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.

09 July 2020

A. Registration and attendance

Q1 (UPDATED): We are moving to complete our teaching through online delivery. Will you make payments as normal?

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.

Q2: If we are unable to have face-to-face engagement with new students before confirming registration for next year what should we do?

A: We do not have any specific procedures for you 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 you to determine what you deem as appropriate engagement before you confirm registration.

B. Payments

Q1: 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.

Q2: In terms of overpayment recovery, are there any relaxed processes for students who are finding themselves in increased financial difficulty due to COVID-19?

A: Students can apply for changes to overpayment recovery through the standard financial hardship form process and ask for deferment of loan overpayment recovery.

C. Courses and term dates

Q1: 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 AY 2019/20 summer term in response to COVID-19. But if you are planning significant restructures, please contact your HEP account manager.

Q2 (UPDATED): Do I need to amend my course details in CMS for AY 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 also applies 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 AY 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.

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.

Q3 (UPDATED): 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.

Q4 (UPDATED): What action do we need to take if our term dates are changing within the same month?

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 will only need to update your term dates on CMS if the change affects the long course loan duration. For example, your course is now longer or shorter than 30 weeks and 3 days.

Term dates changing by more than 5 working days – If your term dates are changing by more than 5 working days, or by less but the new term start date is into the next working week, you will need to change your term dates on CMS accordingly. If you are certain that your dates will not change again, you should update the term dates on CMS as soon as possible. This will help to ensure that reassessments are completed for all applicants.

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 before you make any changes.

Q5: 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 resits 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 resit final exams, then this is not deemed as funded study, and no changes to the course should be made.

Q6 (UPDATED): What action do we need to take if our term dates for AY 2020/21 are changing into the next month?

A: Where your term start date is changing month (but not outside the season), there is validation within CMS to prevent you from making this change. However, we can make this change for you. To allow us to make this change on your behalf, you will need to complete a pro forma. Please contact your HEP account manager who will discuss the process and provide the relevant form.

Q7 (UPDATED): If we change our term dates, will this affect students receiving their maintenance?

A: Regardless of the length of change, payments to students will be made after registration is confirmed. We are unable to pay Maintenance Loan until we receive a registration. Therefore, if you amend your term dates, this will affect a students payment date. Entitlement will not be affected if the course remains the same length. In all instances, please ensure you have advised your students of the change to term dates and how this will affect their payment schedule.

D. Student assessment, entitlement and changes in circumstances

Q1: 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.

Q2: 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 AY 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 AY 2020/21 student applications and further guidance will follow.

Q3: 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.

Q4: 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. If a student’s study has been disrupted by COVID-19, you should not process a withdrawal if you are offering alternative mechanisms for the delivery of educational services. However, if you have submitted a withdrawal due to COVID-19, please revoke this to ensure that it does not affect a student’s payment.

Q5: 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.

Q6: 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.

Q7 (UPDATED): Can we use repeat study for students affected by the COVID-19 restrictions?

A: You can now resume repetition tasks. But please prioritise your work as we are expecting a significant increase in this type of CoCs. Please give priority to final year repetitions to streamline the students' application process.

The repetition notification will confirm to us that the student has extended their period of eligibility and we do not need further evidence. If the repeat is a result of the impact of COVID-19, please state this in the text box. This will let us make CPR assessments more efficiently where needed.

Q8: If a student returns home due to COVID-19 will they be reassessed from elsewhere rate to home rate?

A: For AY 2019/20 no, it has been confirmed that students will not be reassessed and will be paid as expected for their next instalment.

Q9: If an NHS student has volunteered to support during the pandemic or has joined the Nursing Emergency Register, will they have access to additional support when they return?

A: Students in these circumstances 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.

Q10: There are nurses who cannot undertake their NHS placement for health or shielding reasons and need extra weeks to undertake the placement when it is safe to do so. What funding is available and what is the process?

A: You should submit a repetition CoC and the student should apply for CPR for extra funding.

Q11: We have postgraduate students who have been unable to complete their courses. Can they apply for Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR)?

A: Students who are unable to complete their previous master’s course in AY 2019/20 because of COVID-19 will be able to apply for CPR if they are starting a new course 'from scratch' in the future (in AY 2020/21 or later). However, they cannot get additional support for repeats or extensions on their current course, as is usual for postgraduate master’s funding.

Q12: What happens where students want to interrupt their studies, perhaps for a year, due to the move to online modes of teaching and the general disruption caused by COVID-19 and come back later when things are back to normal?

A: If students want to interrupt their studies for a year or more due to COVID-19 then the normal suspension and resumption process applies.

Q13 (NEW): Can second year master's students change from a September start in year 1 to a January start for year 2 of the course?

A: For SFE and SFW students on 2-year master's courses, this can be done by submitting Suspension and Resumption CoCs. This will not extend the course length past the original course end date. It will reprofile the remaining payments across the remainder of the course after the resumption CoC has been processed.

If the resumption is processed after the original course end date (that is, a 2-year course now becomes a 3-year course) the student will receive any remaining payments in one instalment.

SFNI students need to apply each year for their tuition fee loan, which relies on attendance confirmations in each term. Thus this change cannot be made for SFNI students, as we cannot pay out for a term where a non-positive attendance code has been submitted. If the student has been suspended for a term, there’s no way for the university or college to recoup this money later.

For SAAS courses you should contact SAAS directly to make any changes.

Q14 (NEW): Some students need an extension to complete an AY 2019/20 course due to childcare issues related to COVID-19. Can they get additional childcare funding?

A: Students can get additional weeks of childcare funding in these circumstances. You should submit a Fee CoC with the extension dates included, and request additional childcare funding in the text box.

E. Study abroad

Q1: 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.

Q2: 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.

Q3: 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.

Q4: 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.

Q5: 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.

F. Communications with students

Q1: 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

G. Disabled Student Allowance (DSA)

Q1: Will SLC accept remote Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) assessments as evidence to support a DSA application?

A: It would not be for SLC comment on whether remote SpLD assessments are appropriate. The organisations that set the standards for SpLD assessments would need to determine whether a remote method of assessment meets their requirements.

Guidance on what SFE and SFW can except as evidence of SpLD can be found online:

SFE: https://www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/media/1754/ssin-0420-sasc-diagnostic-assessment.docx

SFW: https://www.studentfinancewales.co.uk/practitioners/policy-information/information-notices.aspx  

Practitioners should refer to guidelines outlined by SASC about the requirements for evaluations of need.

Download DSA specific FAQs

H. Miscellaneous

Q1: 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. The practitioner helpline is open Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm and all other lines Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm.

Q2: Should we still mail documents to SLC?

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

Q3: 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.