Support Funds

If you’re in hardship and need extra financial support, universities and colleges in Northern Ireland can provide it through their Support Funds. You can apply if you’re a full-time or part-time higher education student, or you’re doing a postgraduate course.

What  Support Funds can help with

The Fund can provide extra help if you’re in 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

The Fund is available to:

  • full-time higher education students
  • full-time postgraduate students

Part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students can also qualify, as long as their course:

  • lasts at least one year
  • takes no more than twice as long to complete as an equal full-time course

If you have a disability or specific learning difficulty that means it will take more than twice as long to complete your course than would be typical for an equal full-time course, you may still be able to apply for help from the fund.

Priorities for support

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 normally apply through the student services department at your university or college. They will tell you what information you need to give, 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

Usually, you apply after you start your course - by this time, you’ll know how much you’re getting through the standard student finance package. But if you know you’re going to need extra help, it’s a good idea to approach your university or college before your course starts.

Effect on other financial help

Any money you get through the Fund 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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