Version 1.0 - Last Updated: 16 Feb 2021

Our COVID-19 questions and answers for higher education providers

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.

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