England COVID-19 fee status and student finance arrangements

06 August 2020

On 27 July 2020, Student Finance England (SFE) published welcome guidance outlining 2020/21 funding arrangements specifically for students impacted by Covid-19.

The guidance is aimed at both new and continuing further education and higher education students, and sets out helpful provisions for “Student Finance administrators and practitioners in institutions of [HE], [FE] or specialist colleges providing HE”. The guidance states:

“The Government has agreed […] measures […] for new and continuing, undergraduate and postgraduate students who are prevented from attending their courses on-site due to Covid-19 in the 2020/21 academic year from 1 August 2020 onwards. We will continue to monitor the situation.”

UKCISA had sought concessions from England's Department for Education (DfE), following concerns around the impact of coronavirus on students’ abilities to attend courses in person or even to be physically present in England or the UK. The guidance provides reassurance for those students.

The new guidance makes clear that designated courses which normally require attendance on-site, but which are moving fully or partially online due to Covid-19, will still attract the full package of tuition fee and living cost support in 2020/21. Students on these courses will be considered to be attending and entitled to apply for the full package of support, provided they continue to engage with their institution.

UKCISA had also asked DfE if it would consider waiving the requirement in the fees and Student Support regulations for a student to be ‘ordinarily resident on the first day of an academic year’. This date is 1 September 2020, for everyone starting the 2020/21 academic year this autumn. We were concerned about students who had already been in the UK but who may have left the UK prior to or during lockdown, as well as students who have never yet travelled to the UK. Reassuringly, the guidance provides the following:

“where eligible students are prevented, due to Covid-19, from residing in England/UK whilst studying on a designated course they will be considered to be temporarily absent and, therefore, resident here. This will allow them to access financial student support and qualify for home fee status. This includes students who have never resided in England/UK but whose travel here to undertake a designated course of study in 2020/21 has been disrupted due to Covid-19. This applies to further education, undergraduate and postgraduate courses.”

Read SSIN 06 Funding Arrangements for Students Impacted by COVID-19. It can also be downloaded from www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/policy/ (select ‘2020/21 Student Support Information Notes’).

A contact at the DfE has also confirmed to us that the Student Loans Company will be adding guidance specifically aimed at students at the following two pages: