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Students with Dependants

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Printer Version


APPLYING FOR FINANCIAL SUPPORT

(Q)   My family are moving house and won't be living in my current Student Finance area. Where do I apply?

You should apply to Student Finance where you are living at the time of the initial application. That office retains responsibility for assessing your support for the duration of your course.

(Q)   I do not want a loan. Should I still apply?

Yes. Your institution may wish to see confirmation that you have been regarded as an eligible student. Also your circumstances may change during your course and it will be easier to apply for a loan if you have completed all the necessary forms at the start of your course.

(Q)   Do I have to complete a new form for each academic year?

Yes. The Regulations state that your entitlement must be assessed using the income for the previous financial year. For each new academic year that you attend your entitlement must be assessed using income for the previous financial year which will be different each time.

(Q)   I have returned my completed forms to Student Finance but have not had information back.

It will take at least six weeks from the receipt of your correctly completed form until you receive details of the support due to you. If you submit your forms after the closing dates, or if you do not supply all the information requested, it will take more than six weeks to process your support.

(Q)   My parental income is going to drop because of retirement/redundancy or a change in my parents’ financial circumstances.

You can request to have your support assessed on a ‘Prior Year Tax’ basis. Your parents will need to supply details of their income for the period 6 April 2011 to 5 April 2012. If their income since that has fallen by more than 5%, we can reassess your entitlement on the lower income. You need to advise us of the change in circumstances and request a reassessment. We will then advise you further.

(Q)   My parents refuse to fill in the form/can’t afford to pay their contribution. Will I get any support?

If your parents refuse to fully complete the forms, you will only be eligible for the non-means tested loan and the Tuition fee loan unless you qualify as an Independent Student – please contact the Customer Support Office.

(Q)   I do not live with my parents. Will my student support be assessed on their income?

Normally yes, unless you can provide proof of independent student status. Please contact the Customer Support Office for advice.

(Q)   Are there any cut-off dates for returning forms after which I may not receive anything?

Yes. The initial application should be received no later than nine months after the start of your course. You may not be eligible for support for this academic year if you apply later than nine months after the start of your course, i.e. after 31st May 2014 for courses starting in September/October 2013.

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DISABLED STUDENTS’ ALLOWANCE

(Q)   What are Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)?

DSAs help with the extra costs you have as a result of studying your course and as a direct result of your disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty.

The following help is available:

  • A specialist equipment allowance of up to £5,266 for the whole course
  • A non-medical helper’s allowance of up to £20,938 each year
  • A general disabled students’ allowance of up to £1,759 each year
  • Extra travel costs you have to pay to attend your university or college course as a result of your disability

(Q)   Do I have to provide evidence of a disability?

If you are physically disabled, or have mental health difficulties, you will need to provide medical proof of your condition, such as a letter from your doctor or an appropriate specialist. If you have a specific learning difficulty (for example, dyslexia), you will need to provide evidence of this in the form of an assessment, sometimes called a diagnostic assessment, from a psychologist or suitable qualified specialist teacher.

Medical evidence should state the nature of your disability and include a brief explanation of how it will affect your ability to follow your chosen course

(Q)   Is there a specific contact in Student Finance who can offer advice to students with disabilities?

Yes, the contact for students living in the area covered by the Southern Education & Library Board is:

Mrs Janet McNally
DSA Officer
Student Finance ni
The Southern Education & Library Board
3 Charlemont Place
The Mall
Armagh
BT61 9AX

(Q)   How do I apply?

  1. If you are entering higher education for the first time in 2013/14 and are applying for financial support, you will find that the application form asks if you wish to apply for DSAs. If you indicate ‘yes’ an additional form (DSA1) will be issued to you once your application for eligibility has been approved.
  2. Make an appointment with the Disability Officer/Learning Support Co-ordinator at your Institution who will arrange for a Needs Assessment to be carried out to determine what help and support you require. You will need to provide evidence of your disability or learning difficulty e.g., medical certificate or psychologists report before doing so.
  3. On receipt of the Needs Assessment Student Finance NI will inform you of the support it has approved and the procedure for purchasing equipment and making payments.

(Q)   Am I eligible?

Full-time and part-time undergraduate students:

You are eligible to apply for DSAs if:

  • you are studying an eligible full-time undergraduate course (including a distance learning course) and you are personally eligible for financial support for that course; or
  • you are studying an eligible part-time undergraduate course, (including a distance learning course) and are personally eligible for part-time support. (A part-time course would have to last for at least one year and must not take more than twice as long to complete as an equivalent full-time course).

You are not eligible for DSAs if:

  • you are an EU student and are eligible only for support with your fees; or
  • you are a sandwich-course student on a full-year paid placement; or a sandwich course in which periods of full time study are in aggregate less than 10 weeks; or
  • you are not in attendance i.e. exam only student.

(Q)   What is a Needs Assessment?

This is an assessment which will identify your particular needs for your proposed course of study. A needs assessment will be carried out by a person with specialist experience at an independent assessment centre, or at a centre within your Institution. You or the Disability Adviser should contact Student Finance NI to confirm agreement to meet the costs of the Needs Assessment.

