College funds support Imperial community throughout the pandemic

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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College has expanded and extended the hardship fund available to its staff and student community.

The fund exists thanks to the generosity of donors, largely College alumni, but has also this year been boosted by the contributions made by staff who have taken a voluntary salary reduction over the summer.

"This has really made a direct impact on my future and well-being...with your support, I am now able to stand back on my feet, focus on studies and other important things in front of me as the anxiety of paying for rent has been relieved.”

Since 2016 more than £500,000 has been raised for the hardship fund from over 1,700 donors, and since June over 282 donors have added an additional £25,000 to the pot. This generosity has meant that additional COVID-19 support can continue for another six months and will be further extended to offer extra support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their first year at Imperial and staff.

Professor Alice Gast, President of the College, said: "This has been one of the most challenging years many of us have ever experienced.

"Adding financial hardship into the equation, whether COVID-19 related or not, has resulted in an even more challenging set of circumstances for a number of our students and staff.

"In this context it’s important that we expand our hardship funds to ensure members of our community can access the support they require."

Supporting our students

The Student Support Fund was created in 2016 to support students going through unexpected financial hardship. With additional funds from the COVID Hardship Scheme, this support has been extended and expanded and has now resulted in approximately £70,000 having been awarded to 60 students since the start of the pandemic.

After receiving funds, some recipients shared their thoughts on what the grants meant to them:

  • “Thank you is not enough! During difficult times, this was an important reminder that we are never alone and if you reach out, help will be there. This grant will enable me to continue my studies and hopefully one day be able to help the fund support others when they most need it.”
  • “Thank you so much for your generosity. This has really made a direct impact on my future and well-being. The pandemic has brought unprecedented impacts to me and my family. However, with your support, I am now able to stand back on my feet, focus on studies and other important things in front of me as the anxiety of paying for rent has been relieved.”
  • “I am very grateful to all of the Student Support Fund's donors and want them to know that their support is very much appreciated and extremely helpful to people from low income backgrounds such as myself. Your generosity has allowed me to focus more on my education and development whilst at university. The impact your donations have on myself and other students who are struggling is tremendous”

Criteria for students applying for support

Any student can apply for support if they are experiencing:

  • Loss of earnings
  • Loss of family support
  • Rent arrears
  • Loss of external scholarship funding, or extended periods of study not covered by external scholarship funding
  • Visa extension costs due to programme extensions
  • Other financial pressures not included above.

Being mindful of the financial pressures on students, particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the College is also exploring tools that will help students develop financial skills and avoid extreme financial hardship in the future.

Laptop Support Fund

A separate laptop support fund is also available and awards grants of up to £500 to allow students to buy a laptop for remote study. So far 40 laptop grants have been awarded and these have allowed students to continue with their studies.

One recipient commented:

“This grant is an enormous lifeline for me. With the coronavirus pandemic and the associated lockdown, I lost my part-time job which I was using to fund my student life. With strict budgeting I had enough funds to last me until the end of my study, but I had not anticipated that my only laptop would give up on me. I was very stressed, but then I remembered that Imperial offered this laptop fund. The grant is hugely appreciated and will go a long way to get me to the end of my degree.”

All applications are assessed on a mechanism based on the cost of living in London. The infographic below provides an outline of the current costs of living in London for an undergraduate student.


Supporting our staff 

The Hardship Scheme supports staff who are experiencing financial hardship through the provision of a one-off payment. The scheme is funded by voluntary reductions in the President's, Provost’s, President’s Board’s and other senior staff members’ salaries.

Applications have been open since 22 May 2020 and will close on 30 June 2021. Since May until the end of August 2020, 50 awards have been made to College staff. This has amounted to over £31,000 in grants.

Criteria for staff applying for support 

Any College staff member can apply for support if they:

  • Are facing extreme financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Have been unable to obtain other sources of money from statutory payments or other government allowances
  • Earn less than £48,000 per annum
  • Have a current contract of employment with the College
  • Have not received a recent salary advance or other College loan

Staff currently taking part in the furlough scheme are also able to apply for support.

Find out more

Imperial students are some of the best and the brightest in the world. During these unprecedented times, they need support more than ever. Whether through bursaries, scholarships or hardship funding the College wants to ensure we are there for every student who needs it.

You can learn more about the College’s student support funds on our website. If you would like to make a gift and support student’s in financial difficulty you can do so online. Thank you.


Murray MacKay

Murray MacKay
Communications Division

Julee Sanderson

Julee Sanderson
Communications and Public Affairs

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