Financial assistance is available to students | What you might not know!


By Sarah Dalton First Year English

We give insight into the lesser-known financial assistance funds that are available to students and how they can be accessed. What is the impact of the fact they are relatively unknown?

Upon googling the University’s fees and funding page, any member of the public could find a wealth of information about the bursaries that the University of Bristol offers to students. What is often not obviously publicised, however, are the countless other funding schemes which exist under the radar, and yet change the lives of hundreds of University of Bristol students on a daily basis.

Having been placed on the Future Scholarship Programme myself and talking to others on similar schemes, it has become clear that despite the large variety in types of scholarships, schemes and programmes offered to support students, many students in need of support simply do not know how to seek them out.

Finances can be a great cause of stress to students | Photo by Dmitry Demidko / Unsplash

One of the schemes that is seemingly least known to the students who need it most, is the Financial Assistance Fund, (FAF) which is available for any UK home student who applies for it, aimed at those experiencing financial emergencies or whose circumstances are not taken into account by student maintenance loans and bursaries. For many students, this is accessed through referral by a personal tutor, and therefore the fund is not widely known about, despite the impact it can have.

An anonymous fifth-year student who has been in receipt of the fund on two occasions noted how in first year, their loan only covered three quarters of their rent and they worked part-time to make up the difference. However, upon hitting their overdraft and struggling to balance long work hours alongside their degree, the student reached out to their personal tutor and was made aware of the fund.
When asked why few people do the same, the student suggested that ‘the stubbornness and the student stereotype has an effect on the reluctance to seek support,’ that ‘the general student population revel in the illusion of financial difficulty when they’re simply reluctant to ask their parents for money, and therefore it’s difficult to distinguish yourself as beyond that stage.’

In addition to stereotypes among students, the fifth year drew particular attention to the University’s lack of proactive awareness, as ‘there’s only limited money they’ve put in [to the fund] and they’re worried they’ll be inundated with applications.’ The student went also explained that ‘I had to be on the absolute brink for anyone to tell me about FAF.’ This suggests that there may be other students who are suffering in silence not because help is unavailable, but because there is not an awareness of the support available or the necessity of asking for it. It seems that on some occasions, students don’t even realise they are eligible for what assistance is out there.

The existence of other programmes such as the Futures Scholarship and Sanctuary Scholarship showcases the large variety of ways in which financial support can profoundly affect a student’s life. The Futures Scholarship programme, new this year, is aimed at students from low socio-economic and financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

The programme, coordinated by Laura Frude, offers its 50+ students an initial bursary of £2000, as well as an additional £2500 to be spent on career opportunities such as internships and placements and specific guidance from the careers service. This not only removes some of the financial burdens placed on these students, but additionally helps to break the cycle of children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds going on to work in lower-payed jobs or potentially lacking career opportunities.

The Sanctuary Scholarship, by contrast, aims to help students from forced migration backgrounds (e.g. asylum seekers or refugees) who face additional barriers in accessing higher education and employment. For those not eligible for UK student maintenance loans and other funding, the scholarship, established in 2016, covers all their tuition fees and maintenance costs.

For a second-year History student in particular, this programme is the reason they attend University. ‘My mother came to the UK to escape human trafficking, and for a while we were relying on charities and churches, so it wasn’t about being at university, it wasn’t even about having enough to eat, it was just about being’ they explained. ‘When I applied at Bristol I hadn’t been granted asylum the UK yet, so for me, the scholarship is what allows me to go to University. Bristol was the only University that offered this support, without having to jump through impossible loopholes.’

It is not difficult to see the impact of these schemes. For me, the Futures Scholarship programme was a relief, after-hours sat with my Bristol acceptance email and calculator in hand, working out how to manage weekly living costs from my own savings. Yet for others, these financial schemes have been an access to education itself.

The schemes and funds highlighted here are only a few examples of the many existing forms of financial assistance which are largely unknown.
If you are financially struggling, or think you may be eligible for specific support, please contact the University’s fees and funding office or your personal tutor for more information

Featured Image: Epigram/ Cameron Scheijde

Have you used any of these schemes and have they helped you ? Get in touch!