COVID-19: Supporting Our Students

CONNECTED looks at how the University of Reading’s Student Support Fund has been vital in helping students financially during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Many students are facing unexpected physical, emotional and financial strains as a result of the current pandemic, so it is no surprise that requests for emergency funding from the University of Reading’s Student Support Fund have more than doubled in the last two months. CONNECTED looks at how this critical funding has been helping students to survive in such uncertain times.

Relieving financial pressures

In March and April alone, the Student Support Fund awarded £67,608 to 68 individual students – more than double the amount in financial support compared with the same months last year. Now, thanks to the generosity of University donors, further funds have been made available to help support those students that might be hit the hardest as the UK heads into its second month of lockdown. 

The extra funding has been made possible by redeploying donations from the Enabling Students campaign – which was originally allocated to the now cancelled Study Abroad programme for this year – to help cover the cost of supporting the students who need our help right now. Funds have recently been given a further significant boost thanks to the generous support of Santander Universities.

Students facing financial hardship at this time include those who have been made redundant in their jobs, or those who have moved home while still being liable to pay rent for their private accommodation. Other students have found themselves studying from home without access to a laptop or attempting to access online resources with limited internet supply.

Our Student Support Services staff are committed to ensuring that no student is left alone with their financial problems, and have been working hard to ensure any student that needs support can access this necessary funding. The team has worked diligently to streamline the application process and we have extended the application deadline, making it easier for students to access funds to relieve their financial strain.

Matt Daley, Head of the Student Support Services Department, said:

“I am really pleased that we can provide financial support to our students and help them during an incredibly challenging time.

“This is a worrying time for everyone, but if you add financial struggles into that, it can become overwhelming. My team know this and are working hard to process Student Support Fund applications quickly, and our colleagues in Transactional Services are supporting us by processing the payments to students quickly too.”

Student impact

Students have expressed their gratitude not only for the financial support, but for the speed at which it was received, and the quality of help and guidance from our staff. One undergraduate student described her experience of using the Student Support Fund to help pay for her accommodation costs.

She said: “I am very pleased and grateful to have received financial support. Due to COVID-19, I have encountered some difficulties. Since I told my academic tutor about the situation, she contacted the Head of Department, and gradually things started to unfold. Then, I applied for the Student Support Fund and thankfully I got awarded £1,250 which helped me to pay for my next instalment of accommodation fees. I have to admit it was a stressful period for me as I really did not know how I was going to pay for my accommodation fees, and I was thinking the worst scenario which was being evicted, or disqualified from university. My application was approved immediately, and I got the money within a short time. I have never experienced anything similar in terms of support in a matter of urgency.”

The Student Support Fund is available to all students at the University, whether full-time or part-time, undergraduate or postgraduate. A postgraduate student from overseas had the opportunity to thank staff and donors for their support, and to explain why the Student Support Fund had been so vital to them during this crisis.

“With the Student Support Fund, I can manage my daily expenses without the pressure of worrying, and not knowing how I can manage the next day’s necessities,” the postgraduate student said.

“It is a relief for me to continue my studies with less financial burden, especially with all the stress of the pandemic, the travelling restrictions and being away from my family.”

The fund has been particularly important in helping to substitute loss of income where students have been temporarily out of work, or have been made redundant. Without this fund, they would not be able to pay their rent or daily living expenses. Two Reading students who recently experienced this because of COVID-19 explain why the fund has been so important to them: 

“I had lost both my part-time jobs that were funding my final year of studies. The Student Support Fund has helped me immensely. I am now able to not worry about paying my rent and instead focus on my studies and completing my degree.”

“I applied to the Student Support Fund because of financial difficulties. I am a self-funded PhD student. I work part-time in a restaurant that has closed during the pandemic. My furlough pay is quite low, and it basically covers only my rent. This financial support has helped me a lot because I use it for covering my everyday living expenses.”

Help make a difference

The University of Reading is working hard to support students facing unexpected financial crisis, and we are grateful to our many alumni and supporters who have given generously in the past year to support student hardship. However, as we have already seen twice as many students calling on our help as a result of the COVID-19 crisis this term, the funds available are fast becoming exhausted and before long, we will have to turn those most in need away.

We face an uncertain period ahead as we move out of lockdown. Restrictions that limit our students’ ability to earn money will continue over the summer. We anticipate a massive increase in students facing desperate financial circumstances as they seek to start the new academic year.

Students only turn to the University when they have run out of other options, and having to abandon their studies is a very real possibility.

Your support now will make a crucial difference to a student in crisis. Please help them today if you can.

Find out more about how you can support this fund.