Man looks out the window with worried expression

Unforseen hardship

As the country went into lockdown last March, thousands of students were left struggling. Thanks to hundreds of donations from the alumni community, Sheffield students received the support they needed to help them through this difficult time.

The last 16 months have been difficult. For some it’s been a huge struggle, and Sheffield students are no exception.

As shops, cafes and bars closed, a significant number of students lost their jobs. Many left Sheffield to go home and be with their families. But for others, staying put was their only option. Just like everyone else, students have bills to pay but the pandemic brought unexpected costs too. Those who were studying abroad had to find and then pay for last-minute flights home, and with libraries closed and entire households sharing a home internet connection, access to reliable technology became a bigger problem than it had ever been. Students whose degrees relied on state-of-the-art facilities and computer software were suddenly left without the resources they needed.

Sheffield responded to that need. Support staff and tutors from across the University worked tirelessly to launch online learning. Wellbeing services were prioritised for those facing personal challenges. And together with our Students’ Union, we listened and responded to the most pressing issues at hand. The University already had a Student Hardship Fund, available for those who might experience unforeseen financial difficulties during their studies. It was set up for exceptional circumstances. It’s no surprise the scheme saw an unprecedented increase in applications. Within weeks, hundreds of students had already made an application for urgent support. And since then, more than 3,000 students have reached out for help.

Unforeseen hardship: Supporting students in the pandemic

APRIL 2020 – University of Sheffield Student Hardship Fund sees a 300% surge in student applications for support.

MAY 2020 – Student Hardship Appeal launched to generate funds to support students in need.

JUNE 2021 – Generous alumni have gifted over a quarter of a million pounds since early 2020.

As we’ve seen mirrored in wider society, the rise of Covid-19 has disproportionately affected students who were already disadvantaged. Students from low-income backgrounds can struggle to afford the cost of university at the best of times, so for some it became almost impossible.

Sheffield launched its Student Hardship Appeal in May 2020. Preceding the appeal, a handful of generous alumni had already come forward to help. And because we knew the need was ongoing, we wanted to give all alumni the chance to support Sheffield students.

Since then more than £270,000 has been donated specifically for students experiencing serious financial hardship. Thank you to everyone who made a gift – no matter how large or small. By coming together, you ensured Sheffield students were protected. Your gifts meant that since the start of the pandemic, Sheffield has been able to ensure every single student who’s been eligible for support received the help they needed. You’ve helped Sheffield students focus on fulfilling their potential so they can follow in your footsteps as a proud Sheffield graduate. Thank you.

Elisha’s story

Elisha Balfour

“The lockdown restrictions meant that my hours at my part-time job weren’t as flexible and were seriously cut down. Eventually, I had to stop working because my shifts started to clash with my uni timetable. Without this income, it was really difficult to get by.

“Having financial difficulties definitely impacted my studies and my mental health. Instead of being able to focus on my work, I was constantly worrying about how I was going to afford to get to and from my course’s work placement, or how I was supposed to pay the increasing house bills because I was studying from my uni house. I honestly considered not going back to university for semester two because the financial stress was just too much.

“I felt hopeless and I couldn’t see a resolution to the situation without any extra help.

“Since I’ve had the grant, I’ve felt a lot more focused on my studies. I just generally feel relieved that I can get to the end of my degree without having to constantly stress about finances.

“I want to say thank you for all the kind and thoughtful donations to the Student Hardship Fund. Your donations helped me when I had no one else to turn to for help. So for that, I can’t thank you enough.”

Elisha Balfour, Speech and Language Therapy student



Will you help students in need?

Scholarships are awarded to those most able but least likely to come to university. Every year, we receive more applications than we have scholarships to award. Which means there are always students who miss out on the support they need. If you can, please consider a gift to our scholarships fund. With your support, more students from all backgrounds will have the chance to achieve their potential at Sheffield.

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