Version 1.0 - Last Updated: 16 Feb 2021

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

How the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affects student finance.


Our COVID-19 questions and answers for higher education providers

These pages cover questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic affects registration, attendance, payments, course management and more.

Registration and attendance

Q1: If we cannot have face-to-face engagement with new students before confirming registration for this 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 this is the case before you submit a registration confirmation. It is up to you to decide what you deem as appropriate engagement before you confirm registration.

Payments

Q1: Will payments be permitted to childcare providers if the childcare provider 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
  • additional costs (resources, dinners, trips)

If the childcare provider is still charging the student, the student can continue to receive CCG. The amount will be capped at 85% of cost charged, or the highest applicable rate of CCG, whichever is lower. CCG is an income-based product.

Q2: Some students are finding themselves in increased financial difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Are there any relaxed overpayment recovery processes for these students?

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

Courses and term dates

Q1: What do we need to do if our term dates are changing within the same month in academic year 2020/21?

A: 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 the Courses Management Service (CMS). You will only need to update your term dates if the change affects the long course loan duration. For example, your course is now longer or shorter than 30 weeks and 3 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. If you are certain that your dates will not change again, you should update them 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. You should make any changes to your existing course. This will avoid the need for Transfer CoCs. Please contact your HEP account manager before you make any changes.

Q2: What do we need to do if our term dates for academic year 2020/21 are changing into the next month?

A: If your term start date is changing month (but not outside the season), CMS will not let you make this change. However, we can make it for you. To allow us to do this, you will need to complete a pro forma. Please contact your HEP account manager who will explain the process and provide the relevant form.

Q3: If we change our term dates, will this affect students receiving their maintenance?

A: Regardless of the length of change, we will make payments to students after you confirm registration. We cannot pay Maintenance Loan until we receive a registration. If you amend your term dates, this will affect a student's payment date. It will not affect their entitlement if the course remains the same length. In all instances, please make sure to tell your students about the change to term dates and how this will affect their payment schedule.

Q4: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are looking to restructure our programmes into a condensed year for academic year 2020/21 only. For example, we are thinking about changing the start date from September 2020 to January 2021. Is this possible?

A: Please see the specific guidance about temporary winter term courses for further information on this process.

Q5: For the temporary winter term start courses in 2020/21, when will you make the tuition fee payments to us?

A: The tuition fee payments for the temporary courses will follow the same timeline as other courses in academic year 2020/21. For January starts, the payment windows are February, May and October. Please see the specific guidance about temporary winter term courses for further information about early payments and the exact dates.

Q6: We are using the new seasonal start guidance. Can we have some students on the autumn start and some on the new compressed course with a winter start?

A: Yes, you can have students on both autumn start and winter start programmes.

Q7: Do I need to amend my course details on CMS for academic year 2020/2021?

The only time you need to tell us is if you are extending your term dates past 30 weeks and 3 days. This will make your students eligible for long course loans. You will need to tell our Partners Support Desk about these changes. Students are entitled to additional funding per week up the maximum of 45 weeks, where they 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. Please do not submit any changes if this is the case.

The latest third term end date for a course starting in the autumn term of academic year 2020/21 is 31 August 2021.

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

You do not need to tell us if you want to make changes to your current term dates, but it does not affect the Long Course Loan duration. We will pay your students in line with the original term dates you have entered on CMS. This process will reduce the number of reassessments.

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

Q8: The Nursing and Midwifery Council has announced a new range of recovery standards to help students to complete their course. Will support be available?

A: Yes, for the purposes of student finance, support will be available as these students are actively engaging in their course. This will be determined at provider level. It may vary from one organisation to the next.

Student assessment, entitlement and changes in circumstances

Q1: Is it up to us 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 students cannot engage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are unable to complete the year within the normal timeframe. 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 will apply to students who have to repeat or extend their period of study. This includes rules for Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR). Students can usually access support for the duration of their course, plus an extra year. However, if a student needs to repeat due to extenuating circumstances, they can apply to us for a further year of support for CPR.

Q3: Can we withdraw students?

A: If a student wants to withdraw from a course, you should follow the standard procedure for this. If their study has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, you should not process a withdrawal if you are offering other options for the delivery of educational services. If you have submitted a withdrawal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please revoke it to ensure it does not affect the student’s payment.

Q4: Can we suspend students due to COVID-19?

A: You should not use suspension in cases connected to COVID-19. Our system does let you 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, you should wait for a student to be away from learning due to health reasons for 60 days before submitting a CoC. If this happens, the best practice is to backdate the effective date. This will accommodate the 60-day allowance built into the suspension due to health reasons CoC.

