hardship
Image: Warwick Media Library

University of Warwick spends over £1m on Hardship Funds in five years

The University of Warwick has spent almost £1.3 million on funds allocated to students who are suffering from financial hardship over the past five years, The Boar can reveal.

Last year saw budgets allocated to Hardship increase by up to two-thirds. There are four funding categories that Warwick students can apply for:

  • The Warwick Hardship Fund (WHF) for full-time undergraduates, part-time undergraduates, and postgraduates
  • The International Students’ Childcare Fund (ISCF)
  • The International Students’ Emergency Fund (ISEF)
  • An ‘emergency’ loan.

The greatest spend per student over the five years was allocated to successful applicants to the International Students’ Childcare Fund, who received £1,578 on average.

The second greatest average spend per student was granted to WHF applicants, who received on average £1,067 to aid “genuine financial hardship” after having “explored and exhausted all other ways of supporting yourself”. The University clarifies that priority for funding is given to students with dependents and students with disabilities.

Commenting on the fact that applicants to the ISCF received a greater award on average than WHF applicants, the University said that the award amounts tend to be higher for ISCF as they are made “specifically for childcare costs which can in some cases be high”. However, they clarified that they “only support students with up to 50% of their childcare costs”.

Last year, the University of Warwick increased the budget for this hardship fund to £210,000 per annum, having exceeded their budget with an overall spend of £212,319.76 in the 2017/18 academic year. They also increased the budget for the ISCF, from £16,000 between 2014-2018 to £24,000 for the 2018/2019 academic year.

Successful applicants for the International Students’ Emergency Fund received £497 on average per person.

The most common hardship fund applied for by students is the emergency loan, which is in place for students who are experiencing short-term financial difficulty and, as such, rarely exceeds £250. While specific totals fluctuated from year to year, records show that the University granted an average of £61,000 a year to students in need of an emergency loan, equating to an average of £240 per person each year.

While the University reserves the right to reject other hardship fund applications, 6% of WHF applications were turned away within the last five years.

While the University reserves the right to reject other hardship fund applications, 6% of WHF applications were turned away within the last five years

However, 20% of International Students’ Childcare Fund applications and over a quarter of International Students’ Emergency Funds were rejected over the same period.

Across the two most common loan types – WHFs and emergency loans – over 60% of applicants were women.
On average, almost 188 WHFs are applied for each year, though the University saw a spike in applications in the 2016-17 academic year when they received as many as 281 applications.

The University only records emergency loan payments if successful and said that applicants “would only be unsuccessful if students have a loan outstanding, have had more than 3 in a twelve-month period, or if they need the loan for something other than living costs”.

In total, over the five years, the University of Warwick spent £890,000 on WHFs, £77,000 on ISCFs, £25,000 on ISEFs and just over £300,000 on emergency loans.

Despite recent alterations to the WHF and ISCF budgets, the University underspent as much as £18,000 on the former and £8,000 in the latter across the five years, each recorded in separate years.

According to the University, any unspent amount at the end of each financial year is not carried forward into the following year. The University states, however, that the annual budget allocation is embedded into the financial plan and so the allocation is not automatically reduced if there was an underspend in the previous year.

In 2017/18, the ISCF saw an underspend of £8,000, last year the university spent the entirety of the budget. The University clarified: “If the University overspends on ISCF we can use money from ISEF to cover this overspend. Therefore, some years ISEF underspend might not match up with the budget minus spend as some of the funds have been used for ISCF.”

They explained: “Historically the money for these two funds was allocated as a budget for international students as a whole, and it was decided to split that into an emergency fund and one for childcare. This means that, if needed, we could use money from either fund to support the other.

“However, going forward from this academic year it has been decided we will see all three funds as one, so will be able to use any underspend across WHF, ISEF and ISCF if needed.”

Over the five years, the University of Warwick spent £890,000 on WHFs, £77,000 on ISCFs, £25,000 on ISEFs and just over £300,000 on emergency loans

Across the five years, only six students made a second application to the WHF after their first was unsuccessful.

The University of Warwick also commented that there have been no formal appeals against hardship fund decisions in the last five years.

One anonymous postgraduate student who applied for the WHF this academic year told The Boar that they did not think it was fair that their application was rejected.

He commented: “The hardship fund doesn’t take into account individual needs or expenses, rather, it only looks at a baseline of what students should spend and what they spend it on and use this to calculate overall expenditure. For example, if someone uses a car, the expense to run this isn’t included in the report as the fund assumes everyone uses the bus.

“This system is flawed and fails to address the unique and diverse needs required by each student.”

However, a Warwick undergraduate who received an emergency loan after a successful application in the same academic year commented that she was satisfied with the granted amount, explaining that it covered her needs “in an emergency” relating to her living costs.

During calculations, figures remained to their decimal point. For the purpose of publication, figures above 10,000 have been rounded to the nearest 10. Average funds awarded to students have been rounded to the nearest decimal place.

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