Unexpected financial hardship

Last modified: 13 January 2021

This information is aimed at people who are already in the UK under the Student route.

If you applied for immigration permission to come to the UK as a Student, you will have had to show that you could afford to study and live here. You will have had to show that you could pay some, or all, of your tuition fees and meet living costs. Hopefully you considered how you were going to cover your costs for the full length of your course.

This information provides a summary of what you should do, and who you can speak to, if you experience unexpected financial hardship when you are already in the UK as a Student.

UKCISA is not a funding organisation and we do not give grants or scholarships.

Planning and unexpected changes

Last modified: 13 January 2021

Regardless of careful planning, sometimes you can have unexpected financial problems during your time in the UK. For example, your financial sponsorship may suddenly end without warning or the value or your country's currency might suddenly decrease. Through no fault of your own, you may find yourself without enough money to pay your remaining tuition fees and living costs.

If you have unexpected financial difficulties during your course, the help you get will depend very much on the cause of your financial problem, how much money you need, the length of time you will need help, and what the money is needed for.

It is very difficult to find new sponsorship or other financial help once you are in the UK. If your financial problem will be long term, and/or if a very large amount of money is needed, there is often not much that can be done to help. You might have to consider returning home to look for new funding before you can return to UK to finish your studies. Many institutions will allow you to defer for a year and return to your home country to work for a year or find new sponsorship. If you have Student immigration permission in the UK, but find you have to stop studying, you cannot start working instead of studying; this is not allowed.

Financial hardship because of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last modified: 13 January 2021

If you have financial difficulties, let your education provider or Students' Union know and ask if they can help you in any way. International students are defined by the Office for Students as vulnerable, which means that you should have guaranteed appropriate accommodation, immediate access to hardship funds if necessary, and support with obtaining food, cleaning and medical supplies.

Save the Student has useful information about managing expenses, applying for refunds, and how to save and make money.

Your country's embassy or high commission might also be able to help or put you in touch with people and organisations who can help.

Education and accommodation providers should be flexible if you cannot afford to pay your tuition fees, rent or other expenses, so contact them as soon as you think you might have difficulties. Education providers may also have hardship funds. They do not always publicise their hardship funds, so ask them directly if you cannot find any information on their website or elsewhere. 

Local authorities, councils and neighbourhood, cultural and religious groups can help you with shopping and other aspects of daily life - check Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK for sources of help local to you.

Money Saving Expert provides regularly updated information about how to manage your money, including sources of help, how to help others and how to avoid financial scams.

Speak to your university or college

Last modified: 13 January 2021

Worrying about money problems can have a very negative effect on your studies. You should tell your institution if you are having difficulties. The first step is to explain your problem to someone. You should try to speak to your International Student Adviser, your academic tutor, your Welfare Officer, or someone at your Students' Union. They may be able to suggest ways of dealing with the problem and give you helpful information and advice.

It is important that you speak to an experienced adviser as early as possible and, especially, before you try to obtain financial help yourself. Their advice could help you avoid wasting time trying unrealistic sources and, therefore, endangering your Student immigration status.

Advisers do not have large amounts of money available to help you pay tuition fees or living costs. There may be an institutional Hardship Fund or Access to Learning Fund but these are not available in all institutions. If they are available, the amount of money you can receive is usually low and limited to one payment.

If the financial hardship has been avoidable (for example, if you started the course knowing that you did not have enough money or that the funds from home would not last), there is probably nothing an adviser can do. You might have to consider returning home.

However, if something unexpected has happened, particularly in the last few months of a course, then the adviser can discuss your situation with you and advise you on your options.

Help from your university or college

If you are unable to pay your tuition fees, you can ask the institution whether you could delay your payments or extend them over a longer period. It is very important to keep the institution informed, from the very beginning, of your difficulties, and to try to negotiate a way round the problem. Do not ignore fee invoices; discuss them.

In addition, there may be a student union or institutional hardship fund which could offer short-term help. Be sure to ask.

Other options, after speaking to your university or college

Last modified: 13 January 2021

Private trusts and charities

Debt counselling

Part-time work

Switching to part-time study - only if you are in a non-Student category 

Care needed if seeking Welfare benefits - 'No recourse to public funds'

Government Student Support

Your own government and country

Things you must not do