All the times that DfE has respent the same money on students hit by the pandemic

As we’ve noted on the site before, for years and years now the (Westminster) government has provided a top up of funds to universities for support for disadvantaged students called "student premium funding".

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

It dates back to when there was all that talk of a “pupil premium” for disadvantaged pupils in schools funding.

As we mentioned here, last year – during the pandemic – Gavin Williamson cut the funding from £277 to £256m. There’s £150m for FT students, £66m for PT students and £40m for Disabled students.

The idea is that it goes on costs universities face in supporting students to succeed. These costs were significant pre-pandemic, and during the pandemic all the issues are exacerbated.

Fairly early on in the pandemic, questions started to be asked about whether the government would put any additional money in to help students. It was announced that some student premium funding might be able to be “reallocated”. OfS said:

there may still be significant uncommitted funding for planned activities such as the delivery of face-to-face outreach activity in schools which have been closed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak”

But that seems to have given DfE the green light to spend the money over and over and over again on almost anything you could think of to do with students, hardship, costs etc

Over the months, in response to questions in the media, in speeches and in Parliament, it has become a kind of magic money twig – money that solves all student coronavirus problems in higher education, despite being an existing stream of money that providers will have already committed to spend on supporting students.

As such, every penny diverted in the way suggested represents a cut to normal support for disadvantaged students to “get in” and “get on”.

To see how much money was allocated in SPF this year see here. You want columns X, Z and AB – as there’s been no direction allowing providers to mix money between FT, PT and Disabled.

That does mean by the way that just £130m is available to support FT students that are not Disabled. Normally about 40% of the funding is spent on access, so let’s say that’s about £78m for current student success, progression. Now have a think about how many students that’s supposed to be supporting, the purposes listed above and the extent to which it’s already been budgeted.

Anyway, below we’re trying to keep a record of each of the times the magic money twig has been deployed in Parliament. Do let us know if you rethink we’ve missed any.


UPDATE Jan 2021. For fairness and clarity, just before Christmas the government topped up the £256m by £20m. That shakes out as £14.9 million to the allocations for the full-time student premium, £2 million on the part-time student premium and £3.1 million on the disabled students premium.

If you’re interested in the provider level allocations, OfS has the original divvy up of the student premium, and it also has the allocation of the new £20m.


UPDATE Feb 2021. With the news of £50m in real “new money” we’ve decided to stop updating this record. We’ll post the links to the provider allocations here when OfS publishes them, and keep your eye on the site for further developments.


