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The Access to Learning Fund (ALF)


What is the Access to Learning Fund?

The Access to Learning Fund (ALF) can provide non-repayable awards to students who are having money troubles or have an unexpected emergency to deal with. The fund is discretionary and cash-limited so whether or not you get an award depends on your individual circumstances and the availability of funds. The Access to Learning Fund should not be seen as a guaranteed source of income for any student.

Can I apply to the fund?


Yes, provided you are a home student1 and enrolled on an eligible course2 .

You must be enrolled on an undergraduate course of at least 60 credits per year, or a postgraduate course of at least 80 credits per year (i.e. 50% of an equivalent full-time course, or 25% if you have a disability).

If you are eligible for a student loan you must have applied for your maximum entitlement and have received your first instalment before you apply to the fund. As the fund has a limited amount of money so we can’t offer help to every applicant and we can’t always meet all of the costs that you might apply for. Certain students are given priority:
  • Students from low income backgrounds
  • Disabled students
  • Mature students
  • Final Year students
  • Students with children or other dependents 
  • Students who have entered University from care 
  • Students who are permanently estranged from their parents
  • Students who are carers

If you don't fall into one of these groups you can still apply but you will need to provide detailed evidence of your particular financial hardship. If you do fall into a priority group, this does not guarantee that you will receive an award from the Access to Learning Fund as applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Before you apply you should look into all other possibilities and have taken out your full loan entitlement, including your full tuition fee loan (if eligible).

  1. Home student
    You must be settled in the UK at the start of your course and have been 'ordinarily resident' in the British Islands for 5 years before the start of your course for purposes other than full-time education.

  2. Eligible course

    You must be enrolled on a course which is a minimum of a year’s duration, lead to an award such as an HND, Foundation Degree, BA, BSc, PgCert, PGDip or a Masters.  If you are studying part –time you must be studying at 25% of a full time equivalent course (FTE) if you enrolled on your course after 1 September 2012, 50%FTE if you enrolled after September 1 2016.

How do I apply?

Application forms and accompanying guidance notes are available to download from here from 18th September 2017. As well as the form you'll need to provide some additional information, for example, your Student Finance Breakdown from Student Finance England, and bank statements.

How do I complete the form?

You should read the Supplementary Notes that are provided with the application form.  These will help you fill in the form, and they will also help you provide us with all the information we need, which will prevent unnecessary delays in your application being processed.  The guidance notes also tell you how your form is assessed, why we need the documents and information we ask for, and how you are paid if you receive an award.

If your application form is incomplete or if you haven’t attached the relevant supporting documents, your application will be returned to you.  So it’s really important to read the notes before you complete the form, to refer back to them regularly, and to keep a copy of the notes after you’ve submitted your application.  We will email you at your MMU email address within three working days of submission of your form to confirm that it has been received and whether we require any extra information or whether it has been put through for assessment.  You should check your MMU email address regularly.

The Student's Union Advice Centre can offer one-to-one assistance with your application.

When should I apply?

It is best to apply early.  Don’t wait until the close of the scheme – the fund is cash limited so we can’t guarantee there will be support available throughout the year.  But to apply you must be fully enrolled, and if you are eligible to receive student loans you must have received your first instalment.

We accept applications from 18th September 2017 when the scheme opens up until the closing dates listed below.  We aim to notify decisions within four working weeks but the assessment times vary depending on the number and complexity of applications we receive, so leave yourself plenty of time to wait for your assessment to be completed.


Closing dates by which applications must be submitted

Final year undergraduate students

12 noon on Friday  23rd March 2018

Postgraduate and continuing year undergraduate students

12 noon on Friday  1st June 2018

Please note it is your responsibility to ensure that your application reaches the Student Financial Support team by the closing date. If you are posting your form you must ensure you leave sufficient time for it to arrive and pay sufficient postage to cover the cost. . If you submit your application form to the Student Hub then you must ensure that you request a receipt of this submission. Applications received after the closing date and time will not be assessed.

How will my application be assessed?

We follow strict guidelines when we assess your application. The fund is cash-limited and the allocation we receive decreases each year. Not everyone who applies to the scheme will get an award. Any awards made can only be a contribution towards costs and are subject to the availability of funds.

When we assess your application we will look at your income and expenditure over the course of the academic year.

What we include as income

We take the following into account as income when we assess your application:

  • Maintenance Grant/Special Support Grant (the first £1869* is not included)
  • Student Loan for maintenance
  • Student Support Package (the first £360* is not included). Fee waivers are not included.
  • MMU Bursary (the first £360* is not included)
  • Parents’ Learning Allowance
  • Childcare Grant
  • Adult Dependents Grant
  • NHS/Social Work Bursaries and Grants
  • Parental contributions
  • Means-tested benefits

*2017/18 figures

What we include as expenditure

For the purposes of the ALF, not everything you spend can be included as expenditure.  For instance, we do not include money spent on mobile phones, or holidays.