The suspension option 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. You can then submit a resumption CoC to let us know that the student has returned to study.

Q5: Some students are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that does not have to do with their health. For example, this could be lack of internet, a laptop or online learning. Can we use suspensions for these students?

A: If a student can no longer engage with their course and you have attempted all other options, you should submit a suspension CoC.

If the student is struggling financially, they can apply for hardship support through the suspension.

Q6: Can we use repeat study for students affected by the COVID-19 restrictions?

A: Yes, we now accept repetition tasks. The repetition notification will confirm to us that the student has extended their period of eligibility. We do not need further evidence. If the repetition is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please state this in the text box. This will let us make assessments for compelling personal reasons more efficiently.

Q7: Some NHS students have volunteered to support during the pandemic, joined the Nursing Emergency Register, or the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the completion of their course. 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.

In AY 2020/21 students, including nurses, can qualify for extended funding into the new academic year. This applies if their repeat study period is full-time and meets the minimum number of weeks (24 in a non-final year and 8 weeks in a final year). Students would be applying under a 2020/21 application.

Students can usually access support for the duration of their course, plus an extra year.  If a student needs to repeat or extend their studies due to extenuating circumstances, they can apply for a further year of support for Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR).

However, if the teaching is in relation to AY 2019/20 and goes past 31 August 2020, they cannot qualify for further support for this academic year. That's because students will have exhausted this proportion of their funding and cannot have any further extensions towards this academic year. This may be the case with a course which normally starts in November.

If the teaching for AY 2020/21 does not meet the minimum length of time as specified above, students will not qualify for support.

Q8: There are nurses who cannot undertake their NHS placement for health or shielding reasons. They will 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 Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR) for extra funding. You should add a note with the CoC to explain the repetition is due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q9: We have postgraduate students who have been unable to complete their courses. Can they apply for Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR)?

A: Students who cannot 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. This would be in AY 2020/21 or later. They cannot get additional support for repeats or extensions on their current course. This is usual for postgraduate master’s funding.

Q10: What happens if students want to interrupt their studies due to the move to online teaching and the general disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic? They are planning to do this for perhaps a year and to return later when things are back to normal.

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

Q11: 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 Student Finance England (SFE) and Student Finance Wales (SFW) students on 2-year master's courses, you can submit Suspension and Resumption CoCs to do this. This will not extend the course length past the original course end date. It will reprofile the remaining payments across the rest of the course after we process the Resumption CoC.

If we process the Resumption CoC after the original course end date (meaning that a 2-year course now becomes a 3-year course), the student will receive any remaining payments in one instalment.

For Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) courses you should contact SAAS directly to make any changes.

Study abroad

Q1: When we submit a CoC, should we suspend the student from the day they returned to the UK, or the day they left the university or college to go into self isolation?

A: If a student is unwell, they have 60 days of automatic support for being absent for health reasons. The illness caused by COVID-19 generally does not last this long, so you should not submit a CoC for suspension or otherwise. You should only submit it if the student has a known long-term illness that will stop them from continuing their studies remotely.

Q2: We have students who cannot complete their year abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will transfer back onto a 3-year degree scheme. This means 'losing' their year abroad and a year of funding entitlement. Will these students be in overpayment or are you likely to take a discretionary approach? Will the student need to follow the Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR) process to request discretionary funding or will you give this automatically?

A: Eligible full-time students who cannot complete this academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will need to retake all or part of the 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. This may apply if 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.

Q3: If we have students who may be eligible for Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR), how do they apply?

A: If a student has already used their extra year of support and needs a further year of funding, then they can apply for CPR. Students should follow the process and guidance about Compelling Personal Reasons on our practitioners website.

If a student needs an additional year of funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should submit a Repetition CoC. Make sure to include a note to say that the repetition is due to the pandemic. The student will then not need to provide any additional information or evidence.

If the circumstances of the student applying for CPR are not related to the pandemic, the usual process will follow. They will need to provide evidence to support their application.

Q4: A student is undertaking study abroad in AY 2020/21, but doing it from home in the UK initially. How will you calculate their funding?

A: We will assess students for the applicable UK-based maintenance loan rate if they:

  • intend to study abroad later in the academic year
  • are staying in the UK for term 1 and undertaking study with their home university or college

The loan rate they can get depends on their situation for the majority of the term. In the case of an equal split, the student will get the more generous loan rate. This is current policy.

If they then travel abroad later in the academic year (including travel in the latter half of term 1) they will receive abroad rates in terms 2 and 3.

