FAQ – COVID-19

Please check this FAQ for answers about how the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak affects student finance. We will be updating this article regularly and it will remain available as long as necessary.

21 May 2020

Registration and attendance

Q: Are you making payments as normal?

A: Yes. We are paying maintenance and fee loans in the amounts students expect, based on their previous assessment.

Q: We are completing our winter term (January to March) through online learning. Can we still confirm attendance and will you make payments?

A: Yes. For the purposes of student finance, we deem the course term to continue to completion as originally intended.

Q: We are moving to complete the spring term (April to July) through online delivery. Will you make payments as normal? How will you treat students given the move to online delivery? Do we need to submit CoCs if the third term of AY 2019/20 is now online?

A: We do not intend to change payments as a result of the change in delivery. We will deem the course to be completed based on the original course intention. We do not need any CoCs for changes in intensity or mode of study. You do not need to enter any new courses or course transfers.

Q: What should we do with new students who will start their studies in the spring term (April to July)?

A: You should confirm to us that you have completed registration and enrolment of students on their courses.

Q: What will happen if our university or college closes and no one is able to confirm attendance? Will you still make fee payments?

A: We need you to submit attendance confirmations before we can make fee loan and fee grant payments. You can make attendance confirmations through the Student Information Service (SIS). This is a web-based application and you can access it through the HE Gateway.

We would expect you to have made adequate business continuity plans. As part of this, staff working remotely should be able to provide attendance confirmations.

Q: If we are unable to have face-to-face engagement with new students before confirming registration for next year what should HEP’s do?

A: SLC does not have any specific procedures for providers to follow. Registration means that you are content a student is enrolled on the course. Therefore, you need to be satisfied that the student is enrolled on the course before submitting a registration confirmation. It is therefore up to the HEP to determine what they deem as appropriate engagement before they confirm registration.

Payments - Childcare

Q: Will payments still be permitted to childcare providers (CCPs) if the CCP is still taking the children, but the university is closed?

A: Current policy allows for Childcare Grant (CCG) to be paid for prescribed childcare costs. This includes retainer fees, charges for absence or holidays and additional costs (resources, dinners, trips). As such if a student is still being charged by the childcare provider, they can continue to receive CCG. The amount payable will be capped at 85% of cost charged, or the maximum applicable rate of CCG, whichever is lowest. CCG is an income-based product.

Courses and term dates

Q: Do we need to notify you of changes to term dates, methods of study and other such details?

A: Not if the change is a result of delaying your summer term in response to COVID-19. But if you are planning significant restructures, please contact your HEP account manager.

Q: Do I need to amend my course details in CMS for 2019/20?

A: The only time you need to notify us is if you are extending your term dates past 30 weeks and 3 days, where students become eligible for long course loans. You will need to notify the Partners Support Desk of these changes as students are entitled to additional funding per week up the maximum of 45 weeks, where students become eligible for the full-year rate. This is also applicable to final year students.

If the extension of study period is only to allow more time for exam resits, then this will not be eligible for extra weeks of funding so please don't submit any changes,

The latest third term end date for a course starting in the autumn term of 2019/20 is 31 July 2020.

If your course is already over 45 weeks there is no need to change your term dates as students will already be receiving the full-year rate.

You do not need to notify us if you want to make changes to your current term dates, either by changing the start or end date, where it does not impact the Long Course Loan duration. Your students will be paid in line with the original term dates you have entered into CMS. This process will reduce the number of reassessments that are needed to take place.

Students who may need additional support hours from a non-medical helper due to a course extension can discuss this with their needs assessor who will in turn contact our DSA team for approval.

Q: Where term dates are shortened, will maintenance entitlement be clawed back from next year's funding?

A: If the third term dates of a course in its final year are shortened (and were originally greater than 30 weeks and 3 days) we will not be actively seeking recovery of overpayments. However, if the course is not in its final year, any outstanding overpayments will be netted off from the student’s maintenance support in AY 2020/21.

Q: If the beginning of the next academic year must be pushed back, will we be required to amend term dates and if so, will this impact on students receiving their maintenance loans?

A: Term dates changing by less than 5 working days - If your term start date is changing by less than 5 working days within the same working week, there is no need to update your term dates on CMS. In this scenario, you would only be required to update your term dates on CMS if the change impacted the long course loan duration. For example, your course is now longer or shorter that 30 weeks and 3 days.

Term dates changing by more than 5 working days - If your term dates are changing by more than 5 workings days, or by less but the new term start date is into the next working week, your term dates will need to be changed on CMS accordingly. If you are certain that your dates will not change again, we advise that the term dates are updated on CMS as soon as possible. This will help ensure that reassessments are completed for all applicants.
Where your term start date is changing month, there is validation within CMS to prevent HEPs from making this change, however, we can make this change for you and we are currently working on a process for managing changes of this type.