  1. Rent refunds for students who are unable to live in their student accommodation: 1st Feb “The Department has worked with the Office for Students to clarify that providers are able to draw on existing funds towards hardship support.”
  2. Digital technology to financially disadvantaged students: 1st Feb “Providers are able to use the funding towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment.”
  3. Tuition fee refunds and rent rebates: 27th Jan “We recently announced up to £20 million to help students most in need of support in these exceptional circumstances, for example those struggling to cover accommodation costs as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, in addition to an existing £256 million universities can use to help students”
  4. Financial support to university students who have been unable to return to their student accommodation: 27th Jan “Providers are able to draw on existing funds towards hardship support”
  5. Support to international students: 27th Jan “Providers can use the funding towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment, and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans”
  6. Compensation to students who are unable to move into their student accommodation: 27th January “Providers are able to use existing funds towards hardship support”
  7. Funding for all PhD students who have faced disruption: 27th January “English providers are able to use existing funds towards hardship support”
  8. Students’ contractual obligation to pay rent on properties they can’t use: 26th January “The department has worked with the Office for Students to clarify that providers are able to draw on existing funds towards hardship support”
  9. Rebates to students renting private rented accommodation but not living in that accommodation as a result of the covid-19 outbreak: 20th January “Higher Education providers are able to use existing funds, worth around £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards hardship support.”
  10. Additional support for university students who have caring responsibilities for children and who are engaged in university studies alongside home tutoring: 19th January “Providers are able to use OfS Student Premium funding worth around £256 million”
  11. Students whose university education has been disrupted: 19th January “Providers are able to use OfS Student Premium funding towards student hardship funds”
  12. Extra support for (a) mature students and (b) students with children: 18th January “Providers are able to use OfS Student Premium funding towards student hardship funds.”
  13. Students: Rented Housing 18th January “The department has worked with the Office for Students to clarify that providers are able to draw on existing funds, worth around £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards hardship support”
  14. Support for university students: 18th January “Providers are able to use OfS Student Premium funding worth around £256 million for this academic year towards student hardship funds”
  15. Additional teaching support and financial support students for lost income from part-time work: 13th January “Providers are able to use OfS Student Premium funding wtowards student hardship funds. We are also currently making available up to £20 million of additional hardship funding on a one-off basis to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students.”
  16. Emergency funding for student counselling and wellbeing services: 17th December “Providers can draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students affected by COVID-19 towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support.”
  17. Support for students during quarantine periods on their return to campuses: 10th December “Providers are able to use the funding towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support”
  18. Ability of university students to access their course content: 16th December “Providers can use the funding towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment or connectivity services where students would not otherwise be able to secure these”
  19. Loss of earnings to students prevented from returning to their term-time jobs by plans: 8 December “Providers are able to use existing funds, worth around £23 million per month for April to July this year and £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards hardship support”
  20. Care leavers: 20th November “Providers were able to use OfS Student Premium funding towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans”
  21. Student hardship: 16th Nov “We have clarified that providers can use that money for the entire academic year. It is for student hardship—for digital devices, for mental health support—so it is right that we keep referring to it”
  22. Mental health: 16th Nov “Higher education providers can also access the £256 million-worth of funding for this academic year that is to go towards student hardship funds and to provide support for the mental health of those affected by the pandemic.”
  23. Financial support and housing contract releases for clinically vulnerable and other students: 13th Nov “Providers were able to use the funding, worth around £23 million per month for April to July this year and £256 million for the academic year 2020/21 starting from August towards student hardship funds”
  24. Financial and mental health support for students required to remain at university during Christmas: 9th November “Providers can use OfS Student Premium funding towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  25. Additional resources and funding to universities: 2nd November “We have clarified that providers can use funding worth £256 million for the academic year 2020/21, starting from August, towards student hardship funds and mental health support”
  26. Students – Mental Health Services: 23rd October “We have asked that providers prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of students, enabling them to use funding,… to go towards student hardship funds and mental health support.”
  27. Accessibility of counselling and support services: 21st October “Higher education providers have been asked to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of students, enabling them to use funding worth up to £23 million per month from April to July this year and £256 million for the academic year 2020-21, starting from August, to go towards student hardship funds and mental health support.”
  28. Students who are (a) care leavers and (b) estranged from their families: 20th October “The government has worked closely with the Office for Students (OfS) to help clarify that HE providers can draw upon existing funding to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. Providers were able to use the OfS’s Student Premium funding worth around £23 million per month for April to July this year and £256 million for the academic year 2020/21, starting from August, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of mental health support.”
  29. University students access to digital and online learning: 19th October “HE providers can draw upon existing funding to provide hardship funds and to support disadvantaged students affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.”
  30. Mental Health Services: 13th October “We have asked providers to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of students during this period and have enabled them to use funding… to go towards student hardship funds and mental health support”.
  31. Access to digital and online learning: 12th October “The Government are working to ensure that all students have access to digital learning, including by helping providers to draw upon the existing funding… to go towards the purchase of IT equipment and wider hardship support”
  32. Affordability and availability of ebooks: 12th October to go towards “student hardship funds. Course costs, including academic books, will be considered as part of the assessment of the level of hardship support provided to a student.”
  33. Support with digital access: 8th October “The government has worked closely with the Office for Students to help clarify that providers can draw upon existing funding to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. Providers are able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment”
  34. Mental health support for students: 8th October “We have asked providers to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of students during this period and have enabled them to use funding… to go towards student hardship funds and mental health support”
