Anglia Ruskin University lecturer Judy Hicks explores some of the financial options available to prospective social work students in 2011/12
The funding options for prospective social work students may appear to be confusing and complex. The following tips offer a guide to both the process of exploring and applying for finance. They detail the kinds of support available together with some useful links and suggestions for anyone currently trying to decide if their finances will stretch far enough to cover their degree programme.
Firstly students should apply to Student Finance England. This application will be means tested depending on your household income.
Full-time undergraduate students
Under the Student Finance England system students are eligible for two main sources of funding:
a) Tuition fees payment depending on the amount each university charges. This amount is often paid straight to the university via student finance at the start of the academic year. Students will be provided with information from their university on the exact amount of fees.
b) A maintenance loan which currently stands at £4,950. This is to cover accommodation and general living expenses.
It is important for students to check on their eligibility for these loans which are dependent on residency criteria and any periods of previous study. Local authority student finance offices will offer advice on these. There are also special support categories, including students with disabilities and single parents, which are eligible for additional funding ( Disabled Student’s Allowance, Childcare Grant, Adult Dependant’s Grant, Parent’s Learning Allowance) dependent on their circumstances and needs.
Part-time undergraduate students
Part-time undergraduate students should also apply to Student Finance. The amount they receive will be means tested and dependent on eligibility criteria and on the particular structure of the course.
Postgraduate students should contact their local authority higher education finance office to discuss their financial circumstances as there is financial assistance for some students who have been self supporting for a number of years since graduating.
All social work students should also apply for a bursary through the NHS Business Services Authority. Again there are eligibility criteria for funding. For more information contact the NHS Funding general inquiry line on 0845 358 6655.
For full time undergraduate students non means tested bursaries are currently offered at up to £4,575 for a 52 week period.
For part-time students, bursaries are calculated at the full-time grant rate (up to £4,575) multiplied by 3 and divided by the number of years the course lasts.
Postgraduate students may be eligible for a bursary but must be ordinarily resident in England, studying on an approved postgraduate course and meet certain other eligibility criteria.
All students who are eligible for a bursary will receive the non-income assessed elements automatically and some students may be eligible for additional income assessed support.
Given the expected changes associated with the shift from the General Social Care Council to another regulatory body, the Health Professions Council, there is no information available as yet on the social work bursaries for the next academic year. So it is even more important that students keep in touch with their local authorities, universities and Student Finance England to ensure they are informed of any changes.
Finally students are advised to contact their own university student services department, which often houses a special money section to explore possibilities of additional scholarships, bursaries or loans available. These will be variable and dependant on the specific financial circumstances in each university.
Judy Hicks is senior lecturer in social work at Anglia Ruskin University and would like to thank Matt Hayler from the student money advice service at the university’s student services department for his help in compiling this article.