Thanks for clicking into my blog! I have decided to write this because I am just finished my BA (Hons) degree in London and I am back home in lovely Dublin. I found there was quite a lack of information online before pursuing this so I decided to tell all my findings as it may be useful for someone in the future! I had so much trouble with the SUSI grant system in Ireland so I know endless information, used the student loans system in the UK to pay my fees and applied through UCAS. If there is anything I haven’t mention in this, please feel free to ask questions!
Firstly, upon completing my leaving certificate I wanted to pursue dance. I completed three years in the dance course in Bray Institute of Further Education. This was a full time course covering ballet, tap, contemporary, jazz, musical theatre and physical theatre (as well as all the theory studies). I finished this course in 2017 with a BTEC HND (Higher National Diploma) which is a qualification recognized highly in the UK. This is why it is encouraged for us to complete a top-up year of study in the UK to obtain our degree.
*Note: there was no BA (Hons) in dance in any university in the Republic of Ireland up to this point. Thankfully, University of Limerick started one in 2017 but unfortunately it was not an option for me as I was going into the last year of a degree course.*
APPLYING THROUGH UCAS
I applied through UCAS to 5 different universities (this is the maximum) which were University of East London, Middlesex University, Bath Spa University, Chichester University and Urdang. I went to all auditions except Urdang as they never offered me one since I applied for the final year – and they do not accept top-up year students. If anyone would like to know more about the audition process and the different universities let me know! When applying through UCAS, you can research all the universities and course and pick favourites. Then provide all your results from school which for us Irish people is our leaving cert results! This is all if your applying for a course for it’s full duration and going straight from school (similar to the CAO system). If you are applying to a top-up year from another course, then you put all your results from this course also. You have to make a cover letter which is sent to all universities so it cannot be specific to one course, this is all part of completing your profile. Then you make your applications, and you can put the courses in order of preference but this does not work the same as the CAO. You are able to recieve an offer from all your choices and then decide, your offers do not disappear if you get your top choice. This takes a lot of pressure off when deciding. Then your application is in progress, universities may ask you to auditions like myself, or they make ask for a portfolio if you are studying art/design. Then you start recieving offers and making your choice, it is a very well structured website and easy to use. It’s very easy to select your final choice.
I chose University of East London, it had many factors that made me decide this. Their course is a BA (Hons) Dance: Urban Practice. After training in classical dance all my life, I really wanted to challenge myself and have more of a variety – plus I did love urban styles of dancing. They also guarantee student accommodation if it is your first year of study with them, at a reasonable cost for London. The location also played a major factor as I love central London and this is incredibly close. Last of all, I really enjoyed the audition and it felt like the right course for me.
STUDENT LOANS APPLICATION
Before moving to London, I applied for the student loans system which would cover my fees for the year. Majority of courses in London/UK cost £9,250 per year. If you are not a UK resident, you are not eligible for any maintenance help on top of this as it is presumed that your country has a system to provide maintenance for you. I applied for the student loan by printing out the form and posting it, which I’m you have to do if you are applying from outside the UK. It is shocking how easy these forms are to fill out compared to Ireland’s system, it is a large number of pages but easy to understand and fill out correctly. There is some pages on income, parent’s income, but not very difficult stuff that you have to root through the house to find different forms etc. It is very straightforward. Once I posted, I received a letter stating they would provide the student loans to my fees, and that was the last contact I had to have with them. The university and student loans system are in contact and everything is paid directly, no contact with me was necessary for this.
SUSI GRANT APPLICATION
Then, I applied to the SUSI grant system in Ireland for maintenance. Previous to this, I was entitled to 100% adjacent grant while studying in Bray for each year. This year, I applied before my course began and had consistent letters asking for more forms and more forms, and ridiculously – the same forms again and again despite being filled out correctly. It was a very stressful time for my whole first term on university living in a new country and having literally no money. I worked while studying in Dublin but obviously had to stop when moving to London, and it was extremely difficult. I heard from SUSI just before returning home for Christmas. They had awarded me 25% non-adjacent grant. This was €80 euro. My rent each month was £727.46 which was €826.27 plus the charges on my debit card. As one can imagine, this was not a pleasant time and I felt I would have to leave my course as I could not live on this amount. I may have been surviving but I was literally just surviving on Tesco value food and bread. They offered no advice on alternative options.
So, after all the talks of dropping out, myself and my mother decided we were going to fight it because they are wrong. They can’t offer 100% for 3 years and drastically less when I need it even more. It’s important to acknowledge that family circumstances had not changed. I applied for a in-house reassessment before applying for an appeal because this might change things. Also, despite my not being able to work while away they would not disregard my income. When I discussed this with them, they told me I had to prove that I was not working there… So, I got my last employer to write a letter stating I am not working there and signed/company stamped all that jazz… But, still to no avail. Along with my re-assessment, which can be done online with any files you want attached, I attached proof of my father’s overtime work and my holiday pay which could both be disregarded from the household income – I had previously sent this with the application but it was clear nobody was reading these.
Once again, SUSI contacted me with bad news. The re-assessment decided no change. This was around February, so well into my college year – closer to the end than the start. I apply for an appeal. You have to print out and post an appeal and hand-write why you’re appealing. It was surprisingly emotional writing this big letter to susi describing my situation, I felt like I had enough at this stage and they were making me jump through hoops and still not changing anything. Anyways, I sent it off again, this time with another form that we did not know existed about a government payment of income, there is a form to get signed by your employer which they may disregard that income altogether. There was still a question mark if we would get this disregarded because it didn’t state CE Schemes valid but we were trying everything we found.
Then the sun came out ♥ My appeal had been granted! In April…. But was still an unbelievable happy day to get what I was entitled to. They had changed my grant from 25% to 75% which was a huge difference to me and what I was getting. However, my mother did notice on the letter (since I was in London and letters would go to my home in Dublin), that they had not disregarded my holiday income from the household income. DESPITE ME SENDING THIS FORM A MILLION AND 1 TIMES… I rang them to ask about this and I swear the woman I spoke to just wandered in off the street and didn’t know what SUSI was. She literally said to me “I don’t know, is there anything else I can help you with”. I just hung up. I would’ve liked to get her name to complain and speak to someone else but I literally burst into tears after hanging up the phone. I was so sick of them. The emotional distress I suffered the whole year of uni was all because of them, and I wanted to be finished with them more than anything. I turned to twitter and sent them a DM about this, and thank god they had someone with answers and sense. Her name was Aisling. She told me that they didn’t deduct the holiday income because the form wasn’t filled out correctly. This was surprising as I filled out this form more times than I can count. But, once again, I head to the uni library to print out a new one, get it filled out, and scan it back in to send back home to my family in Dublin to print it and post it back with the SUSI envelope they supply.
While waiting to hear back from this, I received my 75% grant with arrears which was a huge help in this month. I think I treated myself to something Tesco’s own instead of Tesco Value lol. I did hear back after sending my holiday income form and the sun came out again. I couldn’t believe it but they actually had put my grant up to 100%. What I should have gotten in the first place. Literally, nobody can say I don’t appreciate my grant after this! I went through the whole year of college that I needed the grant for, trying to get it. So this was the middle of April, they changed my grant and I had about a week of college left. I got one grant payment of the new amount with no arrears, I am still awaiting a cheque of my arrears owed. Also, I am still awaiting my last grant payment. This is quite hilarious as I have completely finished my course, I am back home in Dublin and I still haven’t got what I am owed yet. However, I will take relief in the fact that I will get it.
If anyone needs advice on susi forms or they think they were assessed wrongly – hit me up cause I now know every single form they have.