Friday, 17 March 2017

Applying for Student Finance – A Parent's Perspective

If you're a parent of a university applicant and are baffled by the Student Finance System, you're not alone. Head of the Student Centre, and parent herself, Julie Kelly takes a look at what you need to know about the application process.

So you’ve trekked half way across the country attending open days, you read 15 different versions of their personal statement, and you’ve watched in amazement as they’ve received offers for a place at University. It’s now time to start thinking about the next big hurdle, applying for Student Finance.

A couple of basics to get you started:

  • The student finance application process is administered by Student Finance England (or equivalent in Wales, Scotland & NI) and is completely separate from UCAS (although they signpost to quite helpful information). UCAS will not be checking that the application for finance has been made, the responsibility for this sits with the student. Equally their chosen University will have expected the application to have been successfully made before the start of term. Without funding in place your son or daughter will be personally liable for their fees and will have no money to live off, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this!
  • Just like when they applied for University through UCAS, your son or daughter will need to complete the application process themselves. Everyone is eligible to a basic level of funding, but higher level assistance is available based on your household income, so you will also have a part to play. Student Finance eligibility works on a sliding scale, so the more money you earn, the less they will receive and of course the more the bank of mum and dad will need to take the strain. All funding is in the form of loans that have to be repaid (by the student) as the government no longer offers any non-repayable grants although some universities will offer some level of bursaries or scholarships. If this is something you are interested in (and let’s face it who wouldn’t be interested in free money!) then you need to make sure that you don’t “un-tick” the share my information box on the Bursary and Scholarship page. 

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  • Repayments only kick in after graduation, and then only when earnings are above £21,000 (more information about this). All students can apply to get the maximum loan to cover the cost of the course (tuition fee loan), but the level of living expenses they can apply for (maintenance loan) will depend on a number of factors, e.g. whether they intend to study in London, live at home, and how much you earn. If you want to check how much they will be entitled to borrow you can check this using the Government Student Finance Calculator.

  • Give yourself plenty of time, both in terms of applying for student finance early and putting aside a decent amount of time to complete the actual application process. Student Finance England promises to assess loan applications in 6 weeks, but it’s probably not a good idea to leave applying until the summer. The application process opens in February/March each year so apply early so there is plenty of time to resolve any problems or queries. It’s important to keep checking to make sure that the status of the application changes from “submitted” to “approved”. The last thing anyone wants in September is to find out that their maintenance loan isn’t ready because of some small outstanding query.

  • They don’t need to have decided on a university at the point of application. Although they will be asked to say where they intend to study, this can be updated at a later date; either because they’ve changed their mind or if they don’t get into their first choice university. Having said this it’s vital that the new university details are updated before 1st September via their online portal. If not then the change has to be completed by the University then processed by Student Finance England which can take up to 6 weeks to process and could mean their maintenance monies are not ready for the start of term. 

  • Applying for student finance is an annual activity. Unfortunately their application does not roll forward into the next academic year, so each year your son or daughter will need to reapply for funding and each year you will need to confirm your income.
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Ok, so they are about to start the application process, what do they need?

  • National insurance number – don’t be fooled by the guidance notes that suggests this is optional; Student Finance England will not release a penny until they have the national insurance number. Future loan repayments are made through salary deduction so this is critical to them. Equally you will need it when you are asked to confirm your income.

  • University post code and term dates – it’s worth getting this information ready as it will ask you for the university post code and when they intend to start university. 

  • Your email address and that of your spouse – as Student Finance England needs to confirm your household income they will need to contact you by email – if you’re anything like us, my daughter did not know my email address.

  • A rough idea about how much you earn – you might not want to share exactly how much you earn, but they do need to know whether they are eligible to apply for the means tested element, i.e. whether their household income is less than £75k.

  • Access to a printer – although you could apply on a tablet or phone, you are asked at the end of the process to print a declaration form. This is not a show stopper as the declaration will be sent to them to sign (this should arrive within six weeks although ours came through quicker than that) but it would be good to get this out of the way. Again this declaration is an important part of the process and Student Finance England will not pay ANY MONEY until they have received it. It could be worth sending this recorded delivery. 

  • Passport – it would be good to have this handy as they will need to enter their passport number – if they don’t have a passport SFE will not pay any money until their identity has been established and will therefore ask for other evidence.

  • Their bank account number and sort code – details for where their maintenance loan will be paid.

The first step will be to set up an account with Student Finance England. Once completed they will be given a Customer Reference Number “CRN” and will be asked to set up a password and a secret question and answer. It’s important to keep these login details handy as this is how they will be able to check the status of their application. Important to note as a parent you will also be asked to set up an account and will also receive a CRN of your own. They will also be given a Student Support Number a little later in the process which Student Finance England also need if you contact them with a query.

