Frequently asked questions (students and parents)
The information on this page applies to students studying at universities and colleges in England only.
For explanations of technical terms such as ‘access agreement’, ‘higher fees’, ‘basic fee’ etc, see our Glossary.
If you’re looking for help with the cost of going to university or college click here
If your question isn’t answered on our website, you can Contact us.
- Am I covered by my university or college’s access agreement?
- I come from Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland – what am I entitled to?
- Will getting a bursary affect my eligibility for Government loans and grants?
- I receive social security benefits. Will they be cut if I get a bursary from my university or college?
- When can I apply for state financial support?
- I’m an overseas/EU student – what bursaries can I apply for?
- I’ve been contacted by my university who say I need to ‘consent to share’ my financial information – what does this mean?
- I haven’t been accepted on to the course I applied for – can you help?
- I think my university or college has breached its access agreement
- I want to make a complaint
- What powers does OFFA have and when would it use them?
- When would OFFA fine or sanction a university or college?
Access agreements cover home/EU students studying full-time, or at least 25 per cent of a full-time course, on publicly funded undergraduate courses and postgraduate teacher training courses. Other postgraduate courses do not fall under OFFA’s remit.
OFFA’s remit only covers students who normally live in England so if you are not resident in England we recommend you check with the university/college in question whether they can offer you a bursary or other support.
For information on what state support you are entitled to, see:
- Student Finance Northern Ireland if you normally live in Northern Ireland
- the Student Awards Agency for Scotland if you normally live in Scotland
- Student Finance Wales if you normally live in Wales.
I receive social security benefits. Will they be cut if I get a bursary from my university or college?
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will not count a bursary from a university or college as income when calculating benefits such as income support and housing benefit, providing that:
- you receive the income-assessed Special Support Grant, which is designed specifically for full-time students eligible for DWP benefits
- the bursary is for course-related costs such as books and other materials, course-related travel etc. You must have a written statement to this effect from your institution in order for the DWP to disregard the bursary. The DWP will not disregard any part of a bursary that is for living costs.
You can apply now for state financial support for the coming academic year – you don’t need a confirmed place at university or college. The body that deals with this is Student Finance England. For more information see Gov.uk. If you’ve already applied for student finance but need to make some changes (for example, you’re studying a different course), you can also do this online.
You need to contact your university/college (or the university/college you’re applying to) for information about any financial support available to you.
I’ve been contacted by my university who say I need to ‘consent to share’ my financial information – what does this mean?
When you fill in your Student Finance application form, there is a box that you (and your parents if applicable) can tick to say that you refuse permission for Student Finance to share the information you’ve given on the form with your university/college. If you tick this box, your university/college may not be able to see if you are entitled to a bursary, so they won’t be able to give you the money you’re entitled to.
If you have mistakenly ticked the box refusing to share your information, contact the relevant customer helpline below:
- English students – 0845 300 50 90
- Welsh students – 0845 602 88 45
- Northern Ireland students – 0845 600 06 62
There are two sanctions open to us if a university or college seriously and wilfully breaches its access agreement. We can:
- direct HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) or the Secretary of State for Education to deduct a fine from the university or college’s grant (that is, the public funding it receives from the Government) or suspend part of its grant until it has put matters right
- refuse to renew the university’s or college’s access agreement, thereby preventing it from charging full-time undergraduate students tuition fees above the basic level for a period after its access agreement has expired.
We will only use the sanctions listed above if, in our opinion, a university or college has committed a serious and wilful breach of its access agreement, for example by charging higher fees than set out in its access agreement or by failing to deliver the outreach and retention measures it has committed itself to. We would not impose a sanction solely because a university or college has not met the targets or milestones it has set in its access agreement.
When looking at a potential breach, we consider each case individually, taking into account the efforts made to comply with the access agreement. For example, if a university or college spends less than intended on outreach because of unavoidable delays in implementing a project, we will want to be sure of its future outreach expenditure, but we would be unlikely to apply a sanction. Similarly, if a university makes a mistake in delivering financial support to students, we would require it to rectify the situation and pay any shortfall, but we would not necessarily apply a fine.