University releases details on £180,000 hardship fund

Maud Webster reports on the university's latest announcement regarding Newcastle students' access to a £180,000 Hardship Fund.

Maud Webster
24th February 2021
Credit: @OSullivan via Twitter

Following Universities Minister Michelle Donelan's announcement on the 2nd February that a £50m hardship fund would be established for students, Newcastle University has released plans for their allocated £180,000. The fund is designed to support students who are unable to access their term-time accommodation, and have not been offered a rent rebate.

In an email sent to students by the Academic Registrar on the 22nd February, Newcastle University explained:

Newcastle University has been allocated £180,000 of this funding and, working with our Student Union, we have set up a simple process to ensure the money helps students most in need. The Government has emphasised that funds should be prioritised for students in hardship from widening participation backgrounds, international and postgraduate students (taught and research).

Newcastle University, via email

The email signposts students to a blog post, which further explains the fund:

The University will be using this funding to establish a COVID-19 Living Cost Support Fund. The scheme is aimed at helping students in hardship who have not returned to their private sector term-time accommodation and who have not received a rent rebate from their provider. Widening participation, international, PGT and PGR students and students who have not previously received hardship funding this academic year will be prioritised for support and eligible students will receive a non-repayable award of £200 as a contribution towards their rent and living costs. 

Newcastle University Website

The blog post elaborates that students eligible for the fund must:

  • be studying at Newcastle University, including Newcastle University London
  • be able to evidence that you have a 2020/21 tenancy agreement for privately-owned or privately-managed accommodation
  • not be currently living in your term-time accommodation 
  • not have received a rent refund from your landlord of privately-managed provider
  • be able to evidence that you were in financial hardship at the end of January 2021 i.e. you did not have sufficient funding available to cover essential costs such as food, medical costs and essential bills. 

And the post further notes that:

Due to the amount of funding provided by the Office for Students' it may not be possible to provide support to all students applying to the scheme. Awards will be made on the basis of the priority groups and financial need. Students who are ineligible or who do not receive support through this scheme may be eligible to apply for discretionary financial support provided by the University if they are experiencing financial difficulties. 

The amount of funding was criticised for being an insubstantial amount, which won't make any real difference to university institutions and their students. The university is offering £200 non-repayable grants, which suggests only 900 students will receive funding, out of the 20,000 eligible students the University identified. Students question what the impact of this will be when the average student rent in Newcastle amounts to £359.1 per month.

One student currently living at home, but renting privately in Newcastle, commented:

"As a Newcastle University student currently privately renting accommodation, I feel the support offered to us has been average at best."

"Many of us have no idea when we can legally return to our term time addresses, and not only does this cause monetary issues for some - [if you] are not viable for the support fund however are still struggling with finances - it, in turn, results in a negative impact across the mental health of students."

Eligible students are encouraged to submit an application for funding here from 9am on the 22nd of February 2021, with applications closing at 5pm on Friday 5th March 2021. The money will then be allocated before the 31st of March.

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AUTHOR: Maud Webster
she/they | third year architecture & urban planning student @ newcastle | co-head of culture for the 21/21 academic year

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