Since Niain Craw accepted his unconditional offer to study at Lancaster Leipzig in August last year, unprecedented circumstances have left him facing the reality of “selling shoes or collecting bottles” to afford food after his application to the Lancaster University Hardship Fund was rejected.
Prior to beginning his undergraduate course at Lancaster University’s partnered campus, Lancaster Leipzig, in October last year, Niain Craw had secured a loan to cover tuition fees from Chancen eG after a successful financial vetting interview, as well as an apartment which he and his partner, Audrey Gillies, planned to move into indefinitely.
The couple had stumbled across the campus by chance on a holiday trip. Since Niain had already studied at the University of Glasgow for over four years, he knew that he could not study in the UK again, so the discovery of Lancaster Leipzig felt like fate.
However, less than a month before they were set to travel to Germany, the couple received devastating news. The salary for Audrey’s new job would be much lower than previously agreed, resulting in her having to reject the role. In a desperate bid to secure employment, Audrey retracted her resignation from her current employer in hopes of negotiating a transfer to an office in Germany.
This was agreed upon but only after a probation period which meant Audrey would no longer be able to travel to Leipzig until March, leaving Niain to make the move alone.
At this point, they had also begun withholding rent for their property with Turnberry Homes in Scotland after spending almost two years with outstanding repairs which allegedly breached landlord regulations. These issues were first highlighted in April 2021, and while someone was sent to assess the repairs, no further actions were carried out.
After three months of withheld rent, Audrey left the property in early January, and is still involved in discussions with the landlord.
With his partner now unable to travel to Leipzig – and still having to pay utility bills for an apartment in Scotland – Niain’s financial resilience plummeted. Desperate for assistance, he contacted Lancaster Leipzig Student Services in late October for financial advice and applied to the Lancaster Opportunity and Access Fund (LOAF) in early December.
This fund is advertised as “the main support fund at Lancaster…which is open to all registered students,” so “no matter where you are based, where you are from, and whether you are an undergraduate or postgraduate, you can apply.”
Niain’s application was rejected less than a week after he’d applied.
Speaking with a Lancaster University Student Funding Advisor, it was confirmed that the “level of funding is based on our Lancaster student population” and there had never been any “extra funding to cover different campuses, nor extra staff based here to administer them.”
Knowing that Lancaster University had announced a £2.2m increase in financial hardship funding for the 2022-23 academic year three days before his application was rejected, Niain was left feeling “absolutely crushed.”
Although Niain had received a scholarship as part of his unconditional offer, this functioned as a tuition fee discount rather than additional funding, which Niain claims was “not made clear on either the website or my offer letter.”
Similarly, despite Lancaster University Deputy Vice Chancellor Steve Bradley, noting that Lancaster Leipzig was “a reaction to Brexit and desire to stay inside the EU” during an interview. While exploring alternative loans, it became apparent that the impact of Brexit hadn’t been properly considered with the only local funding support (BAföG) excluding non-EU students.
Since Lancaster Leipzig students are Associate Members of Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU), Niain turned to the FTOs for assistance, begging for support. Reaching out to LUSU President India Ellis on the 4th January, Niain explained that he was a Lancaster University student studying at the Leipzig campus and was in “severe financial difficulty.”
India responded three days later, expressing her sympathies before explaining that, “the LUSU officers are only mandated to represent students at the UK Lancaster University campus.”
“Which is why the support we have secured is available only to students in the UK as it is not within our power or remit to do anything beyond that,” she continued.
In a statement, India Ellis has since noted that “when I was contacted by Niain I was very concerned to hear of the difficulties he was having and wanted to do all I could to assist.”
Although the Union Charter means “direct help is restricted to students on the Bailrigg campus,” India continued to work on Niain’s case to see if there was anything else she could do.
“I am told that local assistance has been sourced for Nian and going forward I have had conversations with university staff to look at how we can all make sure students on Lancaster branch campuses know what support is available to them, in the same way we work to let Bailrigg students know about what they can access here,” India concluded.
Commenting on Niain’s case, Lancaster University has said that “students at Lancaster Leipzig have access to tailored local support and we are pleased that Niain has been given a tuition fee loan in addition to a scholarship (5000 EUR over 3 years) and also another individual loan to help afford a flat in Germany.”
As previously stated, the scholarship mentioned was allegedly ‘missold’ since Niain claims it was not made apparent on either the website or his offer letter that it was a tuition fee reduction. Likewise, although he has now been granted a loan by Lancaster Leipzig’s partner Navitas to assist with overdue rent payments, this was conditional on its repayment over a 16 month period, placing Niain under considerable pressure.
Finally, due to ongoing issues with Niain’s residency permit, he is unable to apply for part-time employment, which was articulated to university staff over a fortnight ago.
Provided with only short term solutions, Niain remains in severe financial difficulty, relying on a GoFundMe page to afford food and essentials.
To donate to Niain’s GoFundMe, follow the link here