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 was correct at the time of original publication (26/03/2020) and is being updated regularly as things change. Last update 20/11/2020.

Accommodation Issues

I am confused about what the current rules are for students in halls or in private flats. Am I allowed to leave my halls or residence in order to meet others and socialise? 

On Friday 25/9/20 the Scottish Government and Universities Scotland put out a statement to request that students not visit hospitality venues or socialise outside their household for that weekend (25/9 to 27/9). This request was made as a direct result due to a number of covid outbreaks in student halls. Importantly this was a request rather than requirement and it only covered the weekend in question. 

The rules that apply to students therefore do not currently differ to those for the general public and specifically, in relation to meeting others.

As the current situation is continually changing, the Scottish Government and UofG will update their information regularly. Please also see the UofG coronavirus FAQs for more details. 

Can I return home or visit my family? 

The Scottish Government has provided guidance for students on this and the Student Information Scotland website has FAQs for students returning home . This should be read alongside the wider Scottish Government Covid guidance and the local tiered restrictions in place in you and your family’s area.

Should I start looking for accommodation for next year, if my course starts in January 2021?

We are aware that there are a number of postgraduate courses starting in January 2021.  We would suggest that before you commit to any accommodation contract, you pay close attention to any communications from your School regarding whether learning will be fully online, or whether there will be an element of on-campus attendance required.

As far as viewings are concerned, Scotland has introduced a 5-level approach on restrictions for local areas. Glasgow is in Level 4 of restrictions for three weeks from 6pm on 20/11/2020, but other local authority areas may be designated a different level, and these are subject to regular review. You are allowed to view a property for rent in person, we are aware that some letting agents are holding viewings remotely/by video which may be helpful, although we would urge you to be cautious when viewing in this way and try to ensure that the agent is giving you a thorough view of the whole flat.  As ever, we strongly discourage students from paying over any deposits or advance rent without first having viewed the accommodation.

The Scottish Government’s advice to private tenants during COVID-19 can be found here.

The Advice Centre has a wealth of other information on flathunting here

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 was closed for the first few months of lockdown, and is currently conducting case management meetings by teleconference to allow parties to participate remotely.  The Scottish Government has brought in a new law to prevent evictions if your rent arrears are less than six months (an increase from the former three months).  So there is time available to try and sort the situation out.   There are more details on eviction notice periods on the Shelter Scotland website. 

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 in University Halls or Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)

Please note: 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 are wishing to leave your University or Private PBSA Halls due to coronavirus-related reason”, then you are allowed to submit notice to leave. This is due to the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No2) Act coming into force on 27th May 2020.  This states that any student who signed a contract with University Halls of Residence or Purpose Built Student Accommodation after that date, or who signed the contract before that date but has not yet moved in, has the right to cancel the contract with 28 days’ notice, as long as it’s for a coronavirus-related reason. For students who signed and occupied the property before 27th May, the notice period is 7 days.

There is more information about this on the Advice Centre webpage on leaving halls early.

If your Halls refuse this request or do not refund any rent in advance you paid then please contact the Advice Centre.

I want to leave my tenancy (Private Residential Tenancy)

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

SAAS have been taking applications for 2020-21 as usual from April onwards and you can still apply if you haven’t yet done so, up to the end of March 2021.

For future years, if you want to ensure you receive your funding in time for the start of term, you need to apply by 30th June. (the ‘Guarantee Date’).

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 and course assessments have moved online rather than being cancelled altogether, and the situation for semester two is under review.

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 and course assessments have as moved online rather than being cancelled altogetherand the situation will be reviewed for semester two.

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 ended, 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 was 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.

I have filled in my council tax exemption form online, but have just received a bill for council tax from the council 

If you have filled in your exemption online, it can still take as long as 2 or 3 weeks for your online exemption to be fully processed, and so this might explain why you have been sent a bill. For more information, please see the UofG webpage on council tax and students.  

We have been advised that the best way to contact Glasgow City Council’s council tax department at the moment is via the Live Chat function on their webpage.  If you live in a different local authority area, check their webpages for guidance as they may have a similar provision in place.

Study Issues

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

See: University of Glasgow Laptop Loan Scheme.

Is the University Library open, and can I study safely and borrow books? 

At time of writing (20/11/20) the library is open but there are restrictions on the number of people allowed inside, and other safety measures are in place.  The Library and McMillan Reading Room will be closing temporarily at 6pm on 20/11/20 in order to put some additional measures in place to comply with Level 4 COVID restrictions.  The Library will re-open at 7.15 am on 22/11/20 and the Reading Room will re-open at 9 am on 22/11/20.

For other library updates, see: Glasgow University Library latest library and coronavirus information. 

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 Togetherall (formerly known as 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.

Question not answered here?

Try the University’s ever-expanding list of Coronavirus FAQs

or

Contact the Advice Centre at advice@src.gla.ac.uk.