Most students have to manage on a limited budget throughout their studies but for some money can become such a problem that you may even wonder whether you can afford to carry on at all. If you have higher than expected costs to meet or are facing an unexpected financial crisis the University’s Access to Learning Fund may be able to offer you some assistance.

What is it?

The Access to Learning Fund (ALF) is made up of money given to the University by the government to help students who need extra financial support. It is intended to help students who experience unexpected and/or exceptional financial difficulties during their course, and who otherwise may struggle to continue their studies. It cannot however provide help with tuition fees. The fund has strict eligibility criteria and has a limited amount of money so it is not able to help everyone and is usually only able to provide limited assistance. Any money awarded from the ALF is paid as a grant and is not therefore repayable.

Am I eligible?

The ALF is only available to ‘home’ students (non-UK students may be eligible to apply to the Alumni Hardship Fund instead – have a look at our webpages for more information). It is open to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as to part-time students (if studying the equivalent of 50% or more of an equivalent full-time course). Before applying you must have taken out any student support (loan / grants) that you are entitled to and should have explored all other possible sources of financial support.

The ALF favours certain ‘priority’ groups of students:

  • Students with children, especially lone parents.
  • Mature students, especially those with existing financial commitments
  • Students from low-income families
  • Disabled students, especially those with costs that cannot be met through a DSA
  • Students who have been in care
  • Students from Foyer or who have been homeless
  • Final year students in financial difficulties
  • Postgraduate and part-time undergraduate students facing a financial difficulty that could not have been foreseen

If you are not in one of these groups you can still apply to the ALF, but you will need to show an exceptional financial need or difficulty.

How do I apply?

You will need to complete an application form, write a covering letter explaining in detail your situation, and provide supporting evidence like bank statements, proof of your income, a copy of your tenancy agreement/mortgage repayment schedule etc.

The ALF application forms & accompanying guidance notes are available from the University’s website at

You can also pick up hard copies from the Student Advice Centre, your school office or a Student Advisor.

Before you submit your form you will need to get it checked and signed by a Student Adviser in your school of study. The form should then be sent to The Financial Assistance Officer in Sussex House.

Is the application form difficult?

If you have ever filled out a welfare benefits form then the ALF application form is a breeze in comparison. Most of it is a fairly straightforward personal budget sheet that compares your income and expenditure (ALF awards are usually based on there being a clear ongoing shortfall between a student’s income & expenditure, although ‘non-standard’ awards can sometimes also be made to cover one-off financial commitments).

If you need help with an ALF application you can always come to one of the Student Advice Centre’s drop-in sessions. We are happy to discuss your application with you and if appropriate suggest amendments which could be made to your application form or supporting letter. We can also help put an appeal together if you are unhappy with the amount awarded. You may also want to speak to us about any related issues that may have contributed to your current financial difficulties and for advice on possible alternative sources of help.

How quickly will any ALF award be paid?

If you think you might need to apply for help from the ALF, don’t wait until you’ve run out of money as an application can take some time.

It normally takes up to 10 working days to assess an ALF application once one has been submitted and then up to another 14 working days from the date of the decision for any money to reach your bank account.

If you need money urgently in the meantime you may be able to take out a VC Loan as long as you are registered at Sussex (& have a valid Student ID Card) and you do not already owe the University any money. You can apply for a VC Loan through either a Student Adviser in your school of study, or from the Student Advice Centre.

For further information about the ALF, VC Loans or any other source of financial assistance that you may be eligible for have a look at the Student Advice Centre’s online money advice webpages. Alternatively, you can always come to one of our drop-in sessions or contact us by phone or email for advice.

Student Advice Centre

1st Floor Falmer House

01273 877038

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