Support Funds

If you’re in genuine financial hardship and need extra financial support, universities and colleges in Northern Ireland may be able to provide it through their Support Funds. These funds, often referred to as hardship funds, provide financial help on a discretionary basis to students whose access to higher education might be inhibited by financial considerations, or who, for whatever reason, including physical or other disabilities, face financial difficulties in meeting their living costs.

Access to support funds

Support funds are provided by The Department for the Economy (DfE) to eligible students through the five higher education institutions in Northern Ireland.  All decisions regarding individual awards are made by the relevant University or College.

What  Support Funds can help with

The Fund can provide extra help if you’re in genuine financial hardship and need extra financial support. Your university or college will look at your individual circumstances, but you may, for example, be able to get help:

  • for course or living costs that are not already covered by other grants - these could be, for example, everyday living costs, childcare costs or support over the summer vacation if you have no one else to turn to
  • for emergency payments to cover unexpected financial crises or exceptional costs - such as repairs to household equipment
  • if you are thinking of giving up your course because of financial problems and need financial help to keep studying

Who can apply

You can apply if you’re a registered full-time or part-time higher education student, or if you’re doing a postgraduate course at a Northern Ireland higher education institution.

You will be asked to demonstrate the need for an award by documenting a genuine shortfall between your income and your expenditure.

Universities and colleges have a large say in how money from the fund is paid out locally. They will look at your individual circumstances, usually assessing whether there is a shortfall between your income and your outgoings. But the following groups are priorities for support:

  • students with children - especially lone parents
  • mature students- especially those with existing financial commitments
  • students from low-income families
  • care leavers
  • students who are homeless or who are living in 'Foyers' (these provide accommodation, guidance and support for homeless young people)
  • final-year students
  • students with a disability

Hardship funds

All further education colleges provide a Hardship Fund for students experiencing significant financial problems. Conditions apply so you should contact your college directly for advice.

Support Funds and other types of student finance

Money from the Support Funds is paid on top of the standard student finance package. It’s not meant as a substitute for it. You’ll be expected to have applied for any Student Loans, grants and bursaries you’re entitled to before applying for help from the Support Funds.

How payments from the fund are made

Money from the fund is usually paid as a grant that you do not have to repay. Sometimes it is paid as a loan. Your college or university will decide whether to pay you in a lump sum or in instalments.

How to apply

You can apply for support funds through the student services department at your university or college via the links below. They will tell you what supporting evidence of your financial that you need to supply, but be ready to provide:

  • a copy of the letter from Student Finance NI showing how much you will get through the standard student finance package
  • documents showing your financial situation, such as bank statements and details of rent

Failure to provide the evidence requested will delay your application for support funds.

Ulster University

For support funds application process including guidance on the application process, how to access evidence and links to the online application form visit UU Financial Support for UK/Home Students or email sma@ulster.ac.uk.

UU also promote their activity on their social media channels:

UU Facebook

UU Instagram

UU Twitter

For any other wellbeing need (including mental health and disability support) Student Wellbeing can be contacted on 028 9536 7000, email studentwellbeing@ulster.ac.uk or visit the website UU Student Wellbeing.

Queen’s University Belfast

For support funds application process including guidance notes, information on evidence requirements and the application visit QUB Student Financial Support, email supportfund@qub.ac.uk or contact the Student Support Fund Supervisor in Student Finance Office on 028 9097 3223 (during Covid-19 staff are working from home and are not taking phone calls).

QUB also promote their activity on their social media channels:

QUB Facebook

QUB Twitter

For any other wellbeing need, QUB Resilience and Wellbeing Service can be contacted on 02890 972 893, email studentwellbeing@qub.ac.uk or visit the website QUB Student Wellbeing Service.

St Mary’s University College Belfast

For the support funds application process including guidance on the application process, how to access evidence and links to the online application form visit St Mary's Student Support Fund, email supportfund@smucb.ac.uk or contact the Finance Office on 028 9026 8318.

For any other wellbeing need the Student Services Support Team can be contacted on 028 9026 8364, email d.cree@smucb.ac.uk or visit the website St Mary's Student Services Support Team.

Stranmillis University College

For the support funds application process including guidance notes, information on evidence requirements and the application form visit Stranmillis Student Support, email studentsupport@stran.ac.uk or contact the Student Support office on 028 9038 4510.

For any other wellbeing need the Student Support Team can be contacted at the following student link: Stranmillis Student Support.

Open University

For the eligibility criteria and application form for support funds visit OU Funding Support Funds, email studentfees@open.ac.uk or contact the OU Student Fees office on 01908 653 411.

For details about the Open University’s COVID-19 Student Assistance Fund (this may cover support that is ineligible to be funded through the NI Support Funds): OU Student Assistance Fund.

OU also promote their activity on their social media channels:

OU NI Facebook

OU Instagram

OU Belfast Twitter

Students can access a range of information and support related to their mental health and wellbeing by following the link: OU Mental Health Wellbeing and Welfare.

Effect on other financial help

Any money you get through the support funds won’t usually be counted as income when working out your entitlement to benefits or tax credits, unless it is for day-to-day living costs.

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