(Q)   How soon can I have a Needs Assessment carried out?

Once Student Finance NI has established your eligibility for student support and you have provided supporting evidence of your disability or specific learning difficulty from an appropriate specialist, a Needs Assessment can be arranged well before the start of your course.

(Q)   Can I obtain help if my disability is identified after I start my course?

Yes, you can apply for DSA at any stage of your course.

(Q)   Do DSAs depend on my income?

No, DSAs do not depend on your income or the income of your family.

(Q)   Can I receive equipment before my course starts?

Yes, it is important that you contact your Institution in order to have a Needs Assessment carried out as early as possible. Payments will not be released until Student Finance NI receives official confirmation that you have accepted a definite offer of a place.

(Q)   If I am not registered disabled am I still entitled to DSA funding?

Yes, you will be able to apply for DSA funding even though you are not registered disabled.

(Q)   Will I have to repay my DSAs if I leave my course early?

Possibly. The Student Loans Company may have to recover some or all of your DSAs if you withdraw from your course. They will only ask you to return money you have received for support that you have not yet used or equipment which you have not purchased.

(Q)   What if I transfer to another course and need different equipment?

Once you have received the maximum special equipment allowance from the Student Loans Company, you cannot receive any further equipment allowance, although you may be able to top it up from the general allowance on your new course. If you have not used up all your special equipment allowance, the remaining amount will be available for your second course if you need it. You will still be eligible for the non-medical help, general allowances and travel costs if applicable for your new course.

(Q)   What should I do if my application is turned down or I am not satisfied?

If you application is turned down by Student Finance NI ask for the reasons and if you don’t agree with the decision ask for a review of your case and information about the appeal/complaints procedure.

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PAID/UNPAID PLACEMENT YEAR/STUDY ABROAD

Please note that the support you receive may be affected by your placement or study abroad, depending on where it will take place and the length of time spent. You should contact Student Finance for further information.

(Q)   If I am on placement during the year, how will I receive my student loan?

If you provide bank details to the Student Loans Company, they will pay the loan directly into your bank account.

(Q)   I am going on paid placement this year, do I need to do anything different?

Yes, you must complete and return your form. Even though you are not attending your normal institution, you may be entitled to a reduced rate non means-tested loan subject to approval by Student Finance NI.

(Q)   I am on unpaid placement for the full academic year, do I need to do anything?

Yes, you must complete and return your form. Please ensure that details of your placement are provided as where you follow you placement may affect your entitlement.

(Q)   I am studying abroad during the next academic year, what should I do?

You must complete and return your form, with full details of your study abroad.

(Q)   I am spending a year on the Business Education Initiative, do I need to do anything?

Although you are not entitled to student support for this year you must advise Student Finance NI in writing to maintain accurate records of your study.

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PREVIOUS STUDY

(Q)   I have had several years’ leave of absence from my course and am going back to the next year in September. What do I do?

Obtain a PN1 form from Student Finance NI, and complete and return it with confirmation from your institution as to what year of study you will be following.

(Q)   I have failed a year/have withdrawn/was sick/need to repeat/want to change course. What support will I be due?

The general rule is that students will be eligible for support for the length of their course plus one year, less any years of previously supported study e.g. if you have failed year one of a three year course, you will be eligible for support for three years plus one. Therefore four years less one year = three years. This means you will still be eligible for support for three years, and so can repeat year one again with assistance. You should contact Student Finance NI in writing for precise information on what support will be due to you.

If you left your previous course before the end of the academic year, or did not attend for the whole year, then your entitlement will have to be revised, and it may affect the amount of future support you receive.

(Q)   I have taken a leave of absence during my course and want to return to University/College to continue with my studies. What should I do?

You should contact Student Finance NI for the relevant forms, and return them with a letter from your University/College stating that you are re-enrolling on your course.

(Q)   I have withdrawn from my course. What information do you need?

You must advise Student Finance NI and ask your institution to forward a Withdrawal Notification showing your last date of attendance. This will enable Student Finance NI to re-calculate your entitlement and to forward a revised notification of support. If you have received a loan and a maintenance grant, you may be overpaid and will need to make arrangements with the Student Loans Company to repay.

(Q)   What should I do if I change the course/college I originally applied for?

If you change your course/college before the academic year has started, you should contact Student Finance NI with your new details or download the ‘Change of Circumstances’ form on the Student Finance NI website. If you change your course/college after enrolment, please notify Student Finance NI in writing. Your institution also needs to inform Student Finance.

(Q)   What support is available if I commence a degree course after having completed an HND or similar level course?

Eligible students who attend an HND, Foundation degree or similar level course or who complete a part-time course and receive a qualification will normally be considered for a tuition fee loan and means-tested maintenance grant for the second and subsequent years of a degree course. If you commence a degree course at year one you will be eligible to receive only a means-tested maintenance loan for living costs during the first year of your degree course, and will not be entitled to any tuition fee support or maintenance grant / special support grant during that year. Payment of tuition fees for year 1 of the degree will be your responsibility.

Subject to successful academic progression and previous study rules, full support will normally be available for the second and subsequent years of your degree.

