Sources of funding for social mobility
September 3, 2014 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I have some friends who don't have GCSEs or A-levels. I would like to help them study for these qualifications. How can they support their living costs?

I would like to help these friends to get 3 A-levels in one year. They don't have much savings. They also rent their current property but they do have somewhere quiet to study.

I know that they can get a Career Development Loan to pay for their A-level course costs. What I'm not sure about, is how can they support themselves while taking a break from work? Also, how do they persuade their landlord to let them stay in their current accommodation while they're relaying on savings, borrowing or some other funds but not a salary to pay their rent?

Thanks for any advice.
posted by Musashi Daryl to Education (9 answers total)
Does their landlord need to know? And do they really need to give up work? Could they study in the evenings and just pay to take a private exam?
posted by KateViolet at 1:35 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've never heard of a landlord re-verifying income after initial move-in, so as long as they can keep paying rent on time, there should be no reason to even discuss this with the landlord.

I don't know anything about GCSEs or A-levels, but do they really need to get 3 in one year? Could they work part time and build up the qualifications a bit slower?
posted by ktkt at 2:07 PM on September 3, 2014

Career Development Loans can definitely be taken for cost of living. Some colleges may also offer hardship grants, but that would be easily found on any college's website.

It'd be helpful to know why these people don't have GCSEs and A-levels, because that would say quite a lot about how they'd cope with the workload, and whether they could work part-time or not. If they're recent immigrants to the UK (and all my advice is assuming that's where you live), then it depends on their education and language skills. If they didn't complete education during their teenage years, then you need to think about how they've developed in literacy and critical thinking skills, and how flexible they'll be about going back to a learning environment.

If you're suggesting they're doing it now because they're receiving benefits at the moment for whatever reason, then it probably will be possible for them to carry on receiving the benefits while studying part-time at college. If they want to skill up at a better rate, then Khan Academy may be suitable, and they can take exams when they feel able.

But no, other than direct from the colleges and through benefits, there's no other funding I'm aware of.
posted by ambrosen at 2:34 PM on September 3, 2014

You could have a look at this on

Full- vs part time is an important distinction, for benefit purposes. Benefits for full time students are generally restricted. But even if full-time, they may want to get welfare rights advice on Housing Benefit etc, especially if they happen to be lone parents or have disabilities.
posted by wilko at 2:51 PM on September 3, 2014

3 full A levels in one year is a lot. It's possible but a student would have to be of very high quality. What is the long term goal motivating this, there may be alternatives which would be a better fit if this is for university entrance, eg, an access course. Open university courses might also be worth a look but maybe not if they have no GCSEs.

It's important not to think of the route you go through at school as the only one available to get some worthwhile qualifications.
posted by biffa at 3:17 PM on September 3, 2014

An access course would be a much better choice than A-Levels. It comes in a full time and a part time version so you can carry on working, and it carries the same number of UCAS points as 3 A-Levels. It's aimed at people who've been out of education for a while.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:04 PM on September 3, 2014

Response by poster: That's interesting. I had kind of dismissed access courses because someone once told me that their access course had "been worth 5 As". I didn't believe that, so thought perhaps that access courses were being missold to people.

I know that for a lot of £15k / year jobs, it helps to have 3 good A-levels. I'd be interested, though, if you could tell me how employable someone would be with an access course? Is it disproportionately harder to get the UCAS equivalent of 3As with an access course?

Thanks for your advice.
posted by Musashi Daryl at 9:28 AM on September 5, 2014

I did an access course - humanities and social sciences - in 2005, and then applied to several universities for modern languages (I was fluent in French already). I got rejected by traditional redbrick universities like Bristol, Bath and Manchester, but was accepted into Reading, Cardiff and Liverpool. I graduated as a mature student in 2010 and it hasn't affected my employability.
posted by ellieBOA at 7:12 PM on September 5, 2014

I can't comment from an informed position as to the value of an access course for going into work as I have no experience there, they are designed to enable people who haven't got A levels to go into HE.

I am an admissions officer for a good UK university and have accepted people with access courses. My perception is that how access courses are viewed by universities has changed since 2005 so that it would be more common for mature candidates to use them in applications and be accepted, even by good quality institutions. There has been a change I attitudes and I think a greater commitment to consider them. Not least I imagine this is as many universities offer their own access programmes and also because about 20,000 candidates a year use them to support applications, which translates to a lot of income. I have no idea about Oxbridge but would be surprised if Bristol, Bath or Manchester were snotty about them now. (Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and Reading (sort of) are all redbrick by the way, Liverpool being the redbrickiest of the lot)

I would advise that if you are thinking of selecting an Access course with a view to applying to university afterwards that you work out what sort of course you are after at university and then call the universities you are interested in and asking for the admissions department, they will be able to let you know whether they accept an access programme and how well you would need to do to be accepted there. Also ask them about applying, because you typically need to apply before xmas of the year you want to attend so you need to get on the case pretty early.

Typically applicants would get conditional offers based on pending results, or unconditional offers based on established results. I suspect you would be looking at needing an overall mark in the range 60-70%, depending on the institution.
posted by biffa at 10:06 AM on September 8, 2014

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