If the duration of study at the home university or college is 10 weeks or more in the academic year, the fees will not be capped at the abroad year rate of £1385. You can request a fee up to £9250.

You can find further placement questions in the Placement chapter of this FAQ.

Communication with students

Q1: What are you telling students?

A: You can find our latest guidance on the GOV.UK website. We are developing and maintaining parallel FAQs. We 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 (EA) in Northern Ireland
  • the 4 education departments of the UK
  • sector representatives on our stakeholder advisory groups

Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

The information in this section is meant to answer questions from our stakeholders about operational queries for:

  • Student Finance England (SFE)
  • Student Finance Wales (SFW)

We will use Student Loans Company (SLC) to mean both SFE and SFW here. We will make it clear if there are any distinctions between their approaches.

This information is not meant to give you advice or instruction on how you should be responding to the current situation. These arrangements are exceptional and are subject to change.

Applications

Q1: Can you make any adjustments for students who cannot get their university or college to complete section 5 of the full DSA application?

A: Yes. We understand that our customers are unlikely to get their university or college to complete this section during this time. We will be able to accept an email from the university or college instead of a signed and stamped section 5. The email must come from a university or college address. It must confirm the following:

  • academic year
  • course name
  • course start date
  • course end date
  • year of study (for example, year 2 of 3)
  • mode of study (full-time or part-time)
  • intensity of study (for example, 50% of full-time equivalent – we must have this information for part-time students)
  • level of study (undergraduate or postgraduate)

Section 5 information is only a requirement for students who are applying for:

  • DSA only on undergraduate courses
  • part-time or postgraduate courses

Q2: Can you adjust the requirements for students who need to sign their DSA application?

A: We can accept scanned copies of application forms which have had a wet signature. We can also accept digital or electronic signatures. This means that the student has been able to sign their application using a digital method. For example, they may have used the digital signature features within the PDF or signed using a tablet or touch screen.

Full-time undergraduate students, making their first application for DSA, can apply alongside their online application for tuition fee and maintenance support. This means that they can 'sign' for their DSA application online and do not need to print anything.

Q3: What adjustments can you make to the medical evidence requirements?

A: A student who wants to apply for DSA must submit medical or diagnostic evidence. This will let us determine their eligibility for DSA. Evidence can be in the form of:

  • a diagnostic assessment (for students with a specific learning difficulty)
  • medical evidence from a GP or consultant
  • medical evidence from another qualified medical practitioner or appropriate specialist

Evidence should state the nature of the student’s disability. It must also briefly explain how the disability affects the student.

We understand that students may be experiencing difficulties or delays in getting new evidence in support of their applications. In these cases we would encourage students to apply now and provide any evidence they already have. Our team can then review this in full and try to establish their eligibility for DSA support.

Q4: Will you accept remote Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) assessments as evidence to support DSA applications?

A: The specific details for Student Finance England and Student Finance Wales are outlined in student support notices:

You should follow the guidelines from the SpLD Assessment Standards Committee (SASC) about the requirements for evaluations of need and diagnostic assessments which are carried out remotely.

Needs assessments

Q1: Can needs assessments be carried out remotely?

A: Yes, needs assessments can be carried out remotely. There is no need to seek prior authorisation from us. The location of the assessment on the NAR template can be recorded as 'Remote Assessment' or similar.

As long as the government advises social distancing, we will continue to allow remote needs assessments without the need to seek prior approval on a student by student basis. If this approach changes, we will communicate this in advance.

Q2: What if a student wants a face-to-face assessment? 

A: If the student is not comfortable with a remote assessment, they do not need to have one. If they want a face-to-face assessment but the centre they've selected cannot offer one, the centre should ask them to choose another centre. Students can do this using the online postcode search on GOV.UK.

It  is not appropriate for the company to refer a student to another centre themselves. It would not be appropriate for us to advise whether individual companies can conduct face-to-face  assessments in line with government policy on COVID-19. To be clear, it is not acceptable for the selected centre to insist that the student has a remote assessment. It is also not acceptable to insist they wait until that company can offer a face-to-face assessment.

Q3: What steps are you taking to ensure that students know they can have a remote needs assessment?

A: We have updated the content of our letters which ask students to book their needs assessments. The letters now explain that a remote assessment is an option during this period.

We regularly send reminders to students who have been made eligible for DSA but who have not yet had a needs assessment. We have updated the content of the reminders to include the option to have a remote assessment.

Q4: Can needs assessments be carried out by email?

A: We do not think it is possible to provide an effective needs assessment by email. It is acceptable to carry out assessments by video call or, if that's not possible, over the phone.

Q5: Can ergonomic assessments be carried out remotely?

