8 sources of finance for University study

As an adviser I’m often asked about what financial help is available for students wishing to study at University. Although the main resource is Student Finance England there are other sources which are often missed. So in the best tradition of top ten lists, (even though there are only 8 in this case), here are the top 8 sources of finance we need to ensure is considered and explored.

1. Loan for Maintenance

2. Maintenance Grant

3. Bursary

4. Scholarship

5. Job (both before the student begins study and also issues re: part-time whilst studying)

6. Family (often known as the Bank of Mum and Dad but can include other people)

7. Savings/Borrowings

8. Sponsorship

Even if students are aware of some of these resources it is always work checking how much they can get and the costs of paying any loan back. In recent research people commonly underestimate the maximum value of loan and overestimate future repayments. Bursaries and Scholarships are another area where many people are unaware of what is available. To find out what students could get go to http://www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinancecalculator where it is possible to can find out what each University could offer.  The issue with Sponsorships are that they can be difficult to obtain and some companies now prefer to offer them to students after their first year of Uni study.  They also tend to be in certain areas, such as the Military, which can be an ethical issue for some students or in specific occupation fields such as Engineering. Packages on offer can be excellent and not just focused on money, (management training and career exploration can also be part of the package), but I do encourage students to check out the commitment involved and ensure they realise and are happy with what will be required as their side of the deal.  If you want to read more about this whole issue of finance and HE an interesting recent report is “The Role of Finance in the Decision-making of Higher Education Applicants and Students” – you can download a copy from the link below http://www.dius.gov.uk/~/media/publications/B/BIS-RP-009

Don’t Panic – about money for University !

A lot of people are looking at their options for higher education, and the issue of cost is sure to be on the top concern of many. It is important to ensure that students look at the range of support that may be available and don’t just look at one source, or indeed rely on what someone is saying who may not be aware of all the options.  I always suggest students check both with the adviser/tutor and the university they are considering if they have any questions on this factor. Money worries shouldn’t stop anyone going to University according to the Government, but like all things that are important in life students need to devote some time to checking everything out.  As an adviser you can get an idea of issues, but we don’t have time to check all the finance issues for every student at every possible university within the time we have available.  Concern about the cost of higher education is the number one reason that people who have applied to university do not enter HE, and as advisers we need to ensure that this is approached with as much seriousness as the actual choice of University degree. Of course in other countries such as the USA this has always been the case, but it is fairly new to us in the UK and the perception of this, certainly amongst some groups of applicants, does require work. Although Student Finance England is one port of call, it is not the only resource to use. Of course those of us who work in the independent sector already work with people who are aware that education isn’t ‘free’, but this also has issues and aspects that need working on.

Does a pre–HE student receiving Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) have a clear idea of funding for University ?

Those of us who are dealing with students currently receiving EMA financial support and looking to go onto University may be confused about how this financial support would carry on at Uni.  Originally the Government plan was that if a student was already receiving EMA then they would automatically get a grant to study at University – this was the HESSG or Higher Education Student Support Grant.  Indeed as an adviser we were told to make sure that all EMA recipients were aware of the HESSG and it was seen as a key indicator of support for students in this financial situation to go onto Uni.  To a lot less publicity this policy has now been changed and although the government is committed to any student already receiving EMA progressing onto HE, they will need to go through the financial assessment again. According to the Minister this has been done to ensure that those people whose financial situation has improved since the original assessment are treated fairly as other people applying to Uni.  Although they do say that if the applicants’ circumstances are unchanged from the original EMA assessment then they will get a clear quote of the financial support they can expect.  In light of the fact that perceived financial worries are the biggest factor between students applying and actually attending university this would seem to be another example of Government change affecting what we have been told to promote.  Goodbye HESSG apparently! For more information contact Student Finance England http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/UniversityAndHigherEducation/StudentFinance/Gettingstarted/DG_171577

Student finance debacle – comment by John Beckett

Isn’t this the final sign that ‘we’ never really meant it when ‘we’ proclaimed Widening Participation as the way to get rid of the historic imbalances and inequalities in our higher education admissions? The very students who have been encouraged to realise their potential and who need the financial support that exists are the same ones suffering the most in this scandal to the extent that some are leaving university after just a few weeks; unable to borrow from parents, unable to basically get by. Not that it will be easy to access accurate figures on early dropouts so it will be difficult for the media to get the true data in this debacle. How have such delays and such miscalculations on numbers (when it was apparent from published UCAS stats all along how many intended going to university this year) been allowed to happen? Why was the online system not trialled effectively? Is the Students Loans Company chronically understaffed – not fit for purpose? We’re already into the next cycle – it can’t happen again. An enquiry into all this must occur. Sooner than that, as has been said elsewhere, heads must roll as it’s too late for this year’s cohort – the damage has irretrievably been done. And what on earth has David Lammy, of all people, been doing overseeing such a shambles. Many of his constituents are amongst those worst affected. A truly depressing portent for the imminent tuition fees debate.

‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees? – Perhaps Mr Disney will be happier now

One of the enduring quips that we experience in our guidance work is the duel pressure of widening and broadening students knowledge and understanding of the HE options, against the more traditional approach of doing a ‘traditional’ degree and a ‘respected’ university.  Any attempts to show the range of HE courses can be met with the “Mickey Mouse” degree refrain quite easily in my experience. Apart from the fact that Mr Disney had build a considerable business empire and thus seems a unusual candidate for such negative pressure, recently I have noticed a change within this area as some people recognise that the vocationally focused degrees might, just might, have some relevance.  I’m not sure if this is down to the recession and the decrease in more traditional ‘blue chip’ employers offering vacancies as mentioned by the AGR, or if the finance and banking implosion has caused some to revaluate their world views. I guess this became fact for me after a recent edition of the Sunday Times which carried a positive article on them stating that “Far from being worthless, the more unusual degrees are proving a hit with employers”.  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article6829650.ece

Although there have been other articles in a similar vein on other papers I believe the Times one stood out for me at I can still remember the “Scandal of the Mickey Mouse degree rip-off” headline from 2003 referencing it to the comments of Margaret Hodge, higher-education minister at the time http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/career_and_jobs/senior_executive/article1099107.ece and the concern this caused students, and their parents,  who were looking at vocationally focused degrees. Interestingly the reason that the Universities mentioned by Ms Hodge felt that students were not completing their Uni courses was down to funding, and issue which will only gain greater prominence as we move into the bright new future of raising more money from student fees and the implications of that activity.

Foundation Course for overseas students – What is NCUK ?

Overseas students are increasing becoming a mix in the HE community, and this is only going to continue. When our local FE colleges have students from countries outside the EU showcased in the local press, this work is more mainsteam that many people realize. Such groups as the NCUK, http://www.ncuk.ac.uk/ a group comprising 11 Universities, has set up such a course for students from abroad to enter HE in the UK. Interesting initiative and set against a competitive international market for such students, the UK needs to be competitive in this field. With the current squeeze on fees, and increasing rumors of increases for UK/EU students, this work can only attain more importance. Giving career advice to students from abroad is both the same our usual work, but also another whole other issue which can involve a lot of research and checking of different aspects of work compared to dealing with UK nationals. Such issues as Visas can look large in some cases.  It can be interesting work, but can also be time consuming, one commodity which isn’t getting bigger in the working week of most staff I speak with.

Why do we need a Blog on HE ?

When this was planned some people have asked, why do we need a blog about HE. What is the deal about HE anyway? Don’t we have too many graduates already taking the wrong courses ?    Perhaps I’ll begin with a bit of background. For several years now the need to have higher level skills/degrees to compete in the world economy has been identified by various government reports and private bodies, such as the CBI. Those jobs that will be around in 2020 will be requiring higher skills, and those jobs with lower skill demands will be fewer in number. Skills that were once seen as technical and only used by a few, such as those within Information Communications Technology (ICT) are now mainstream. According to the Leitch report,http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/furthereducation/uploads/documents/2006-12%20LeitchReview1.pdf By 2020 more that 40% of jobs could be filled by graduates, currently this stands at about 30%.

You can also gain a degree whilst working, combining the experience, (and money!), of a job whilst getting a qualifications. Some companies are offering this, such as Flybe at Exeter, Tesco and McDonalds Restaurants. I’ve also attended a ceremony at Yeovilton of graduates of a Royal Navy initiative which provided a foundation degree as part of their study package see the BBC news coverage here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/somerset/7122014.stm

If you think this sounds a bit like an apprenticeship, yet it’s on an HE blog, then you are quite right. Words like Higher Level Skills, Foundation degrees, and NVQ 4 and 5 are all part of the drive to upskill our workforce and make Britain a positive economic country in Europe and beyond. As I go through I’ll be looking in such areas in more depth, but if you have any questions about Higher Education why not email me? If it’s an interesting question it might even be answered (anonymously if you wish) on this blog.