Version 1.0 - Last Updated: 16 Feb 2021

Questions from higher education providers

FAQ specific to AY 2020/21


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: 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.

Q9: 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.

Q10: 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.

From July 2021, you or your students will need to give us evidence to support any Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR) application. We will revert back to the business as usual process. We will therefore need evidence and will review each application on a case by case basis.

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.

Q12: 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.

Q13: 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. 

Q14: 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.

Q15: 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.