A: We do not believe it is possible to carry out an effective ergonomic assessment wholly by remote means. 

Sometimes a supplier may believe they can perform an effective assessment by combining remote and on-site evaluation. If this is the case, these assessments can take place and will be acceptable for DSA purposes.

It is for individual companies to ensure they are undertaking ergonomic assessments in a COVID-secure manner in line with government guidance. It would not be appropriate for us to  provide guidance on this matter. 

Q6: Can needs assessments be sent without PGP encryption?

A: No. It would not be best practice to remove processes which help satisfy GDPR requirements.

If assessment centre staff are moving to working from home, they would need to have PGP software installed on their machines so this process can continue.

If you need a copy of the Student Finance England (SFE) or Student Finance Wales (SFW) Needs Assessment PGP Key, please email dsa_requests@slc.co.uk.

If a centre is struggling to set up PGP for home workers, we can support in getting this set up.

Non-medical help

Q1: How will you deal with cancelled sessions of non-medical help?

A: The usual policy for cancelled sessions of non-medical help will continue to apply. You can find more information in:

The standard policy will continue to apply for cases where remote sessions have to be abandoned because of technical issues. Remote sessions of non-medical help support were carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no need for a change in approach.

Q2: Can non-medical help sessions be delivered remotely?

A: Yes, sessions can be provided remotely if this is appropriate. It is for a provider and their customer to decide whether this approach works for them. The provider must be confident that they can deliver effective support by remote means. The student must confirm that they are content with remote support.

We would generally not expect non-medical help sessions to be taking place if teaching on the student's course is suspended.

Any remote sessions of non-medical help should be charged at the provider's remote hourly rate.

To clarify, it is appropriate for students to continue receiving non-medical help if they are still engaged on their course, for example if teaching is being delivered remotely. The reference to suspensions above means cases where the university or college has chosen to formally suspend all teaching and activity on the course.

Q3: What steps are you taking to ensure that students know remote non-medical help is available?

A: The delivery of remote non-medical help is not a change due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have updated the content of our correspondence. This now highlights that this is an option for students if they want to have support delivered in this way.

Q4: Can non-medical help be carried out by email?

A: We do not think that it is possible to provide effective support by email. It is acceptable to provide non-medical help sessions by video call or over the phone.

We understand a phone call may not be an appropriate way of receiving one-to-one support for some students. In these cases, a service such as Text-Relay can be used.

Q5: How does a provider get confirmation of support delivered remotely?

A: If it is not possible to get a wet signature from a customer, we will be able to accept email confirmation from a student’s registered email address. Along with the invoice, the provider should submit:

  • their standard timesheet (signed by the support worker)
  • an email from the student’s registered email address confirming that the session took place

This will let us process the invoice first time without needing to ask for additional information.

A student’s 'registered email address' is the one they use to sign into their online student finance account. We prefer any responses or confirmations from the student to come from this address. However, we have been made aware that this might not always be possible. In these cases, we can look at accepting a confirmation from a university or college registered account. If a student’s university or college email address does not contain their name (for example, 1234@universityoflife.ac.uk), they should confirm this in the email body.

We still need a timesheet every time the student emails a confirmation of support.

If you need more information about acceptable forms of digital signatures, please email dsa_electronic_queries@slc.co.uk.

Q6: If a support worker cannot sign a timesheet, how can they confirm that a remote session of support has taken place?

A: If at all possible, support workers should continue to sign timesheets to confirm that support has taken place. We can also accept digital or electronic signatures. This means that the support worker has signed using a digital method. For example, they may have used the digital signature features within the PDF or signed using a tablet or touch screen.

If you need more information about acceptable forms of digital signatures, please email dsa_electronic_queries@slc.co.uk.

Q7: Will you authorise additional sessions of non-medical help support to help students deal with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health?

A: No. The role of a mental health mentor is quite different from that of mental health advisers or counsellors. It is intended solely to help students with mental health issues to build strategies to access their learning. Students who need therapeutic or medical support, advice or guidance should be referred to their university or college or the NHS as appropriate.

Mental health advice and counselling does not fall under the remit of DSA. Specialist mentors should not be providing advice or counselling. However, we recognise that the current situation is affecting students' ability to undertake their studies in the manner they would normally have done. If necessary, requests for additional specialist mentor support should be made in the usual way.

Q8: A student needs additional hours of non-medical help support in this academic year. Will the normal process of the assessor providing the recommendation to you still apply?

A: Yes. In line with established processes, the student and their needs assessor should discuss any additional hours of support. The assessor should then make a recommendation to us.