You should not create a new version of your course with the new term dates, any changes required should be made to your existing course. This will avoid the need for transfer CoCs.
Please contact your HEP account manager in advance of any changes being made.

Regardless of the length of change, payments to students will be made after registration is confirmed. We are unable to pay Maintenance Loans until a registration confirmation is received. Therefore, if you amend your term dates, this will impact a student’s payment date. Entitlement will not be impacted if the course remains the same length in duration.
In all instances, please ensure you have advised your students of the change to term dates and how this will impact their payment schedule.

Q: When considering extending final year course length, would it be possible to do this at course level or individual student level if necessary? If students would be expected to complete in August but fail, they will be entitled to a re-sits and this would be in October?

A: Changes to courses cannot be made on an individual student level and need to be done at course level. If a course is extended beyond 30 weeks and 3 days to allow for additional teaching weeks, we require you to tell us in advance as this will trigger a reassessment and students will now be eligible for long course loans. However, If the extension is merely to allow students to re-sit final exams, then this is not deemed as funded study, and no changes to the course should be made.

Student assessment, entitlement and changes in circumstances

Q: Is it up to the university or college if we want to waive tuition fees?

A: Yes. When you do, you should submit a fee loan reduction CoC to ensure the tuition fee loan matches the fee liability. Please contact your HEP account manager to discuss this.

Q: In terms of Maintenance Loan payments, is a forced closure an appropriate argument to suspend the students on health grounds even though they may not have the virus?

A: You may have students who are no longer able to continue their learning online or remotely. This includes students whose course was practical and cannot transition to online learning, or students whose placement has ended. These scenarios will not be considered as a suspension. The students will continue to receive Maintenance Loans and Tuition Fee Loans. The same applies if your university or college has had to completely shut down due to COVID-19.

Q: Some EEA migrant workers have no work as businesses have closed due to COVID-19. Will they lose their migrant worker status?

A: Students who are due to start courses in the spring of 2020, and have not yet applied for 2019/20 funding, may have to apply as EU students for a Tuition Fee loan only if they are not able to show they meet the worker status. If they can show they are working in the future, they can apply for a review as an event. This is the current usual process.

Students who have already applied for spring 2019/20 course starts, and have provided evidence that was accepted at that time, will not have any further requests for evidence or checks carried out.

We are still reviewing 2020/21 student applications and further guidance will follow.

Q:Some students can’t engage due to COVID-19 and are unable to complete the year within the normal timeframes. Will they be entitled to additional support and will they need to use their gift year for this?

A: Yes, it has been confirmed that existing previous study rules, including Compelling Personal Reasons, will apply to students who have to repeat or extend their period of study. Students can ordinarily access support for the duration of their course, plus an additional year. However, if a student needs to repeat due to extenuating circumstances, they can apply to us for a further, additional year of support for Compelling Personal Reasons.

Q: We have closed our halls of residence and cancelled our agreements with students. Will this affect their Maintenance Loan payments?

A: We will still make payments to students as expected in April 2020.

Q: Can we withdraw students?

A: If a student wants to withdraw from a course, you should follow the standard procedure in arranging this for them.  However, if their study has been disrupted by COVID-19, you should offer alternatives to classroom learning instead of processing withdrawals.

Q: Can we suspend students due to COVID-19?

A: You should not use suspension in cases connected to COVID-19. Our system does allow for you to submit suspensions under the health category, but you should not use this for students suffering from COVID-19. The illness generally does not last more than 2 weeks. Therefore, submitting the suspension will only increase work for you and us. It can also cause hardship for the student if late or inaccurate resumptions lead to blocked payments.

In the current circumstances, we ask that you wait for a student to be away from learning due to health reasons for 60 days before submitting a CoC. If this occurs the best practice is to backdate the effective date to accommodate for the 60-day allowance built into the suspension due to health reasons CoC.

The suspension functionality will continue to be available. You should use this as normal where a student has agreed to a leave of absence, with the view to returning in the future.  At that point you can submit the resumption CoC to let us know that the student has returned to study.

Q: Some students are affected by COVID-19 in a way that does not have to do with their health, such as lack of internet, a laptop or online learning. Can we use suspensions for these students?

A: You should not submit suspension CoCs for students in these situations. If they cannot interact with the online teaching that is taking place, you must look to engage them in another way.

If you cannot offer alternative learning arrangements, you should not submit a suspension CoC. This will allow us to make maintenance payments to the student.

Q: Can we use repeat study for students affected by the COVID-19 restrictions?

A: There are students who may be looking to resit their study in AY 2020/21 due to the disruption caused by COVID-19. We are still in discussion with DfE and other partners about how best to help you and your students prepare for the next academic year. So that we can put the resulting plans in place, please do not submit repeat study CoCs for any students at this time. We will let you know once we are in a place to begin receiving resumption CoCs again.