Next apply for both the tuition fees and maintenance loans. It’s all fairly straight forward, but worth just taking your time as you move through the questions. Once completed they will be sent an email to confirm their application has been received and you (and your spouse) will receive an email inviting you to set up your own account so that you can enter your income details. They are looking to confirm your last full tax year so it’s worth having your P60 or Self-Assessment tax return handy. Entering the information was all relatively painless and only took us a few minutes. Again make sure you have your national insurance number to hand as this is how they will independently verify your income details.

Once their student finance has been agreed they will received a letter in the post explaining their entitlement which outlines the amount of tuition and maintenance loans they have been awarded. It’s worth checking the details at this point and getting back in touch with Student Finance England if it looks wrong, i.e. do the loan amounts look correct? If you have any concerns you could either contact Student Finance England or the Student Finance team at their University who will have experts on hand to check assessments and provide advice.

One final hurdle to clear and that is to make sure the Declaration Form gets signed and sent back in the post to Student Finance England. This is why it's worth sending this by recorded delivery, who needs the stress of it going missing…..

That’s it, simple, what was all the fuss about?

Julie Kelly
Head of Student Centre
University of Hertfordshire

Photo Of Julie Kelly

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Why a daily satire TV show is so difficult to get right

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Up in lights. ITV
Lyndsay Duthie, University of Hertfordshire
It was a bold scheduling move on the part of ITV, the UK’s main commercial television channel. Shifting the nightly news programme to make way for Britain’s latest attempt at a US-style late night talk show was always going to be risky. And so far, critics and viewers seem united in their response to The Nightly Show: they can barely watch. The Conversation

Taking ITV’s 10pm slot on weeknights, The Nightly Show has a 40 episode run with a revolving array of hosts, starting off with comedians David Walliams and John Bishop in the opening two weeks. (Mel and Sue, the duo who presided over The Great British Bake Off, have apparently changed their minds about appearing.) Recorded “live” at 6pm each day, the 30 minute programme aims to mimic American shows like CBS’s The Late Late Show with a mix of topical monologue and satire, celebrity chat and entertaining sketches.

But this is a demanding format which is difficult to get right. Achieving successful year round high profile chat shows requires huge resources, commitment and funds.
Ahead of the ITV’s version’s debut in February 2017, Peter Davey, the channel’s head of comedy entertainment said: “We’re really excited about launching this bold new show, and delighted that David [Walliams] will kick off what will be an eight week entertainment treat for viewers.”
But it would appear to not be such a treat. Ratings dropped sharply from 2.8m to 1.2m in the first week. Even worse hit were the viewing figures for the rescheduled news bulletin, which went to a record low.

Despite occasional interventions, ITV’s nightly news programme has been a staple of British TV screens for nearly 50 years. Other channel controllers have previously tried to move its slot in the schedule, leading to it being mockingly dubbed the “News at When?”. But there is a good commercial case for the schedule change. ITV is desperate to appeal to younger viewers and wants to create a clear alternative to BBC’s own news programme, which also airs at 10pm and has a far larger following.

As Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television, explained to the Guardian newspaper: “The truth is that when you’re up against a 50 times resourced juggernaut of BBC1 news, you won’t get more viewers.”

So one can understand ITV executives looking at the success of British presenter James Corden in his nightly show on American TV, and thinking, why not do the same here? But while the late night chat genre has long been a a staple of the US schedules, it is a format which has always been hard to translate in the UK.

So far, The Nightly Show has tried to stick to the formula of the successful American versions, opening with a host’s monologue, before moving on to celebrity interviews. But producing a daily program which reacts to news events every 24 hours is tough. It requires big writing teams if it is going to appear slick and effortless.

Famous presenters Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton have both been at the top of the talk show tree in the UK for many years. But they host short series of weekly programmes. They are not performing five days a week, 52 weeks a year. Nor do Norton and Ross try to mimic the US model of David Letterman and Jay Leno model. Instead, they stick to the chat and concentrate on the guests.
US late night talk shows are executed to perfection, and have a large pool of potential Hollywood A-list guests to choose from and keep viewers watching. It is much tougher for ITV to find high profile guests five times a week. After the first shows aired, some commented on Twitter that the guests all seemed to be merely publicising their own latest ITV shows.

Show time

Perhaps The Nightly Show is getting off to a rocky start because it is trying too hard to be too many things. Why experiment with different presenters every week? Wouldn’t it be better to stick with one big name host and let the audience develop a relationship with them? According to author and historian Joe Moran: “Part of the problem is that in the US there’s a complicit way in which the host interacts with the audience to give an almost conspiratorial mood that doesn’t quite translate over here.”

So is it just a matter of finding the right tone and the right host? CBS gave Corden time to develop in his new role. The channel bosses also understood that although ratings were important, the impact of what Corden was able to do on social media, with viral hits like Carpool Karaoke, gained them water cooler moments and talking points which helped develop the brand globally. But Carpool Karaoke would probably not have worked any where near as well if not for the quality of celebrities (including then first lady, Michelle Obama) taking part. It is barely conceivable that ITV would be able to deliver that sort of impact on a daily basis.