  35. Student wellbeing: 8th October “We have also asked higher education providers to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of students, enabling them to use funding… to go towards student hardship funds and mental health support”
  36. Mental health and wellbeing: 8th October “We have asked higher education providers to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of students during this period and have enabled them to use funding… to go towards student hardship funds and mental health support”
  37. Additional funding for demonstrable [provider] costs: 6th October “The Department has provided £256 million of additional funding for academic year 2020-21 starting from August for student hardship funds and mental health support”
  38. Debt and first year students: 1st October “If he had bothered to turn up at the statement on Tuesday, his question might have been quite valid for that, but he would probably also have heard that £256 million had been made available for universities to support pupils in circumstances such as he has outlined [first year students]”
  39. Hardship funding for students who have to isolate: 1st October “Universities are also able to call on £256 million provided by the Government for hardship funding for students who have to isolate.”
  40. Additional financial support to higher education students: 30 September – “Providers were able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds, including for the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  41. Various: 29th September “We have made £256 million available to make sure that where students are facing real hardship, universities can access funding to help them.”
  42. Challenges that all students and universities will face: 29th September “We have worked with the Office for Students to ensure that hardship funding is available. That is part of a quarter of a billion pound package that was made available to universities.”
  43. Support to students unable to provide a guarantor to secure their accommodation: 29th September “Towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  44. Access to online learning: 25th September “Towards student hardship funds, including for the purchase of IT equipment.”
  45. Mental health of students affected by summer 2020’s exam results: 18th September – “Funding to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. Providers are able to use the OfS student premium funding … towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of mental health support.”
  46. University resources to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak: 16th September – “We have clarified that providers can use funding … towards student hardship funds and mental health support.”
  47. Applications from students from disadvantaged backgrounds: 9th September “We have clarified that providers can use funding … towards student hardship funds and mental health support.”
  48. Postgraduate students: 7th September “We have worked closely with the Office for Students to enable higher education providers to draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers were able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds.”
  49. Support for students facing hardship given lack of PT jobs: 7th September “On the hardship funds, we have worked with the Office for Students so that they can show more flexibility, and this will amount to £256 million for the coming academic year.”
  50. Postgraduate students: 7th September “We have worked closely with the Office for Students to enable higher education providers to draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers were able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds.”
  51. Bespoke support package for universities: 21st July “…provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. Providers are able to use the funding … towards student hardship funds.”
  52. Support for UK universities facing financial failure: 20th July “…hardship funds and support disadvantaged students affected by COVID-19. Providers are able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds.” [postgraduates]
  53. Student number controls: 2nd July “I draw particular attention to the £23 million per month funding currently available to help people with hardship, including, as the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, rightly points out, mental health needs which might arise from the current circumstances.”
  54. Widening of access and retention of students: 30th June “Higher education providers can draw on existing funding to provide hardship funds and support for disadvantaged students who are particularly affected by Covid-19”
  55. Fiscal support to students in financial difficulty: 30th June “Providers can draw upon existing funding to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. Providers are able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds.”
  56. Support for international students: 29th June “Providers in England can draw upon existing student premium funding to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19 and international students qualify for this. Providers are able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds, including mental health support.”
  57. Support to students who are no longer occupying their accommodation: 23rd June “Providers are able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds, including for the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  58. Attainment of students of universities that are planning to operate online: 18th June “To help support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19, the government has worked closely with the Office for Students (OfS) to clarify that providers can draw upon existing funding… towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment.”
  59. Reimbursement of students that have paid deposits on (a) private and (b) university housing for the 2020-21 academic year: 17th June “Draw on existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers will be able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds.”
  60. Financial support to students who have lost income and are struggling to pay their rent: 9th June “Providers will be able to use the funding … towards student hardship funds.”
  61. Digital support to university students for free laptops and access to 4G internet routers: 2nd June: “Providers are able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  62. Making educational websites free: 29th May “Providers are able to use the funding… towards student hardship funds, including for the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  63. Support to students who have returned home from university and are being required to (i) pay rent for their accommodation, (ii) remove their belongings but not return and (iii) pay for storage, removal and cleaning costs: 21st May “Providers will be able to use the funding … towards student hardship funds, including for the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support.”
  64. Help for A-level and university students who are at risk of homelessness: 19th May “Providers will be able to use the funding … towards student hardship funds.”
  65. Assistance to students financially affected by continuing obligations to pay rent: 18th May “Providers will be able to use the funding … towards student hardship funds.”
  66. Emergency hardship grants to university students from low income households: 15th May “Providers will be able to use the funding…, including the purchase of IT equipment, and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  67. Dropout rate of low-income students: 13th May “Providers will be able to use the funding…, including the purchase of IT equipment, and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  68. Employment and income of students: 11th May “Providers will be able to use the funding…, including the purchase of IT equipment, and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  69. Laptops to vulnerable and disadvantaged young people: 6th May “Providers will be able to use the funding…, including the purchase of IT equipment, and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  70. Prevention of digital poverty amongst students: 1st May “Providers will be able to use the funding… including the purchase of IT equipment, and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.”
  71. Online learning for disadvantaged university students: 27th April “The OfS have stated that providers are permitted to divert more of their student premium funding to their hardship funds to support students, including through the purchase of IT equipment. Providers should particularly ensure that students in the most vulnerable groups are able to access this support where needed.”

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