The Oxford Assistance Fund (OAF) aims to assist students who are experiencing financial difficulties during their course, according to 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 £3,000. Applications will be assessed in line with national guidance. Applications are accepted from Monday 2 October 2023 (MT0) until Friday 14 June 2024 (TT8) and are assessed on a rolling basis.
Eligible applications from enrolled students who are assessed as having a greater shortfall may be referred on for further consideration by the University Financial Assistance Committee at its termly meeting (see deadlines below) 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. This includes those impacted significantly by the increases to their cost of living, and are unable to meet these costs through other sources. Students who are experiencing ongoing exceptional financial difficulties as a result of pandemic disruption are also eligible to apply for support.
Applications are assessed by the University Financial Assistance Committee at its termly meeting (see deadlines below) with non-repayable grants and/or loans of up to £8,000 available, according to individual circumstances. Successful awardees may be offered a loan in order to maximise use and impact of available funds. This is especially likely for those in their final year, as it is expected that such students will be able to take on paid employment on completion of their studies.
What is the application procedure?
Students are able to obtain a link to the Oxford Financial Assistance schemes online application form and accompanying guidance notes through their College Financial Assistance Officer.
The form comprises Part A for the student to complete, Part B for a college representative to complete, and in the case of postgraduates, Part C for the department to complete. Applications will only be processed when all components have been received.
What are the termly deadlines for the University Financial Assistance Committee?
Applications are prepared by the Student Fees and Funding team for consideration at the next scheduled University Financial Assistance Committee meeting as set out below. We strongly recommend that you complete Part A (Student) of your application at least a week in advance of the deadline to enable your College, and, in the case of postgraduates, your Department to submit their supporting sections by the deadline.
Michaelmas term 2023
Friday of Week 3
Thursday of Week 6
Hilary term 2024
Friday of Week 3
Thursday of Week 6
Trinity term 2024
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 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.
The Oxford Assistance Fund can help to alleviate general financial difficulty, however the assessment prioritises use of available funds towards course fees before living costs, when considering students for an award.
The fund is not intended to provide core funding for graduate students who were underfunded at the start of their course.
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. Disabled students and those with dependants may receive a full or partial exemption if this affects their ability to work.
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. The total maximum award per year is £3,000. 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 £3,000 may be referred on for further consideration by the University Financial Assistance 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 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. For students experiencing ongoing financial difficulties due to the pandemic or due to significant cost of living increases during their course; additional information about their circumstances must be included.
- 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.
- Students undertaking a nine month or one year (full-time equivalent) course or those in year one of their studies must take particular care to demonstrate how their finances have been impacted after starting their course.
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 an employment 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 Assistance 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 or by significant increases in the cost of living.
Awards will not be made to the following groups of students:
- non-matriculated students. However students on award-bearing courses may be eligible for support from OUDCE;
- 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 Financial Assistance schemes. Students can apply to the OAF before a decision has been made by the college;
- 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 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 Assistance Fund (previously known as the Oxford 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.
Student Fees and Funding may ask for clarification relating to your application or for further information. If this is the case you will receive an email from Student Fees and Funding. If no response is received within 21 days we will consider the application withdrawn.
Students can only be given an award for costs incurred during the academic year. 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 run from 1 October and the assessment period varies depending on the length of the academic year, as determined by the level and programme of study.
Students on modular postgraduate or part-time courses 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 £3,000 and their circumstances meet the criteria detailed above, students’ applications may be referred for University Financial Assistance Committee consideration for additional funding. Student Fees and Funding will recommend this to eligible students when communicating the outcome of the application, and may request some additional information.
How do I appeal a decision?
Informal resolution where there is new evidence
If new information comes to light within 14 days of the decision letter which a student was not able to provide previously, and which may materially affect a decision, the student has the option of contacting the Student Fees and Funding team via email@example.com to see if informal resolution is possible. This could include referral back to the Committee where there is clear evidence of a material change in circumstances. The email should include any new information for consideration, to assist the team in establishing whether a further review of the application may be undertaken.
If a student is not satisfied with the outcome of their application, or any informal resolution process, they must submit an appeal in writing within either (a) 28 days of the date of the decision letter or (b) 14 days of the outcome of the informal resolution process. Letters should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and addressed to the Chair of the University Financial Assistance Committee, c/o Secretary of the University Financial Assistance Committee.
Appeals will be considered by the Chair of the University Financial Assistance Committee or their nominee 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 conclude the University’s procedures.
An appeal must be made on one or more of the following grounds:
(i) The student has new or more detailed information relating to their situation which was not available to them at the time of their original application; and/or
(ii) The decision was procedurally flawed, for example: it was not conducted in accordance with the stated procedure or there was bias or a perception of bias in the decision-making process.