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.

08 April 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.

Payments - Childcare

Q: Will payments still be permitted to 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, chargers 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.

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: Where students are no longer able to continue their learning online or remotely (for instance if their course was practical and cannot transition to online learning or their placement has ended) then these scenarios will not be considered as a suspension and students and HEPs will continue to receive Maintenance and Tuition Fee loans. The same can be said where a provider has had to completely shut down due to COVID-19.

Q: Will EEA migrant workers who have no work due to businesses closing for the COVID-19 shut down, lose their migrant worker status?

A: Students due to start courses in the Spring of 2020 and apply for 2019/20 funding who have not already done so, may have to apply as an EU student for a Tuition Fee loan only if they are not able to demonstrate they meet the worker status. If they can in the future show they are working they can apply for a review as an event, which 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.

2020/21 student applications are still being reviewed and further guidance will follow.

Q: If 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 would this require them to use their gift year?

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, where a student is required to repeat due to extenuating circumstances, they can apply to SLC for a further additional year of support on Compelling Personal Reasons.

Q: We have closed our halls of residence and cancelled our agreements with students - will this impact their Maintenance Loan payments?

A: Payments will still be made to students as expected in April 2020.

Change of Circumstance - 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 institution 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 all HEPs do not submit a COC for suspension, or otherwise, until there is a known long-term illness to a student, and only one which means they will not be able to continue with their study remotely.

Q: Will SLC 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 and/or suspend their studies?

A: The Student Loans Company 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: If a student cannot complete their year abroad due to the outbreak of COVID-19, and transfers back onto a 3-year degree scheme (effectively ‘losing’ their year abroad and 1 years’ worth of funding entitlement), would the student be in overpayment or will a discretionary approach likely be taken? Would 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.

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