Advice during COVID-19

The Advice Team have put together some information based on their most common enquiries during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The situation is fast-moving at times, so please note that the information is correct at the time of publication (26/03/2020) and will be updated regularly as things change.

Accommodation Issues

I need to stay in my tenancy but can’t afford to pay the rent.  Can I get a rent payment holiday?

There is no legal right to a payment holiday, but if your landlord is able to get a mortgage holiday, they may be able to pass this onto you as a rent holiday.

If you are in a private tenancy, and fall into rent arrears, your landlord cannot legally evict you without an order from the Housing and Property Tribunal.  The tribunal has halted all cases until at least the end of May.  The Scottish Government is bringing forward a new law to prevent evictions if your rent arrears are less than six months (an increase from the current three months).  So there is time available to try and sort the situation out.

If you are in University Halls, and fall into rent arrears, the legal position is slightly different.  However, GUSRC is working with the University to try and support students, so please do reach out either to Accommodation Services, or to the SRC Advice Centre (advice@src.gla.ac.uk) if you are in this situation.

If your landlord can’t or won’t grant you a rent payment holiday, then you might be able to get help with rent payments from University Financial Aid.

If in any way you feel that your tenancy is at threat please do get in touch with the SRC Advice Centre, so we can talk your situation through with you in more detail.

I want to leave my tenancy (University Halls)

Firstly please consider the fact that we are currently in a ‘lockdown’ situation and the Government has instructed everyone to stay at home and stop all non-essential travel.  If you are thinking of leaving to go to your non-term-time address, consider whether you might in fact be spreading infection by doing so.

If you still decide to leave, the University has advised that you can do so by giving 28 days’ notice.  It’s your choice whether you stay in the accommodation during the notice period or leave.  If you give your notice by 1st April, it will be backdated to 25th March and the notice period will expire on 22nd April.  All Halls residents should have received an email about this.  If you haven’t, please contact Accommodation Services as soon as possible.

I want to leave my tenancy (privately-owned Purpose Built Student Accommodation)

Firstly please consider the fact that we are currently in a ‘lockdown’ situation and the Government has instructed everyone to stay at home and stop all non-essential travel.  If you are thinking of leaving to go to your non-term-time address, consider whether you might in fact be spreading infection by doing so.

If you still decide to leave, you will need to check the terms and conditions of your tenancy agreement to see whether you can bring the contract to an end early.  For more advice on this, please email a copy of your tenancy agreement and any communication you may have had with your accommodation provider to the SRC Advice Centre at advice@src.gla.ac.uk.

GUSRC and other student bodies across the UK are putting pressure on private student accommodation providers to allow early release from contracts.  This will be a developing situation and we will update this information when we know more.

UPDATEUnite student accommodation have announced that they will be allowing early termination of contracts in the current circumstances, provided they are notified by 10th April 2020. Liberty student accommodation is part of Unite and so will follow the same policy.

UPDATE: Student Roost is allowing students to terminate contracts early – to do so, email early.release@studentroost.co.uk by 13th April.

I want to leave my tenancy (Private Residential Tenancy)

Firstly please consider the fact that we are currently in a ‘lockdown’ situation and the Government has instructed everyone to stay at home and stop all non-essential travel.  If you are thinking of leaving to go to your non-term-time address, consider whether you might in fact be spreading infection by doing so.

If you still decide to leave, and your flatmates are all in agreement, you should only need to give your landlord 28 days’ notice under a Private Residential Tenancy.  If your flatmates do not agree to end the tenancy, then the situation is a bit more complicated.  Please contact the SRC Advice Centre at advice@src.gla.ac.uk for further discussion on this.

Money Issues

I haven’t applied for SAAS funding yet/Will SAAS be taking applications for next year?

If you haven’t applied for your SAAS funding for the current year (2019-20), you should do so by the end of March.

SAAS will be taking applications for 2020-21 as usual from April onwards.

There is lots more information in the SAAS FAQs

Is Student Loans Company funding affected by the pandemic?

Student Loans Company COVID-19 update.

I work in a bar/café/shop which is closed just now.  What can I do for money?

If you are an employee your employer may put you on ‘furlough’ – this means under the Government’s new “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” you would still get 80% of your wages whilst you are able to work but there is no work for you to do.  You can ask your employer about this.  More information on the UK Government website.

Campaign organisation Better Than Zero has some relevant advice on its COVID-19 support webpage.

