The pandemic is having an impact on everyone in different and individual ways. We are doing all we can to support our students, ranging from our academic support, welfare and wellbeing, catering to ongoing development opportunities. Importantly, we are also offering financial assistance to those who are finding it hard to manage as a result of the current circumstances.
Vice-Chancellors’ letter to government
Our Vice-Chancellor, Robert Van de Noort, is one of seven university leaders who recently wrote to the UK government, calling for the government to provide reductions in student loan interest and extra support for careers training, to further support those who have been impacted by the pandemic.
Student Hardship Appeal
Donations from our alumni and supporters, funding from the Office for Students (OfS), and investment from the University has been combined to provide critical support to students facing unexpected financial hardship owing to COVID-19. The Alumni and Supporter Engagement Office and the Student Financial Support team have worked together to increase the level of financial support available to students during these difficult times.
From August to December 2020, we supported 151 students with a total of £145,578 awarded from our two funds: the Digital Support Fund and the Student Support Fund. In January alone this year we have made 50 awards through the Student Support Fund and 28 awards through the Digital Support Fund, totalling just over £91,000 in value. These funds remain open, please do get in touch with our Student Financial Support team to talk through your situation.
Students may be having difficulties with money for a number of reasons. Some may have lost part-time jobs, while others need better equipment to get the most out of studying online.
Olivia received an award through the Student Support Fund to help her get by after losing her part-time job:
“For the last two years I’ve had a part-time job working at a shop in the Oracle shopping centre. But I was on a zero hours contract, as many students typically are. When lockdown began I was simply not given any more work. I really needed that job, but was left with nothing.
“I now feel financially covered for this term. It’s made a big difference and I’m so relieved that I can now focus on my final year of studies.”
Marisha’s course requires her to have specific analytical software which her laptop could not load. She received an award from the Digital Support Fund which she put towards buying a new laptop so she could engage effectively with learning at home:
“I can actually work from home now, watch my pre-recorded lectures in my own time, and join in all the study group work on Microsoft Teams. This grant has enabled me to participate fully in my course and get the most out of my degree.”
This funding is part of our range of financial resources to help support you including:
- The Essentials cupboard – for support to provide up to four days’ worth of essential items, including food with recipe ideas, household items and personal care
- Campus Card meal plans – we have a limited number of meal plans for students in hardship
- Blackbullion – a financial education tool to help students take responsibility for their financial future. Made specifically for university students, Blackbullion is free for Reading students, and offers several short relevant courses in topics like budgeting and saving
- Assistance to manage tuition or halls fees – students can contact student credit control to discuss their situation
- RUSU’s Advice Team also provide confidential and independent advice on finance.
Halls fee waiver
To further support our students, we have also agreed to temporarily waive licence fee payments for those who are unable to return to their UPP–managed halls accommodation during the current national lockdown, which came into effect on 6 January 2021. This is known as a licence fee suspension (or halls fee waiver).
The waiver will cover the national lockdown from 6 January until 22 February, during which we are required by the government to deliver the majority of teaching online only, or until the date that students return to their accommodation (whichever is the earliest).
We know students in private accommodation are facing similar issues, so together with RUSU we have written to landlords to encourage them to be understanding of their tenants’ – our students – circumstances if they find themselves in financial hardship.
Visit Money Matter’s on Essentials to find out more about the options that may be available to support you.