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Student - When Does The Course End?

LouiseG
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Financial Wellbeing and Welfare Benefits - Livin Housing Ltd, Co. Durham

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I have a student who has been undertaking a Masters degree course. The course ended in September, however she has not yet completed her dissertation. She has requested an extension for this to hand in December 202 but has not yet had this confirmed,
Is she still classed as a student IF she gets this extension for her dissertation? She has not failed an exam and I feel she has not failed to complete the module so she should not now be classed as a student any more. She is also in part time work at the place with the golden arches.
She has no other support and her part time work is not enough for her essential bills.
Thanks

Peter Turville
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Welfare rights worker - Oxford Community Work Agency

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LouiseG - 11 October 2021 08:09 AM

I have a student who has been undertaking a Masters degree course. The course ended in September, however she has not yet completed her dissertation. She has requested an extension for this to hand in December 202 but has not yet had this confirmed,
Is she still classed as a student IF she gets this extension for her dissertation? She has not failed an exam and I feel she has not failed to complete the module so she should not now be classed as a student any more. She is also in part time work at the place with the golden arches.
She has no other support and her part time work is not enough for her essential bills.
Thanks

I have dealt with similar cases in the past. You do not say what your clients circumstances therefore I am assuming she is a single person and would not otherwise be able to claim whilst a full time student (i.e. she is not a lone parent or has LCFW).
I am also assuming the appropriate benefit would be UC. The relevant regulations are UC Regs. 12 & 13. (similar regs apply to legacy benefits but are not always structured in the same way).

The first issue is that terminology used by individual academic institutions, student funding bodies and any external examination board etc (including ‘module’) may differ one from the other and certainly between usage/meaning as understood in education compared to benefit legislation. Also in general arrangement for undergraduates may be different to post-graduate student.

In order to claim relevant means tested benefits you client will need to show she has ‘completed the course’ and is, therefore, no longer still ‘undertaking the course’.

This may turn on her status with the academic institution. For example, is she still registered with the institution as a full time student (with access to all facilities including library, tutors etc). Is she still eligible for a council tax student exemption certificate? What is her status with any relevant funding body (or was she self-funding) - has her funding ‘expired’ with no possibility of applying for more? What is the timescale within which she is required to submit her dissertation (assuming that has not already passed / exemption is refused)? What are the requirements of any external examining body for the award of an MA? Is it a course with a significant taught element or mainly research based? What are the detailed regulations of the institution regarding (a) student status (b) the academic requirements of the course? Many more such questions may be relevant.

If it is a ‘modular course’ as defined by UC Reg. 13(3) - is the dissertation a ‘module’ as defined in the institutions academic requirements?

I recall this issue with a doctorate student who was defined by the institution as a full time research student and received ‘fixed term’ financial support from the appropriate Research Council. But the academic requirements, time scale etc to submit the doctorate thesis to obtain a doctorate were much more flexible and were not directly related to the research funding - so we were able to argue that person was no longer a ‘student’ once their research funding had ended regardless of whether they had submitted their thesis / been awarded a doctorate.

I would anticipate the DWP would argue that until the dissertation has been submitted this student has not ‘completed the course’ (however long she may be allowed to submit). However, there may be more scope for argument at the post graduate level that there is at under graduate level due to the (even more) variations on how courses and qualifications can be structured.

You may find p886 & 888 in CPAG Handbook helpful (read with p878-9 re UC). Note the cases referred to at footnote 56 may be useful at a later date?

[edited to add ref. to CPAG]

[ Edited: 13 Oct 2021 at 12:05 pm by Peter Turville ]
LouiseG
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Financial Wellbeing and Welfare Benefits - Livin Housing Ltd, Co. Durham

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Joined: 14 November 2019

Thanks very much for that detailed response.  You are correct, she does not meet any of the criteria to apply as a single student. She is trying to get further solid information from her college for her work coach. It will be interesting to see how UC treat this but this gives me something at least try and challenge any unfavourable decision.