday of Week 4
It is possible, in urgent cases, 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.
What should Home students be aware of before submitting an OHF application?
Before applying, students must have taken out the full government support available to them, unless there is a good reason why this is not the case. This could include the undergraduate tuition and maintenance support, Master’s or Doctoral Loans, and benefits such as Disabled Students’ Allowance or Universal Credit.
The Oxford Hardship Fund can help to alleviate financial hardship, however it cannot be used towards fees.
The fund is not intended to provide core funding for graduate students who were underfunded at the start of their course. Graduate students whose shortfall significantly exceeds the maximum available award of £2,500 will not normally be made an award unless a priority need is identified.
In assessing applications, guidance will be followed which assumes that a student receives a minimum income level per week, regardless of whether or not this is the case. It is expected that students will have made reasonable provisions for themselves and any dependants before beginning their Oxford course.
Home students can submit an application in the current academic year even if they have applied in a previous year of their course. They can only reapply in the same academic year if their circumstances change substantially. Note the total maximum award per year is £2,500. Receiving an award in one year is no guarantee of a future award, therefore the fund should not be relied upon as a guaranteed source of funding.
Please note that eligible applications with an assessed shortfall that is greater than £2,500 may be referred on for further consideration by the University Hardship Committee at its termly meeting to assess whether a student is eligible for additional support.
What should all other students be aware of before submitting an OHF application?
Students must be able to 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.
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 reasonable 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 Oxford Hardship Fund. Please note that where an award is made to fund repair or replacement costs these are likely to be capped, and may not cover a like-for-like replacement;
- students whose parents or sponsors have allegedly withdrawn their support unless there are exceptional circumstances, which includes students whose circumstances may have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Awards will not be made to the following groups of students:
- non-matriculated 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 in the section for Visiting students, paragraph 7.
- 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. Applications are assessed against all expected available savings and income for the current academic year, and essential expenditure, based on 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 who are not currently enrolled. This includes suspended and lapsed students;
- 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 Oxford Hardship Fund (previously known as 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 will my application be assessed?
Applications are assessed against all expected available savings and income, and essential expenditure, incorporating the University’s lower range of living costs accordingly, for the current academic year. It is expected that students whose expenses are particularly heavy, for whatever reason, will clearly draw attention to this fact in their application and provide justification for this. For care-experienced or estranged Home undergraduates, a partial disregard of income will be applied to enable underlying funds to remain in place before considering a student's available income.
If appropriate and relevant to the case a student may need to provide medical evidence and details of any disability support. Any additional need is identified once a student’s financial situation has been fully established. In the case of applications assessed by the Committee, it may take into account the willingness and capacity of Colleges to contribute towards a loan or grant. Depending on the circumstances, the Committee may ask the relevant department or faculty to confirm what assistance they might be able to provide.
Students can only be given an award for costs incurred during the academic year. In the case of applications considered by the Committee, successful awardees in their final year would normally be given a loan as it is expected that they will be able to take on paid employment on completion of their studies.
The period a student is assessed over is dependent upon the course length and expected completion date, and students should include all savings, income and expenditure for their appropriate period of study, regardless of when during the year they are applying. Periods of assessment are generally as follows:
Undergraduate students: 39 weeks from 1 October to 30 June.
Undergraduates with extended terms (e.g. final year Chemistry, PGCE): 43 weeks from 1 October to 31 July.
Medical students in their fourth, fifth or sixth year (second, third and fourth year Graduate Entry Medicine students): 52 weeks from 1 October to 30 September.
Taught Master’s students: varies depending on course length. The assessment will start from 1 October.
DPhil students: 52 weeks from 1 October to 30 September, unless the submission date is earlier.
Students on modular postgraduate or part-time courses may apply but should note that assessments will be made on a pro-rata basis.
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.
In the case of Home students, if the assessment determines a financial shortfall that is greater than the maximum award of £2,500, students’ applications may be referred for University Hardship Committee consideration for additional funding. Student Fees and Funding will advise students of this when communicating the outcome of the application.
How do I appeal a decision?
If a student is not satisfied 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and addressed to the Chair of the University Hardship Committee, c/o Secretary of the University Hardship Committee.
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. Decisions made regarding appeals are final.
An appeal must either:
(i) Contain new or more detailed information relating to your situation which was not available to you at the time of your original application; or
(ii) Dispute the application decision by demonstrating that the decision was procedurally flawed, for example that the decision was not conducted in accordance with the stated procedure.