The Unions guide to money and financial support

Everything you need to know about the hardship fund

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This is one of the biggest issues you will have to deal with during your time studying. You may have your fees paid by the government or you may be paying your own fees. Either way, you will require additional money to live on. How do you survive? Who can you talk to? Where can you find more information?

There are no easy solutions for students to find extra funds, so always plan carefully before your studies begin. You must ensure you have planned funds which can cover all your living expenses, including rent, electricity, gas, wi-fi, food, travel, books, clothes, going well as your laptop and phone expenses.



Click here for Information on funding sources for grants or benefits – you can search by individual circumstances

For students with a disability, click here

 For excellent and expert advice on saving tips for students click here



The list of books below are reference books to access in a public library – they are extremely expensive and updated every year, so it is not worthwhile buying them.

The Guide to Major Trusts 2023/4 published by the Directory of Social Change supplies information on over 1,000 of the largest UK funders. You can access this book at public libraries.

The Guide to Educational Grants 2020/21 by Mairead Bailie ISBN-13 ‏ :978-1784820633 Access in public libraries.

A Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need 2021/22 by Jessica Threlfall

The Grants Register 2023: The Complete Guide to Postgraduate Funding Worldwide

Palgrave Macmillan ISBN-13 ‏ : 978-1349960521 Access in public libraries


Heriot-Watt Bursaries and Scholarships

It is worth searching carefully through the following links to see if there is any available bursary or scholarship you may be eligible to apply for.

For general information, click here


The Childcare Fund

If you are a full-time home student, funded by any UK government, you can apply for assistance to help towards the cost of formal childcare. You must be in receipt of the maximum loan amount available to you. The childcare must be a nursery or childminder registered with the Scottish Care Inspectorate. Search for Childcare Fund in your AskHWU portal.


Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

If you are a student with a disability please contact the University Disability Service on The DSA fund can offer help towards the financial cost of any support needed to enable your studies.


The University Discretionary Hardship Funds

The University has hardship funds to which any student can apply if they meet the criteria. This applies to undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students based in Edinburgh, Orkney or SBC campuses. To be eligible, you must be studying full time, and in receipt of the maximum amount of student loan available to you. To be successful in getting help from this fund, you must provide evidence that you are experiencing severe hardship and explain what has happened to cause this circumstance.

The link to more information and instructions on how to apply is here.

Hardship Funds cannot help with tuition fees. You can only ask for help with living expenses such as rent, bills and food costs.

Hardship Funds are not an ongoing monthly source of help – if you are successful the help you will be given is in the form of a one-off grant (the amount varies according to circumstances)


Frequently Asked Questions about the University Hardship Fund

How much information do I need to explain in the hardship form?

You need to give considerable information and detail. If you have written less than 500 words, you are unlikely to have given the hardship fund team enough information to fully understand your situation. Keep in mind that you are asking for money which you will not have to pay back. The more information you explain, the easier it will be for the team to decide if they can help you.

Writing sentences such as “Family circumstances mean I have no funds and am in a desperate situation” are not helpful unless you explain exactly what the family circumstances are, and exactly what you mean by a desperate situation. It is also helpful to include any evidence you can offer to support what you explain.

In the column where I write down my necessary expenditure, how do I know how much exactly I spend on food every month?

You don’t have to give an exact figure – it is fine to offer your best estimate of your expenditure.

I recently had a big car repair bill, and now cannot pay my bills. Can I apply to the Hardship Fund?

Yes, you can apply, but you will need to explain exactly why you need to own and drive a car, as this is a major expense, and the hardship fund will question this unless you have good reason. For example, you may not have public transport where you live, or you may have a disability which prevents you using public transport, or you may have family reasons which mean a car is vital.

I’m an international student who arrived recently and didn’t know it would be so expensive to live in Edinburgh. Can I ask for help from the Hardship Fund?

You can apply to the Hardship Fund, but you will need to explain clearly what happened to the money you had in your account in order to get your Visa to come and study here. In general, students are expected to plan for their studies, and do research into how much they need for living expenses. To get help from the Hardship Fund, you need to show that you did plan appropriately to fund your studies, but something has unexpectedly gone wrong, through no fault of your own, to cause your financial crisis.


I have a lot of debt. Will this mean the Hardship Fund cannot help me?

No, you can still apply. You should be prepared to explain what has happened and how this debt has built up.


I cannot live on my student loan but don’t want to get a job as I think my studies will suffer. Can I ask for help from the Hardship Fund?

You can apply for help, but you will be expected to make every attempt yourself to cover your expenses, and that would include looking for a part-time job. If you have health reasons why you cannot work part time, you should explain this (and offer evidence of this).


Even if I get some help from the Hardship Fund, I don’t know if I can pay my rent and bills for the rest of my studies.

If you cannot pay your living expenses and cannot see any way to earn the funds you need through a part time job, then you may need to temporarily suspend your studies. This means taking a break for a semester, or a year, in order to raise the money you need to survive while you are studying. You would then return to your studies. You can request a Temporary Suspension of Studies from your school, and it is their decision if they agree to this. You can read more information here.


Is there anyone who can help me with the hardship application form?

Yes, you can ask the student union Advice Hub by emailing and we will be happy to answer questions, check your application and offer feedback before you submit it.


How long does it take to get a decision about a hardship application?

It can take between three and six weeks to get a decision from the Hardship Fund team.


What if I have no money left for food during this time waiting for a decision?

Please contact the student union Advice Hub ( if this is your situation.





Other ideas to make things financially easier:

The Chaplaincy

Heriot-Watt Chaplaincy is a warm, welcoming space to all students and offers the following fabulous weekly events:

Tuesday Soup Lunch

served from 12.30 to 14.00 (£1)

Wednesday Evening Meal

served from 18.00 (£1)

Thursday Coffee & Cake

served from 15.00 to 16.00 (free)



Riccarton Campus Free Food

In the Edinburgh campus, free porridge is available each morning from Monday to Friday. The first 200 students to present at Central food court (Hugh Nisbet Building) between 9am and 11am will receive one portion of porridge. Free soup is also available every Thursday from 11.30am to 3.30pm for all staff and students, also from Central food court.


University Rent Guarantor Scheme

This scheme has been provided by the University to help students to secure accommodation which may be unavailable to them because a UK-based rent guarantor is required. The scheme is open to new and continuing UK, EU and overseas students where a UK guarantor is not available. You can apply to the scheme here.

Finding part-time work while you study

The Careers and Graduate Futures Service at Heriot-Watt is here to support you find and apply for student friendly jobs that fit around your studies. They advertise roles across a variety of other sectors, including bars and hospitality, health care, office and retail work. Simply click on the Careers & Graduate Futures tile on the MyHWU portal, and select the ‘Find a Job’ tile on the dashboard. Part-time jobs are advertised on the GRADfutures Job Board and the Job Teaser sites. They also provide support on making applications, creating your ‘part-time’ CV as well as information on National Insurance numbers, minimum wage regulations and tax.


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