It is not appropriate to award additional hours of non-medical help to every student as a matter of course. We know that the average uptake of non-medical help support is around 20% of the agreed amount of support. We thus expect that the hours already agreed will meet any additional need for most students during this period.

We will review any requests for additional hours on a case by case basis. We will of course consider any issues the COVID-19 pandemic presents.

We do not believe that it is necessary or appropriate to change established processes to allow non-medical help providers to request additional hours of support themselves. Providers should ask students to engage their needs assessors in good time. This will allow them to make any additional recommendations and us to review these before students use their full agreement of hours.

Providers

Q1: Does a provider need to tell you if they cannot deliver a service to a student? For example, this could be equipment delivery or a session of non-medical help.

A: We expect providers to continue to communicate effectively with their customers during this period.

Sometimes a provider cannot support a student and the student does not want to wait until the situation changes. In this case, the provider should ask the student to contact their needs assessor. We would expect the assessor to make every effort to get updated quotes from providers who can meet the student’s needs. We will review any requests to change provider in line with current processes.

If a provider cannot accept new students, they need to tell us about this. We can then temporarily remove them from the online list. We'll list them again once the situation changes.

Q2: Can providers submit invoices to you by email?

A: At the beginning of April 2020, Student Finance England made arrangements to accept invoices by email. You can find full instructions in the Provider invoices via email section of this chapter. Suppliers can continue to submit invoices by email and we will tell the sector in advance about any changes to this.

Invoices and supporting documents sent by email must be clear and legible. If they are not, we will need to ask for additional copies.

Each email must only contain invoices, timesheets and additional documentation for one student. You must not include information for multiple students in one email.

We cannot accept photographs of documents which are then converted to PDF format, as the file size is too large.

Student Finance England has an electronic invoice system in place for secure transfer of invoices by API. However, the sender will need to build their own secure front end to link to this system. If you need more information about this system, please email dsa_electronic_queries@slc.co.uk.

Q3: Can you send invoice remittances by email instead of on paper?

A: We cannot issue remittances electronically at this time. We are unable to provide data to providers who cannot access their paper remittances.

Q4: I am a taxi provider. Can I continue to invoice for journeys that the student would have taken if they had been studying at their university or college?

A: The purpose of DSA funding is to help cover additional costs a student has as a result of their disability. If the student is not attending their university or college, then there is no additional cost. We cannot pay taxi companies for journeys that have not taken place. When accounts are set up with taxi companies, there is no guarantee of the amount of journeys.

Q5: As a provider of DSA support, am I entitled to claim supplier relief as outlined in Procurement Policy Note 02/20 (PPN 02/20)?

A: We do not have contractual agreements in place, so PPN 02/20 does not apply to the payment of DSA funding. We have confirmed this with the Department of Education and the Welsh Government. We would like to reassure providers that the payment of invoices on behalf of our customers is a core service. We will process payments as quickly as possible to support providers in the current challenging circumstances.

Other

Q1: Will you give us information to share with students about the current arrangements? 

A: We feel that it is more appropriate for universities and colleges to develop their own communications for their students. This will let you reflect any bespoke arrangements you have in place. You can of course use the messages in our FAQ to inform your own communications.

Q2: How will you deal with course extensions? 

A: The below gives information on how we will deal with course extension scenarios. These approaches are in line with the regulatory framework. We are not able to apply discretion in this matter.

Course extension is within the academic year (not a final year student)

In these cases we can pay for DSA support that is taken within the academic year. We do not need confirmation from you for each student. 

Course extension is outside the academic year (not a final year student)

We will continue to pay invoices as normal if: 

  • you are allowing extensions past the end of the standard academic year
  • the student is not in their final year 
  • we have received and accepted an application for AY 2020/21 

The date of the support will determine which year to make the payment from according to normal processes.

Course extension is within the academic year but after the course end date (final year student)

We need evidence of the new end date from the student's university or college. We will need this for each customer. This can come directly from the university or college, or via the non-medical help supplier or the student. We will pay invoices up to the new end date.

Course extension is outside the academic year (final year student)

If a final year student in AY 2019/20 has their course extended into AY 2020/21, the student must:
  • be enrolled for AY 2020/21
  • have had an application for DSA support in 2020/21 accepted by us

If this applies, they can receive DSA support.

Providers should confirm course end dates with the student. These should not be requested from us.

Q3: Will you be telling providers about any suspended courses?

A: No, it has never been our practice to tell providers about suspended courses and we cannot introduce it. In line with established procedures, providers should be speaking to their customers. If they are told that a student’s course has been suspended, they should stop providing support.

