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Access to Learning Fund

The Access to Learning Fund (ALF) is Government funding to help students access and remain in Higher Education – particularly those who need financial help to meet extra costs which cannot be met from other sources of support. Students can only apply to ALF once all funding options from Student Finance Loans Company have been exhausted. These being Student Maintenance Loan, Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Grant.

This gives students facing hardship, extra financial support to access and remain in higher education. More specifically the fund can be used to:

  • meet specific course and living costs which are not already met from other sources
  • assist if students are in financial hardship
  • provide emergency payments for unexpected financial crises
  • help students who may be considering giving up their course because of financial problem

Any help you receive from the fund is usually non-repayable. However the ALF cannot be used to meet the cost of tuition fees.

Who Can Apply?

Full-time students

Students on full-time courses at undergraduate level are eligible to apply for help from the Access to Learning Fund. Students need to apply through their Awarding University. Please ask Student Finance for the correct application process.

Part-time students

Part-time HE students who started their courses before 1 September 2012 must be studying at least 50 per cent (60 credits) of a full-time equivalent (FTE) course. Any Student whose disability (including physical and mental health) prevents them from studying at least 50 per cent of a full-time course are eligible for a payment from the Fund provided they are studying for at least 25 per cent (30 credits) FTE. All new students who start courses on or after 1 September 2012 are required to study at least 25 per cent (30 credits) FTE in each year. This will include new students who have a disability

Residence conditions

To be eligible for the access to learning fund, the student must normally be able to satisfy three residence requirements relating to their residence and immigration status on the first day of the first academic year of their course (for example, for a course starting in the autumn this date is 1 September). On that date they must:

  • Have been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and Islands throughout the three-year period preceding that date other than wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education.
  • Be ordinarily resident in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland (Students who have moved from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man to attend their course are ineligible for support)
  • Be settled in the United Kingdom under the terms of the Immigration Act 1971, in other words ordinarily resident here without being subject to any restriction on the period for which they may stay (see paragraphs below for exceptions).

Types of Support/Awards Available

Short Term Loans

You should have applied in plenty of time to get your student loan/grant through by the beginning of your course however, if there are extenuating circumstances and you are struggling waiting for your Student Finance Loan please contact the Student Finance Helpdesk at the appropriate site. We will require proof of your Student Finance Application, (acknowledgement letter or email from Student Loans Company). Students can have a maximum loan of £250. This must be paid back once the student has received their first instalment from the Student Loans Company. To apply for a Short Term Loan please visit the Student Finance Helpdesk at appropriate site.

Standard Awards

Standard awards are those made to help with the general costs of being a student. The income/expenditure process is done by calculating the level of income against the level of expenditure. If the latter is higher, the student is viewed as having an ‘additional need’.

A percentage of the additional need is paid on successful application. Further percentage may be paid later on in the year, subjects to funds being available.

Non Standard Awards

Non-standard awards should be used for students who have to meet exceptional costs such as repairs to essential household equipment and emergency situations. Additional essential expenditure not fully met through statutory grants may also be considered, for example, additional childcare costs not met by the HE Childcare Grant for full-time HE students.

Diagnostic Testing

You may also apply for assistance with the cost of a diagnostic test, such as dyslexia assessment. Please ask for a referral from your learning support tutor.