Hard look at hardship

August 13, 2004

Your article on the abuse of hardship funds ("Hardship cash funds 'sprees'", July 23) was unbalanced and unfair.

Most students who apply for hardship funds do so because of genuine financial difficulties. Staff who administer these funds can work only on the information they are given - many institutions do not have the resources to interview every applicant and, in some cases, three members of staff may deal with in excess of 2,000 applications in an academic year.

In any system that involves distribution of money a few individuals will try to defraud it, and the occasional one may succeed. But this should not detract from the majority of cases where a modest award can make a major difference to a student's career and prevent a poorly funded student falling into serious financial hardship. We would much rather one student in a thousand evaded scrutiny, rather than making it so impossible to make awards that those who needed the support the most were left destitute.

It would have been more helpful if The Times Higher had taken a more balanced and less negative view of the purpose and functioning of hardship awards rather than an alarmist view based on two examples.

Keith Houghton
National Association of Student Money Advisers

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