Q4: How do students who are at the end of their course get support in place quickly? 

A: We have a late application process. Under this, a student’s disability adviser can make recommendations for non-medical help and general allowance. They can do this without the need for the student to have a full needs assessment. This process is available to any student who has less than 14 weeks left on their course and has not yet had a needs assessment.

Q6: When should providers of needs assessments, non-medical help and equipment start working with students face to face? 

A: It is for individual companies to ensure they are undertaking assessments in a COVID-secure manner in line with government guidance. It would not be appropriate for us to provide guidance about this.

Provider invoices by email

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Student Finance England (SFE) has been able to make arrangements for providers to send invoices by email.

The process described here is solely for invoices submitted to SFE. Processes for Student Finance Wales (SFW) remain as usual.

SFW can accept invoices by email. You should send invoices for students funded by SFW to sfw_invoice_team@slc.co.uk.

When you email invoices to SFE, keep in mind that:

  • the content of emails will not be read or responded to – if you have any questions, you should continue to send these to invoice_team@slc.co.uk

  • you must attach invoices and timesheets to the email in PDF format – we cannot accept any other formats

  • attachments must not be password protected – if you cannot send documents without passwords, you will not be able to submit invoices by email

  • we prefer the invoice, timesheet and supporting information to be in the same PDF and attached as one file; if this is not possible, you should include them with the same email as separate PDF attachments

  • you should only include one invoice and corresponding evidence (timesheet) in each email

  • as with the current process, invoices should only contain information for one student

  • the subject of the email should be the student’s customer reference number (CRN) and your invoice number or reference; if you do not have the student’s CRN you should include their surname and date of birth

You should send new invoices to the inbox set up for this specific task: dsa_submit_invoice@slc.co.uk.

You should continue to send amended invoices and responses to invoice queries to invoice_team@slc.co.uk.

Placement

Q1: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our placements will not take place this year. What do we need to do with our courses? What should we do with students who have already applied for the placement year?

A: If you have a course set up with a placement year, but none of your students will be going on a placement in AY 2020/21, you will need to update your course on the Courses Management Service (CMS).

You should increase the course fee to your normal full-year rate. This will allow students to access the full funding available on a non-placement year. CMS will not let you remove the placement attribute once you have saved your course, but this does not affect this task.

You should then submit a Fee Change of Circumstance (CoC). This should include the details of the change to a non-placement academic year fee. It should also show that the student is currently studying at university. It is very important that you include these details so we can reassess each student on the correct fee limit and living cost entitlement.

Any students who have not yet applied for funding will be automatically assessed at the correct fee rate.

Upon course rollover for next year, you will need to amend the course fees on the placement year again so that we can correctly assess students in AY 2021/22.

Once you have updated your fees and completed your Fee CoCs, you should tell your HEP account manager. This will help us to carry out reassessments.

We expect the situation to change in the coming year. You should only make the change to increase support when you are certain that a student’s placement is not going ahead. If the student’s situation changes and they end up going on a part-year placement later, you should submit a further Fee CoC to tell us about the details. This will help us to make any reassessments if they are needed.

You should not transfer students off the placement variation of the course, even if you expect them to complete at the end of AY 2020/21.  This will prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from affecting standard entitlement. 

Q2: We are looking at deferring this year’s placements until next year. Do we need to update our courses on CMS? What does this mean for students who have already applied?

A: If you have a course set up with a placement year, but are deferring the placement to next year, you will need to update your course information on CMS. You should increase the course fee to your normal full-year rate. This will allow students to access the full funding available on a non-placement year.

You should then submit a Fee CoC. This should include the details of the change to a non-placement academic year fee. It should also show that the student is currently studying at university. It is very important that you include these details so we can reassess each student on the correct fee limit and living cost entitlement.

Any students who have not yet applied for funding will be automatically assessed at the correct fee rate.

Upon course rollover for next year, you will need to amend the course fees on the placement year again so that we can correctly assess students in AY 2021/22.

In AY 2021/22, you may have students entering a year that is not normally the placement year (typically year 4) who want to undertake the placement year. You should tell these students to apply indicating they intend to undertake a placement. You should then follow up by submitting a Fee CoC. This will allow them to access the reduced rate of loan while on placement. This will also ensure minimal disruption to students who are not going on placement.

Once you have updated your fees and completed your Fee CoCs, you should tell your HEP account manager. This will help us to carry out reassessments.

We expect the situation to change in the coming year. You should only make the change to increase support when you are certain that a student’s placement is not going ahead. If the student’s situation changes and they end up going on a part-year placement later, you should submit a further Fee CoC to tell us about the details. This will help us to make any reassessments if they are needed.

