International students left without money after months of delay in student finance

The processing time of international students’ applications for student finance has recently doubled from eight to sixteen weeks, leaving many without their main source of income for longer than expected. 

‘I had to tell my landlord that I would be late with my rent each month until I got the finance’, says Jan Cernak, a media studies student. He had been getting student finance since September 2022 and reapplied for it at the end of August of this year. DUO initially told him it would take six to eight weeks for his application to be reviewed. However, after nearly four months, he still hasn’t received an answer. 

The last time he contacted DUO, at the beginning of December, he was told that the European department had a small delay in the processing times. ‘They said I should get the money by the end of December and that if I didn’t, maybe just call them again. That hasn’t reassured me that I am going to get it by that time.’

Staff shortage

The delay in processing times for international students appears to be caused by the sheer number of applications DUO received this year, as well as staff shortage. ‘It takes a lot of time to review all these applications’, DUO’s spokesperson explains, confirming the current sixteen-week waiting period. ‘But we hired some extra people recently, so we should see progress in the next couple of weeks’, he adds.

Ugne Sirutavičiūtė, an international relations student, is also affected by the delay. She reapplied for student finance in late September and has regularly called DUO to check on the status of her application. But it has not yet been reviewed. ‘I’m totally living off my savings right now. If I didn’t have that I really don’t know how I would cope’, Ugne says.

In addition to four months without money, students also have to give up on their student travel product, risking fines if they continue to use it. ‘I received a letter that I have to cancel my travel product by November 15. When I called DUO to cry about how much I need it, the guy told me that if I’m sure that I’m eligible for the finance, my fine would ultimately be retracted’, Ugne claims. However, two weeks after that conversation, DUO cancelled her student travel product and fined her 160 euros.

Notice of default

In the meantime, some infuriated students are thinking of giving DUO a notice of default for the eight-week delay. ‘It is very much possible I’ll do that if the decision gets delayed even more or if they ask me to send in yet more papers’, says Jan. ‘At that point I will have had enough.’

This would force DUO to decide on the applications within two weeks. If the organisation fails to do so, students can get up to 1,442 euros in compensation. 

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