University of Glasgow Financial Aid may be able to help – in response to the current situation they have introduced a new system of Crisis Grants of up to £500, plus there is still the usual Discretionary Fund for UK students, and Hardship Fund which any student can apply to. You can apply online.

There is also the Scottish Welfare Fund. Extra funding has been made available. It consists of crisis grants and community care grants. Students are not excluded from this help – if you have a low income you can apply. Applications are made via your local authority.

I am self-funding and a continuing undergraduate.  Can I get a reduction in fees because of the COVID-19 situation?

We understand that the University has no plans to offer fee reductions in this situation.  This is because teaching has moved online rather than being cancelled altogether, and teaching would be ending on 27th March in any case. Although most first and second year students will not be sitting exams, they will still be progressing to the next year of the course after the summer.

If you have missed material because of the strike action, that is a separate issue, although we understand the University does not intend to offer any fee refunds for this either. Further information on the University’s position on the strike.

I am a PGT Masters student and classes/placement have been cancelled. Can I get a fee refund?

We understand that the University has no plans to offer fee reductions in this situation.  This is because teaching has moved online rather than being cancelled altogether. We gather that although face-to-face teaching, exams and supervisory sessions for Masters projects will no longer go ahead, there are plans to continue this support remotely over the coming months.

Non-academic support services are also running, albeit virtually, and students have access to these such as IT Helpdesk, electronic library service, Counselling & Psychological Service, LEADS and so on.

If you have missed material because of the strike action, that is a separate issue, although we understand the University does not intend to offer any fee refunds for this either. Further information on the University’s position on the strike.

My course has virtually ended as there are no more classes, can I claim benefits?

When you finish a full-time course you no longer count as a student for benefit purposes, and can therefore claim benefits in the same way as anyone else provided you meet the other eligibility requirements. The date you can claim from is usually the day after the last day of the final academic year of your course.  This year, for most undergraduate students, the last date of the academic year will be Friday 29th May 2020.

Most full-time students cannot claim benefits however there are a few exceptions to this and the rules can be quite complex, so if you need further advice contact us: advice@src.gla.ac.uk and see our Money webpage.

There is also the Scottish Welfare Fund. Extra funding has been made available. It consists of crisis grants and community care grants. Students are not excluded from this help – if you have a low income you can apply. Applications are made via your local authority.

Study Issues

Will the University loan me a laptop to complete my work at home?

A small number of laptops are being made available for loan out to students to take off campus.
These are only for students who do not otherwise have access to any kind of laptop or PC, and require it for their study or work. The laptops will provide access to standard Office 365 software but not University network drives.

To ask for a laptop, please speak to your Adviser of Studies, and ask them to email ithelpdesk@glasgow.ac.uk with details of your requirements.

The Library and IT Services are currently working out the safest way for students to be able to pick up loan laptops.

Can I avoid the end of year online assessments as my home environment is not conducive to revising for exams?

Most first and second year students’ exams have already been cancelled.  The exceptions to this are the professional courses where a pass is required in order for later entry into that profession (Medicine, Law etc).  Exams for other years are going ahead online. The staff recognise that students will have difficulty revising in the way they normally would, and the University has adopted a ‘no detriment‘ policy, which means that your performance in the exams can only improve your final outcomes, not disadvantage you.

However, if you really feel that you cannot do justice to any online assessments, then our advice is to speak to your School.  We are not yet clear whether there will be an opportunity to sit exams in August, when the re-sit diet would normally be. The alternative might be that you are allowed to repeat the year, or do an exams-only year instead.  We can’t guarantee that these options will be available in all cases, though.

The University’s Good Cause system is also being reviewed in order to take account of the current situation and will be updated soon – you can find more information on the Good Cause FAQs page.

Wellbeing Issues

I’m really struggling with my mental health during this crisis. What support is there for this?

While the University’s Counselling and Psychological Service (CAPS) are currently not able to register new clients for blocks of counselling, they are able to offer phone consultations just now by phoning 0141 330 4528 or booking online.

Also see CAPS page on Coronavirus and Mental Health and list of self-help resources.

CAPS have also created a comprehensive list of external support services and helplines.

Students at the University of Glasgow can also access the peer support site Big White Wall.

There is some really helpful guidance from the Mental Health Foundation on looking after your mental health during this outbreak.

Lastly, it might also help to search social media for community led groups within your area that are offering help, support and local information, for example this Southside group.

I need emergency or crisis support.

In an emergency phone 999 to speak to the Police, Fire & Rescue Service or Ambulance Service.

The University of Glasgow also runs a Crisis Team and they can be phoned 24/7 on 0141 330 4444.