The question now is whether ITV will be brave enough to keep going with this genre, and to let it bed in. I don’t think the News at Ten will be back anytime soon. But I think viewers of the channel at that advertising peak time of 10pm will soon be enjoying the return of expensive 90 minute dramas. For now, the television cliffhanger is whether the faltering The Nightly Show will last its full eight weeks. It’s hard to put it better than Walliams himself, who turned to the camera during one broadcast to comment dryly: “And they moved the news for this …”

Lyndsay Duthie, Programme Leader for Film & Television, University of Hertfordshire

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How Brexit border debate could affect human trafficking into UK

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1000 Words/Shutterstock
Katerina Hadjimatheou, University of Warwick and Jennifer Lynch, University of Hertfordshire
Recent government figures estimate that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK today. A large majority of these people are trafficked in from abroad. And, as the government report shows, a significant proportion of this group, perhaps even most of them, are themselves EU citizens.
 The Conversation
While there is currently great uncertainty about how Brexit will unfold, it seems highly likely that the final settlement will involve some reinstatement of immigration controls between the UK and the EU. So, one important question is how this might affect the flow, identification, and protection of people trafficked into the UK.

Our understanding of the precise role played by migration controls in human trafficking is patchy. This is partly because trafficking is by its nature hard to measure. It’s partly because there is, as yet, no systematic research of the sort that would produce reliable evidence. And it’s partly because the increasingly politicised nature of the debate confuses an already incomplete picture.

Nevertheless, the need to migrate to escape danger, oppression and/or poverty and the restrictions placed on such migration are generally considered features common to trafficking experiences. For example, in recent years we have seen frequent assertions of a causal connection between tough border controls and increased reliance of people on illegal routes and threatening individuals.
The zealous enforcement of border controls has also been shown to hamper the identification of victims of human trafficking. Under both the Council of Europe’s Convention against Trafficking, and the UK’s most recent guidance, border forces must be proactive in spotting potential victims at the border.

But the border force’s singular focus on enforcing migration controls can make officers blind to indicators of victimhood, including some specific types of behaviour and responses to questioning, as well as interaction with travel partners. Officers looking to exclude as many illegal migrants as possible can end up focusing too much on the credibility of the travellers’ stories and not enough on their vulnerability. The consequences of the misidentification of victims of trafficking as illegal migrants can be detention, deportation and re-trafficking.

Safe migration

In light of these concerns, proposals have been voiced for the relaxation of border controls and the establishment of “safe migration” routes. Yet even if the removal of borders were politically achievable, there are reasons to be cautious in our expectations of how that might benefit victims.
Claims about the causal connection between migration control and human trafficking rest on an assumption that those trafficked are nearly always illegal migrants. But this is contradicted by the European experience. EU freedom of movement is the most ambitious border-free experiment of modern times.

However, recent estimates from the European Statistics Agency show that 65% of victims of trafficking registered in the EU are themselves EU citizens. UK records confirm this – in 2014, between half and a third of all recorded victims were EU citizens. This rises to 78% for those exploited for labour.

Politicising the debate

What should we make of this? Some have argued that EU freedom of movement actually facilitates human trafficking within Europe. For example, it is widely recognised that the removal of borders has increased transnational criminal activity including human trafficking. It may also make identification of victims harder at borders. In its 2015 report on modern slavery in the UK, the Centre for Social Justice made this claim:
Free movement has made it even tougher to spot victims of modern slavery from the EU as they arrive in destination countries legally. This means [European Economic Area] citizens do not come to the attention of either police or immigration and borders agencies.
This is echoed by soon to be published research we carried out in 2015 with border force officers working as anti-trafficking first responders at Heathrow Airport. They reported being required to move EU citizens through the border so quickly that it was almost impossible for them to identify victims.

Real victims are getting lost as the debate becomes politicised. John Gomez/Shutterstock

The conflict between border control and anti-trafficking they describe is not the one referred to typically – namely the risk that victims of trafficking are miscategorised as mere illegal migrants – rather, it is the risk that victims of trafficking are wrongly categorised as legal migrants.
How can we square this with the preceding claims that the implementation of national borders aggravates trafficking? Both may be correct. But attempts to move beyond mere speculation are currently hindered by the politicised nature of the debate. As so often happens with the controversial issue of immigration, arguments are frequently put to the service of preexisting political positions.
For example, it is unsurprising that border force officers, whose professional identity is premised on the need to enforce immigration and customs regulations, would see stricter border controls as an obvious solution to the problem of trafficking. Equally, the Centre for Social Justice is a right-leaning think tank which is sceptical about the benefits of free movement.

On the other hand, “safe migration” routes and similar solutions are typically championed by those who are already troubled by the contribution of migration controls to human suffering.
If we want to be prepared for the changes to come, we need research that can cut through the politics and deliver a much broader, more contextually informed and better evidenced understanding of the drivers of human trafficking into the UK.

Katerina Hadjimatheou, Research Fellow Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group, University of Warwick and Jennifer Lynch, Early Career Research Fellow, University of Hertfordshire

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.