We do include:

  • Rent
  • Council Tax (if you have to pay it)
  • Travel costs
  • Course costs (capped)
  • Childcare costs

We also include a figure called ‘Composite Living Costs’.  This is set by the government and includes set amounts for money spent on basic living costs, such as food, household bills (gas, electricity, water, TV Licence, etc.), clothes, and entertainment.  This figure is included in everyone’s assessment, regardless of what they actually spend on these items.

 

On top of this we are required to include a set figure called 'assumed income' which includes set amounts for certain forms of income. The fund expects that in addition to the statutory support (student loans, grants etc.) you receive you will be able to add to this income with part time and vacation work, savings and overdrafts.  Regardless of what the actual figures are for these items, only the assumed income figure can be used.

Will you take into account my debts?

Many students find it difficult to manage on the statutory support they receive and often incur debts as a result, but we cannot include all debts. What we can include depends if your debt is classed as a Priority or Non-Priority. Only Priority Debts with agreed repayment plans will be considered under the ALF.

What is a Priority Debt?

Priority Debts are debts which, if left unpaid, could result in the loss of your home, imprisonment, cutting off gas or electricity. Priority debts are:

  • Secured loans
  • Rent arrears
  • Council tax
  • Fines
  • Gas and Electricity Charges
  • Tax and VAT
  • NI Contributions
  • Hire Purchase / Conditional Sale Agreements that it is essential for you to retain

Priority debts will only be included in your assessment if you have agreed a repayment plan and have started to make regular repayments – you will need to provide written confirmation of this.

What is a non-Priority Debt?

Non-Priority Debts that will not result in the loss of your home, liberty or essential services include:

  • Credit cards
  • Debts to family
  • Personal loans
  • Mobile phones

These cannot be included in your assessment.


How long will it take?

Your application will progress through a three stage process.

Stages


STAGE 1

Applications received will be checked by Student Financial Support staff. The application is checked to make sure that:
  • The eligibility criteria has been met
  • The application form has been completed correctly
  • All relevant evidence has been included
  • The application form has been signed and dated

We aim to email you within three working days of submitting your application form to confirm the status of your application. If your application is incomplete, your application will be delayed at Stage 1 and we will contact you using your MMU student email account to advise you on what is needed to progress your application onto Stage 2 for assessment.


STAGE 2

Once your application has been confirmed as complete your application enters Stage 2. We will notify you via your MMU student email account to confirm the date it has entered Stage 2. We aim to notify you of the outcome of your application within four working weeks of this date.

During Stage 2, an assessor may need to contact you for further information to help them complete the assessment. Please check your student emails regularly. When Stage 2 is completed, your application will move to Stage 3.


STAGE 3

Decisions on the outcome of your application will be notified by email to your MMU student email address. If your application is successful, information will also be included regarding the payment of your award.

Stage
Timescale
Correspondence

1


3 working days

If your application is at Stage 1 we will request extra evidence using your

MMU EMAIL ADDRESS

2


4 working weeks

If your application is at Stage 2 and we need further evidence we ask using your

MMU EMAIL ADDRESS

3


Once your application has been assessed we will let you know the decision using your

MMU EMAIL ADDRESS

We will return your supporting documents to you by post

The assessment time will vary depending on the complexity and number of applications received and at peak times such as the end of term around the closing dates.

Please bear with us, we aim to assess forms as quickly as we can.

How much will I get?

Not everybody who applies to the scheme will get an award.  If your application is assessed to receive an award we will write to you with details of how much and when you will be paid.  The assessment process will take into account your income and expenditure as detailed above, and if there is a shortfall we will make a contribution towards this.

How will I get paid?

Payments are usually made by BACs which is an electronic transfer of funds into your bank account. The application form asks for your bank account details, please note we can only pay your award into an account bearing your name. If your application is successful and you receive an award we will write to tell you when the money will be paid into your account.  If your total award is over £500 this will be paid to you over the number of terms remaining.  For example if you are notified in November and your award is greater than £500 you will receive your award in three instalments. If you are notified in February you will receive your award in two instalments. Please note we do encourage you to apply as early as possible, as the ALF is a cash limited fund there is no guarantee that there will be funds still available in the final term.   

We will pay any second or third instalments you are due once we have received confirmation from your Programmes Office of your continued attendance and engagement with your course. The payment dates are on or around 26th January 2018 in the spring term and on or around 11th May 2018 in the summer term, subject to receipt of confirmation of attendance. We will email your MMU student email account if we have not received this confirmation and you are not due to be paid on these dates.

 
Can I apply every year?

Yes, but bear in mind that the outcome of your application may not be the same year on year. The amount of funding we receive varies each year so the amount we can allocate to students may also vary.