For this post, we interviewed our Finance Manager, Marcus Stoneham, regarding all things Student Finance England and funding for studies at Ulster University Branch campuses. Here are the notes from the interview.
What is Student Finance England?
Student Finance England (SFE) is a service provided by the Student Loans Company. They provide financial support on behalf of the UK Government to students entering higher education in the UK. Student Finance England offer funding for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. This financial support comes in the form of a tuition fee loan and maintenance loan.
What is a tuition fee loan and maintenance loan and how are they different?
These loans apply to students who are studying or going to study an undergraduate course. A tuition fee loan is paid directly to the University to help pay your tuition fees. A maintenance loan helps towards your living costs, such as food, rent and books. The amount you can borrow depends on your household income, your course and where you live and study.
What is a postgraduate loan and how is it different to an undergraduate loan?
A postgraduate loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate course. A loan application can be submitted up to the amount of £10,280 and is paid directly to you. This is to go towards your tuition fees and living costs.
How can prospective students apply for Student Finance?
All postgraduate applications are completed online. However with undergraduate applications, some are submitted online or a form is required. Students who are applying as a ‘Home’ student can complete the application online, whilst students applying as a ‘migrant worker’ complete the PN1 form and post it to Student Finance England. Both of these applications will be assessed for tuition fees and maintenance, it is the supporting evidence which differs.
If students do not have the required evidence they may have the option to apply as an ‘EU’ student, this is where a student applies for tuition fees only. Form EU17N would be required in this instance.
How do students know which application they should submit?
If a student is applying as a ‘Home’ student they are either a UK national, have settled status or hold an EU passport, with five years of residency in the UK. If a student is applying as a ‘migrant worker’ they hold an EU passport, and either they or a family member with the same surname have been working in the UK for at least three months prior to the start of their course. If a student does not meet either of these requirements, but hold an EU passport, that is when they can apply as an ‘EU’ tuition fees only application.
How long will an application take to process and how can they get an update?
The average application processing time is three weeks from all evidence being received, for updates call Student Finance England every few days and applicants can check their online account.
How long will an undergraduate application take to process and how can they get an update?
The average application processing time for a home or migrant worker is eight weeks. This is from all evidence being received by Student Finance England. Students should call Student Finance England every few days for an update and check their online account. The application processing time as an EU student (tuition fee only) is four weeks. This is from all evidence being received by Student Finance England, again they should call Student Finance every few days.
Do Student Finance England require documentation to support the application?
Yes, supporting evidence will be required for every application. Passports or identity cards are required for all applications.
If a student is married or has children, they require marriage and birth certificates. If a student has applied as a ‘Home’ student, with an EU passport and residency in the UK for five years they will need to submit evidence of their residency for the full five years, such as bank statements and council tax bills. Students applying as a ‘migrant worker’ need to submit their contract, payslips or invoices every month, bank statements, P45 and P60. When submitting their application I would recommend a student calls Student Finance England directly and requests what information they will need to send.
Do parents or partners of students need to submit evidence to support a student application?
Yes, students under the age of 25, and those married or living with a partner will need to complete the PFF2 form to support the application.
Once an application has been approved, how long should a student expect to wait until they receive payments?
Once a student is enrolled and satisfied attendance requirements, they should allow up to 10 working days for payment to be made, from the date of approval. The 10 days allows for national insurance checks by Student Finance England, and attendance and registration to be confirmed by the University.
Once a student has been approved for a postgraduate loan, how can they make payment?
On their enrolment every student will meet with a member of the University Finance Department. An instalment plan will be created when they enrol. The instalment plan corresponds with the payment schedule given by Student Finance England and a direct debit will be set up between the student and University. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure payments are made on time.
If a student makes a mistake on their application how can this be corrected?
In this instance, a change of circumstance will need to be submitted. If the course date selected has not passed they will be able to complete the amendment themselves. Home students can request the change via their Student Finance portal. If it does not appear, they will need to complete the C01 (change of circumstances) form.
If the course date has passed we can submit a change of circumstance only once their application has been approved and they are enrolled. This can take up to six weeks for amendments to be made, as it needs to be reassessed by Student Finance England.
Are there any additional loans or grants available to students?
Each student has different households and circumstances. Some students may be eligible to apply for additional grants such as Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs), Childcare grant, Parents’ Learning Allowance or Adult Dependants’ Grant. I would recommend they contact Student Finance England directly for further information. They will require evidence for any additional grants.
What advice would you give to students when completing an application?
If they are unsure of the information they are providing to Student Finance England, to first contact Student Finance directly, or contact their recruiter or us the University Finance Department.
I would also advise to have all evidence required by Student Finance England, such as bank statements and council tax bills submitted as soon as possible. Delays are mostly caused by evidence being submitted late.
Marcus has cleared many of the common issues students have with Student Finance England and has offered some valuable advice. However, if you still need any support with your Student Finance England application, please contact a member of our Finance team who will be happy to help.