You should not transfer students off the placement variation of the course, even if you expect them to complete at the end of AY 2020/21. This will prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from affecting standard entitlement.

Q3: Some of our students cannot go on their placement year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some students can still continue with their placement as planned. What do we need to do with the students who are not going on placement to ensure they receive they correct level of funding?

A: If some of your students are going on placement but others are not, you will need to update your course on CMS. You should increase the course fee to your normal full-year rate. You will need to submit Fee CoCs to show the correct status for each student in AY 2020/21. It is important that you provide details of the change in the notes section. This is so we can reassess students at the correct rate.

Upon course rollover for next year, you will need to amend the course fees back down on the placement year. This will let us correctly assess students in AY 2021/22. If you have some students who will undertake their placement in year 4 and others who will continue on campus, you should complete this exercise again and submit Fee CoCs. This will let us correctly assess students who will be undertaking a placement year.

Once you have updated your fees and completed your Fee CoCs, you should tell your HEP account manager. This will help us to carry out reassessments.

We expect the situation to change in the coming year. You should only make the change to increase support when you are certain that a student’s placement is not going ahead. If the student’s situation changes and they end up going on a part-year placement later, you should submit a further Fee CoC to tell us about the details. This will help us to make any reassessments if they are needed.

If you already know that the placement will take place in a different term in the same academic year, you should amend your course fee details and submit Fee CoCs. These should detail when students will be on placement so we can correctly reassess them.

You should not transfer students off the placement variation of the course, even if you expect them to complete at the end of AY 2020/21. This will prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from affecting standard entitlement.

SSIN 06/20 – AY 2020/21 funding arrangements for students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

You should view these questions together with Student Support Information Note (SSIN) 06/20. They cover all English and Welsh students.

Q1: Do we need to make changes to a student’s account if they are unwell due to COVID-19 in AY 2020/21?

A: If the student is unwell and cannot engage with their course, we would not expect you to submit a Suspension CoC until 60 days after they stop engaging. We are aware some providers are planning to provide a mix of attendance and online learning. If the student can engage with teaching remotely, they do not need a Suspension CoC.

Q2: Will students be eligible for further support if they are shielding due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: If the student is shielding and cannot engage with their course, we will first consider this under the 60 days' additional support for health reasons. If the student’s circumstances mean they exceed this existing allowance, we will decide on a case by case basis if we can grant further support.

We know that some providers plan to provide a mix of attendance and online teaching. We expect that shielding students can still engage with the course online. This would not be a suspension, so as such we do not need you to submit a Suspension CoC.

Q3: If students are studying online at the start of AY 2020/21, what funding are they eligible for?

A: If a student is on a course which would ordinarily need attendance, but will be studying online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will count them as in attendance for the purposes of student finance. This means that the usual attendance and registration procedures apply and we will pay students as normal. We would not expect you to make any changes to your course details.

Courses ordinarily delivered via distance learning should remain this way on the Courses Management Service (CMS).

Q4: We have students who planned to study abroad in AY 2020/21. Now they are studying online with their overseas provider. What options are available to them?

A: Students who would have been taking a year abroad in AY 2020/21 will continue to be deemed in attendance. They qualify for support if they are living in the UK and studying online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the overseas provider organises the online study and the students are studying full time at the home provider for less than 10 weeks, then the 15% fee cap will apply. However, students will not qualify for the increased overseas rate of maintenance loan while they are studying online from the UK. They must travel overseas to receive this rate.

It is important that you tell us when a student is studying online with an overseas provider (and for which periods). This will let us reassess them for both maintenance and tuition fees so they are getting the correct funding. The Department for Education (DfE) has released Student Support Information Note (SSIN) 06/20. This advises you to use discretion when charging the full year fee for students who fall just outside the 10 week limit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q5: We have students who were due to travel abroad in AY 2020/21. The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed this. What support are they eligible for?

A: Students who were due to travel but need to delay this due to the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for normal funding. We need you to keep us informed of their study patterns and when they will be in the UK and abroad. This will let us assess them at the correct rates if they move abroad to complete their studies.

Q6: We have EU students who are due to start with us in September. They are unable to be in the UK at the start of the academic year. Do they still meet the residency requirements?

A: Students who cannot reside in the UK or EU on the dates relevant to establishing eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic are considered 'temporarily absent'. They will be eligible for funding if they meet all other eligibility criteria.

We would encourage students to return to the UK (or EU if studying overseas) as soon as it is safe and practical.

Q7: We have distance learning students who have returned to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Are they still eligible for support?