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GENERAL ENQUIRIES

(Q)   Does Student Finance NI fund postgraduate courses?

No.Some courses are funded by the Department for Employment and Learning, and some courses attract no support at all. You should contact your institution for further information.

(Q)   What is a Further Education award?

Further Education awards are available for some approved further education courses which do not attract support under the Student Support Regulations. There is only a limited amount of money available and if you apply late you may not receive any support. STUDENT FINANCE NI will be administering further education awards on behalf of the five Boards.

STUDENT FINANCE NI
FURTHER EDUCATION AWARDS SECTION
WESTERN EDUCATION AND LIBRARY BOARD

1 Hospital Road
Omagh
Co. Tyrone
BT79 0AW

Website: click here

The closing date for all full time applications is 30th August 2013 and the closing date for part-time applications is 30th September 2013.

(Q)   How can I be regarded as an independent student?

You are an independent student if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • You have care of a child or children on the first day of the academic year for which you are applying for support;
  • You are 25 or over before the start of the academic year for which you are applying;
  • You have been married or entered into a civil partnership before the start of the academic year for which you are applying for support;
  • You have supported yourself for at least three years before the start of the academic year of your course;
  • You have no living parents;
  • You are permanently estranged from your parents.

Check your forms for further information, or contact Student Finance NI for advice.

(Q)   Can I receive support for the whole of an Architecture course?

Provided you are an eligible student, you can receive support for the undergraduate degree. After this has been completed you will be required to spend one year on a placement in an Architect’s office (or similar area of work), and you can apply for reduced fee and maintenance loans. After the placement year you will be required to complete the RIBA part II exemption course (BArch) and will also receive support for this course (provided you have successfully completed the undergraduate degree and placement year).

If you take more than one year out between Parts I and II you would be required to inform your institution and Student Finance ni so that your support can be suspended until you return to study. We cannot offer you support for the additional years; however, we will still regard you as not having had a break in study and will be able to offer you support for the postgraduate diploma (RIBA part II).

If you do not inform your institution or Student Finance ni that you have suspended your studies or that you intend to return at an agreed date to complete RIBA part II, you will be regarded as having withdrawn from your course. This means that you will not be eligible for a Tuition fee loan or a means-tested Maintenance grant for your part II studies, although you may be eligible for a Maintenance loan.

(Q)   What funding is available for full-time courses in the Republic of Ireland?

From 2013, students commencing full-time courses at publicly funded institutions in the Republic of Ireland will be eligible to apply for a means-tested Maintenance Grant or Special Support Grant of £3475 instead of the Higher Education bursary.

Students are not charged Tuition fees. From 2013, new students will not have their Registration fees of €2500 paid by the Board but will be eligible to apply for a Student Contribution loan to cover this charge. Continuing students will be eligible for their original package of support until they complete their studies.

(Q)   Can students from the EU apply for any support?

If you are an EU national (that is, a national of a member state of the European Union) or the child of an EU national your application for financial support will be dealt with by the Student Loans Company in England.

The address is:

Student Finance Services European Team
PO Box 89
DARLINGTON
Co Durham DL1 9AZ

Phone: 0141 243 3570 (10am to 4pm)

(Q)   Can I apply for assistance with a part-time course?

Yes, if you are studying an undergraduate course which is at least 50% of an equivalent full-time course, and your course lasts for at least one academic year. You will not be eligible for support if you already have a degree. Application forms are available from your institution, Student Finance NI or the Department for Employment and Learning.

(Q)   What financial support is available for a part-time course?

There are three different rates of fee grant depending on how intensive your course is e.g.

  • if you study at a rate equivalent to 50% to 59% of a full-time course the maximum fee grant is £820.
  • If you study at a rate equivalent to 60% to 74% of a full-time course the maximum fee grant is £985.
  • If you study at a rate equivalent to 75% or more of a full-time course the maximum fee grant is £1230.
The maximum course grant available is £265.

(Q)   What financial support is available for eligible students on Health Professional courses?

If you study in Northern Ireland at the University of Ulster you will be eligible to apply for a means-tested bursary and a reduced rate non-income assessed loan. Tuition fees will be paid on your behalf to the University of Ulster.

You should apply to Student Finance NI who will deal with your application on behalf of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSS&PS).

If you intend to study in England, Wales or Scotland you should apply to Student Finance NI for a reduced rate non-income assessed loan, and to the following locations for NHS Bursaries:

Students in Wales contact: NHS Wales Student Awards Unit
3rd Floor
14 Cathedral Road
CARDIFF CF11 9LJ
Students in Scotland contact: The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS)
Gyle View House
3 Redheughs Rigg
South Gyle
EDINBURGH EH12 9HH
Students in England contact: The Customer Services Team
The NHS Student Grants Unit
Hesketh House
Fleetwood FY7 8SS

(Q)   Is additional help available for students on the fifth year of medicine and dentistry courses?

Yes. Students who are on the fifth and later years of study on a medicine or dentistry course in the UK will be eligible of an income-assessed Maintenance Grant and a reduced rate non-income assessed loan. The Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety will pay the Tuition fee contribution in full. This support will be administered through Student Finance NI

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