Archive Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Archive brought to you by Cross Stitch UK

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Access to Learning Fund: extra help if you need it

If you’re in hardship and need extra financial support, universities and colleges in England can provide it through their Access to Learning Fund. You can apply if you’re a full-time or part-time higher education student, whether you’re doing an undergraduate or postgraduate course.

What can the Access to Learning Fund help with?

The Access to Learning 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 forms of financial help - these could be 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 essential household equipment
  • if you are thinking of giving up your course because of financial problems and need extra support to help you keep studying

Who can apply?

Help for students on full-time, part-time and postgraduate courses

The Access to Learning 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, and
  • takes no more than twice as long to complete as an equivalent 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 equivalent full-time course, you may still be able to apply for help from the fund.

How to apply

You normally apply through the student services department at your university or college, after you start your course. They will tell you exactly what information you need to supply, but be ready to provide:

  • a copy of the letter from Student Finance England 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

Access to Learning Fund and other types of student finance

Money from the Access to Learning Fund is paid on top of the standard student finance package - it’s not meant as a substitute. However, this funding is discretionary: institutions make their own decisions about whether a student can claim and the amount they are awarded.

You’ll be expected to have applied for any student loans, grants and bursaries you’re entitled to before applying for help from the Access to Learning Fund.

How universities and colleges pay out through the fund

Universities and colleges decide how money from the fund is paid out locally. They will look at your individual circumstances, usually working out if there is a shortfall between your income and your outgoings. The following groups are priorities for support:

  • students with children - especially single parents
  • mature students - especially those with existing financial commitments
  • students from low-income families (as determined by the university or college)
  • 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
  • disabled students

How are payments from the fund made?

Money from the fund is usually paid out as a grant that you don’t have to pay back, but may also be paid as a loan. Your college or university will decide whether to pay you in a lump sum or in instalments.

Effect on other financial help

Any money you get through the Access to Learning 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.

Not studying in England?

The Access to Learning Fund is only available if you’re studying in England. Similar help may also be available from universities and colleges in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Additional links

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Access keys