‘Unfitted for Higher Education Student Support’ Policy

24 May 2019

The Department for the Economy have released an updated policy document relating to a student becoming 'unfitted for support'.

You can read the full release below.

Student Finance Northern Ireland:
‘Unfitted for Higher Education Student Support’ Policy

Introduction

Student Finance Northern Ireland has responsibility for the assessment of entitlement and payment of student support to eligible Northern Ireland domiciled students studying designated Higher Education courses in the UK or Republic of Ireland, and to eligible EU students studying in Northern Ireland.

Student Finance Northern Ireland comprises the Education Authority, which has responsibility for the assessment of eligibility for student support; the Student Loans Company, which has responsibility for the provision of student support payments to eligible students, and the recovery of repayments; and the Department for the Economy as policy lead and budget holder for the provision of student support to in Northern Ireland.

Collectively, Student Finance Northern Ireland is committed to providing the right support to the right person at the right time, and to ensuring value for money for the public purse. Fundamental to that is that support is provided only to individuals who are entitled to receive it, as in some instances an individual’s conduct may render them ‘unfitted for support’.

Unfitted for Support: Legislation

The payment of student support for Northern Ireland domiciled students is governed by the Education (Student Support) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 (“the Student Support Regulations”), as amended. In summary, the Student Support Regulations provide that the Department for the Economy may make support available to students on certain Higher Education courses. However, the Regulations also provide the Department with the right to decline applications, or to withdraw student support, on the basis that a student is deemed ‘unfitted to receive support’ due to their conduct.

Student Declaration

As part of the application process for student support, students must sign a declaration and undertaking which details the rules that they must adhere to and the penalties that may be imposed if they subsequently break the terms of that agreement.

Decision

In line with the above provisions, the Department for the Economy may deem an individual who would otherwise be eligible for support in respect of their Higher Education course to be deemed ‘unfitted for support’ as a result of their conduct. This principle applies irrespective of whether the student is studying on an undergraduate or postgraduate course, or whether the course is studied on a full-time or part-time, in attendance or distance learning basis. The decision will be based on:

  1. the student’s failure to comply with the conditions of the allowance or loan;
  2. being unsatisfied with the conduct of the applicant; or
  3. a combination of (a) and (b).

Why might a student be deemed ‘Unfitted for Support’?

Examples of scenarios that may result in an individual being deemed ‘unfitted for support’ include:

  • The student’s conduct has not been acceptable.
  • The student has failed to progress and has made multiple withdrawals from their course over a number of terms.
  • The student has provided inaccurate or incomplete information on the application for student support in an attempt to receive support to which they are not entitled.
  • The student has committed or attempted fraud against Student Finance Northern Ireland.
  • The student has been asked to repay monies to the Student Loans Company and has failed to do so, or has failed to honour a repayment arrangement.
  • The student has not adhered to conditions of the agreement they entered into when applying to Student Finance Northern Ireland for their award.

(This list is for illustrative purposes only and is not exhaustive. Student Finance Northern Ireland will make decisions about an individual’s suitability to receive or to continue to receive support on a case by case basis.)

Appeals

Any individual deemed ‘unfitted for support’ by Student Finance Northern Ireland has the right of appeal. Appeals will only be considered in exceptional circumstances, unless it can be demonstrated that Student Finance Northern Ireland have made an incorrect assessment of the factual circumstances in respect of the application. All requests for an appeal must be supported with documentary evidence. An appeal should be raised as soon as possible after receiving the decision from Student Finance Northern Ireland. It should provide the following:

  • Detail on why you think Student Finance Northern Ireland’s assessment is incorrect;
  • An adequate explanation of why you think funding should be provided/ reinstated; and
  • Documentary evidence to support your appeal.

The appeal should be made in writing to the Head of Student Support, at:

Department for the Economy Northern Ireland
Adelaide House
39-49 Adelaide Street
Belfast
BT2 8FD

A member of staff from the Department for the Economy will respond within 10 working days. If this is not possible, you will be contacted and advised of when a response will be issued.

Please note that an appeal cannot be considered unless supporting evidence is provided.

Last modified: 24 May 2019