If you have any students that are undertaking a period of repeat study before then, please keep this information. We may ask you to submit and backdate this once we lift the pause on repetition CoCs.

Q: If a student returns home due to COVID-19 will they be reassessed from elsewhere rate to home rate?

A: No, it has been confirmed that students will not be reassessed and will be paid as expected for their next instalment.

Q: If a final year nursing student has volunteered by joining the Emergency Register, will they have access to additional support when they return?

A: Students who volunteer to join the Emergency Register will be able to make an application for additional support when they return. Students can ordinarily access support for the duration of their course, plus an additional year. However, where a student is required to repeat or extend due to extenuating circumstances, they can apply to SFE or SFW for a further additional year of support on Compelling Personal Reasons.

Study abroad

Q: When submitting CoCs, should we be suspending the learner from the day they returned to the UK, or the day they left the university or college to go into self-quarantine?

A: If a student is unwell, they have 60 days automatic support for being absent for health reasons. Since the illnesses caused by COVID-19 generally do not last this long, we advise that you do not submit a CoC for suspension or otherwise, unless the student has a known long-term illness, and only one which means they will not be able to continue with their study remotely.

Q: Will you be providing special dispensation for students on the Erasmus+ scheme, or who are currently studying a year abroad and may be forced to return home or suspend their studies?

A: We will continue to make scheduled tuition payments to providers for the remainder of the current 2019/20 academic year. Students will also continue to receive scheduled payments of loans towards their living costs for 2019/20. Both tuition and living costs payments will continue irrespective of whether providers have made alternative arrangements for teaching.

Q: We have students who cannot complete their year abroad due to the outbreak of COVID-19, and will transfer back onto a 3-year degree scheme ('losing' their year abroad and 1 years' worth of funding entitlement) Will these students be in overpayment or will a discretionary approach likely be taken? Will the student need to follow the Compelling Personal Reasons process to request discretionary funding, or will this be automatically allocated?

A: Eligible full-time students who cannot complete this academic year due to COVID-19 and will need to retake all or part of this a year, may qualify for an additional year of support. The standard entitlement for fee loan support on full-time undergraduate courses is the length of a student’s course, plus one extra year if needed, less any years of previous study. However, we also make provision for a further year of fee support, in addition to the standard entitlement, in certain circumstances where students need to repeat a year of their current course for compelling personal reasons. Students attending an additional year of study also qualify for loans for living costs.

Q: Will providers receive their tuition fee payments as expected, regardless of whether a student has returned to the UK from study abroad?

A: Providers will continue to receive their scheduled payments as expected, this includes fees for Erasmus students.

Q: If we have students who may be eligible for Compelling Personal Reasons, how do they apply?

A: The same process applies as previously, in that if a student has already used their gift year and requires an additional year of funding, then they can apply for CPR. Guidance on the process is available on the Practitioner website. We appreciate that it may be difficult for students to provide GP evidence (for example) or any other form of evidence, but where possible, if a student can submit any evidence in support of their application this would help. If they have spoken with someone from their HEP, a letter in support of the application may also be considered. All CPR applications are determined on a case-by-case basis. If there are any changes to this process this will be communicated.

Communications with students

Q: What are students being told?

A: You can find our latest guidance on the GOV.UK website. We are developing and maintaining parallel FAQs and will use our online and social media channels to inform students.

To ensure the consistency of our student communications, we are in regular dialogue with:

  • the Office for Students (OfS)
  • the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)
  • the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)
  • the Education Authority (NI)
  • the 4 education departments of the UK
  • sector representatives on our stakeholder advisory groups

Disabled Student Allowance (DSA)

Q: If a student has not received an assessment from an educational psychologist, how will their support needs be met?

A: SASC has published information to outline that SpLD assessments are unable to be conducted remotely. Therefore, any student who needs an SpLD assessment would need to wait until they are able to have a face-to-face assessment. Any student who has a previous diagnosis can apply with the evidence they have, and we would encourage students to apply as early as possible. If the application needs a new assessment their application will be on hold until they are able to get appropriate evidence. However, this position is being reviewed regularly and any update to this will be published in any future FAQs.

Download DSA specific FAQs

Miscellaneous

Q: What are the operating hours and contact methods for SLC?

A: The latest information on opening hours for students to contact SLC is available on GOV.UK 

You can also contact our Partners Support Desk via telephone; they are available Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm.

Q: Should we still mail documents to SLC?

A: Yes, our mail rooms are open to receive documents.

Q: What address should students use when applying for funding for the next academic year?

A: Providers need to confirm to their students as soon as possible whether they will be starting the academic year on campus or not, and to advise their students accordingly whether to apply with a home address or one used for campus-based learning.