A: These students are still eligible for funding if they cannot reside in (or return to) the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They must otherwise meet the requirements for funding, but we consider this period of study to be in the UK.

Also, if students cannot start their distance learning course in the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they will be able to do so from their home country.

In both circumstances, we would encourage students to return to the UK as soon as this is safe and practical.

Q8: Do students need to tell you if their term time address has changed and they are currently residing in their parental home?

A: Guidance on term time addresses has changed. For specific information on the changes, please see:

We will add further information on any changes when we have this.

Q9: We have postgraduate EU students who do not have a UK bank account. Can you still pay them?

A: Our systems do not allow for payments into international bank accounts. We cannot make these payments until the students set up UK bank accounts.

Q10: EU students who cannot travel to the UK in AY 2020/21 may need to study online. This means they will not be able to set up UK bank accounts. Can the Bursary Administration Service (BAS) pay bursaries into EU bank accounts?

A: We cannot make bursary payments to non-UK bank accounts. Whilst all returning students should have a UK account, first-year students may not have this option. In this case, you would need to pay the student any bursary directly.

Migrant workers

Q1: If a student’s situation has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, are they still eligible for support as a migrant worker?

A: EEA national workers or self-employed persons may keep that status while they're temporarily unable to work due to illness or accident. If they were unable to work because they were ill with coronavirus, they should provide medical evidence. For example, this can be a letter from a doctor.

This also includes job loss specifically because of coronavirus restrictions. This applies even if they were not ill with coronavirus themselves. They should provide evidence confirming the reasons for their involuntary unemployment. For example, this can be a letter from their employer. We will not need evidence that they're registered with a Jobcentre Plus and actively seeking work.

If the job loss is not related to coronavirus, they must refer to the 'Retaining worker or self-employed person status' section on pages 23 to 26 of the EEA nationals qualified persons guidance.

Travel grant queries

Q1: Some governments are imposing mandatory quarantine. Are these costs considered under the travel grant?

A: No, mandatory quarantine costs imposed by the local government cannot be covered under the travel grant.

Q2: Can the cost of COVID-19 testing on entry or, in some cases, exit from a country be paid for under the travel grant?

A: Yes, mandatory COVID-19 testing on entry and exit can be paid for under the travel grant.

Miscellaneous

Q1: What are your operating hours and contact methods?

A: The latest information on our opening hours for students is available on GOV.UK.

You can also contact our Partners Support Desk by telephone. The practitioner helpline is open Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm. All other lines are open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm.

Q2: Should we still mail documents to you?

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

Q3: What address should students use when they apply for funding for the next academic year?

A: You need to confirm to your students as soon as possible whether they will be starting the academic year on campus or not. You should then advise them accordingly whether to apply with a home or campus address.

FAQ specific to AY 2019/20

Q1: 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. You do not need to submit any Change of Circumstance notifications (CoCs) for changes in intensity or mode of study.

Q2: Do we need to tell you about 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 the COVID-19 pandemic. But if you are planning significant restructures, please contact your HEP account manager.

Q3: Do I need to amend my course details on the Courses Management Service (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. This will make your students eligible for long course loans. You will need to tell our Partners Support Desk about these changes. Students are entitled to additional funding per week up the maximum of 45 weeks, where they 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. Please do not submit any changes if this is the case.

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

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

You do not need to tell us if you want to make changes to your current term dates, but it does not affect the Long Course Loan duration. We will pay your students in line with the original term dates you have entered on CMS. This process will reduce the number of reassessments.

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

Q4: Where term dates are shortened, will you claw back maintenance entitlement 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 actively seek recovery of overpayments. 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.

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 are expected to complete in August but fail, they will be entitled to resits and these would be in October.

A: You cannot make changes to courses on an individual student level. You will need to do this at course level.

If you extend a course beyond 30 weeks and 3 days to allow for additional teaching weeks, you will need to tell us in advance. This change will trigger a reassessment and students will be eligible for long course loans.

If the extension is only to allow students to resit final exams, then this is not deemed as funded study. You should not make any changes to the course.

Q6: Some of our students have returned home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Will you reassess them from elsewhere rate to home rate?

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

Q7: Some students are having childcare issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will therefore need an extension to complete an AY 2019/20 course. 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.

Q8: Will you be providing special dispensation for students who are on the Erasmus+ scheme, or 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 rest of AY 2019/20. Students will also continue to receive scheduled payments of loans towards their living costs for AY 2019/20. Both tuition and living costs payments will continue irrespective of whether providers have made alternative arrangements for teaching.

Q9: 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.