Social work students hit by ‘unacceptable’ delay to bursaries

Two months before they're due to start, prospective students for 2016 academic year have had no confirmation of bursary allocations

Students accepted onto social work degree courses fear they’ll be unable to take up places due to an “unacceptable” delay to government decisions on bursary funding.

Universities and students have received no confirmation of social work bursary allocations or placement funding grants for the forthcoming academic year, which starts in September.

The situation has created anxiety and uncertainty for prospective students, with some reportedly shelving plans to take-up study this year for fear of being left without a bursary and unable to afford their course.

Social work academics labelled the delay unprecedented and “unacceptable”, particularly as the Department of Health (DH) had promised to announce funding allocations by the beginning of June.

Contacted by Community Care about the concerns, the DH said sign-off on allocations had been delayed but insisted bursaries would be provided for 2016 and an announcement made shortly.

Anna Gupta, a senior lecturer at Royal Holloway University, said it was “completely unacceptable” students and universities had been left in limbo so close to courses starting.

She said: “Students aren’t able to plan for September, which is less than two months away. We have students with caring responsibilities, many of them are working currently, so they need to serve notice for their jobs or work out other issues before starting the course. But they can’t because they have received no indication of their bursaries.

“I know from talking to colleagues there are other universities where students have pulled out from MA programmes because of the uncertainty. The delay is really disrespectful to students and academics. I worry it demonstrates a lack of commitment on the part of government to traditional academic routes into social work, given they have been very forthcoming with large sums of money for fast-track training programmes.”

Brid Featherstone, co-chair of the Association of Professors of Social Work, said the situation was “deeply unsatisfactory”, adding: “It’s causing a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty for future social workers and I can’t understand why the government cannot make a statement on the reasons for the delay in order to keep people informed. This is an established process. It has never, to my knowledge, been as late as this.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said social work bursaries would be provided for the next academic year. Sign-off on allocations had been delayed because of ministerial changes at the DH and Department for Education but details “will be published shortly”, they added.

While the DH is committed to social work bursaries for the 2016 academic year, the government is considering scrapping the financial support for future years. Ministers have promised a consultation on bursaries later this year.

7 Responses to Social work students hit by ‘unacceptable’ delay to bursaries

  1. David Gaylard July 26, 2016 at 10:44 am #

    What a fiasco this process has become….as numerous students become increasingly anxious and agigitated each year. Over the summer students frequently resort to social media to vent their frustrations sometimes misguidedly blaming academic institutions and staff for central government inertia. Depressingly, I sense that this Tory government will adopt a similar stance recently evidenced by the short sighted abolishment of nursing bursary. The undergraduate SW bursary will inevitably be cut to fund the “privileged few” on fast -track Step Up and Frontline programmes. Such future funding cuts to SW education must be challenged and opposed at regional and national levels by student and lecturer unions collectively.

  2. Lauren July 27, 2016 at 10:45 am #

    I’ve recently graduated but when I started there was no confirmation on the allocation of bursaries and we were told that if we thought we could not manage without one we should defer a year in case we were made to pay course fees. We actually didn’t find out the allocations until the middle of October!

    • Rose July 27, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

      Hi lauren,

      Out of interest when was this? I found out in June last year that i was getting a bursary, but deferred my place for personal reasons. Still waiting to hear about this year, but most people agree it is uncharacteristically late and we’ve been assured that we will know before term starts. Not finding out until October is the very thing that i am afraid of!!

      • Lauren July 28, 2016 at 11:53 am #

        Hi Rose this was in 2014 so hopefully they’ve got their act together a little bit since then!

        • Lisa August 8, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

          Ive just completed my MA too, and had the same situation in 2014 when I was waiting to start. I received confirmation of the bursary at the very end of July – it was an incredibly stressful experience!

  3. Cara McMillan July 28, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

    I have just qualified and our university only had a set number of bursaries the amount of students exceeded the amount of bursaries they had to give out. Bursaries for a BA in our uni only started from 2nd year. It was decided by the university that the way it would decided who got the bursarie was to give it to the top academics. So we had people on our course who didn’t get one at all, and the people that did found out the summer after 1st year. So we all started with no bursary for 1st year and not even knowing if we would get one. It did make us work harder to get good grades though.

  4. Mary Mackie July 29, 2016 at 1:10 am #

    I am currently doing a Masters in Social work and while the university confirmed my nomination for a bursery, no confirmation came through NHS Burseries. Our course started on January 19th 2016 but we never had any payments till end of February. And this is after numerous phone calls from both students and the university admin. Do everything you can, work, save, borrow as even when the bursery is paid, you can just almost manage to get by. Bye bye dinners out… Welcome box sets and dine in!