16 to 18 Residential Bursary Fund guide: 2017 to 2018 academic year

This guide provides information for institutions with 16 to 18 Residential Bursary Fund (RBF) allocations in the 2017 to 2018 academic year.

This guidance was withdrawn on

This page is about the 2017 to 2018 academic year. Please visit our student support page for the latest information.


This guide sets out:

  • RBF policy in the 2017 to 2018 academic year
  • the requirements for the administration of the funding
  • how Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will collect management information (MI) for the scheme

Institutions must ensure they spend RBF in line with the scheme rules set out in this guide.

ESFA reminds institutions that RBF is intended to support students who are attending the institution to take part in a designated specialism. Institutions have discretion to decide which students receive RBF support and how much they receive but ESFA expects that the majority of the students receiving RBF will be studying in a designated specialist subject area.

RBF policy in the 2017 to 2018 academic year

RBF provides financial help towards the costs of accommodation for students attending one of the designated institutions delivering specialist provision. This is provision that students need to be resident to participate in because it is not available locally and/or because it needs students to be available at unsociable hours on a regular basis. RBF enables young people to gain a substantial qualification in a specialist subject that they would not be able to get at a non-specialist institution.

RBF provides a contribution towards residential costs. Institutions should target the funding at students they assess face the most significant financial barriers to participation. RBF is not to provide support to all students on residentially delivered provision, or to necessarily cover the full costs for each student.

ESFA expects that most RBF funding will be used for accommodation costs. Accommodation might be in private lodgings or accommodation that is owned or managed by the institution.

RBF can be used to help with travel costs between the student’s term time lodgings and the institution where appropriate. RBF cannot be used for travel costs for non-residential students, in other words, for home to institution travel.

Where institutions use RBF for travel costs for residential students living off campus, the amount they spend must not exceed 15% of their total RBF allocation. To make sure RBF maintains its primary focus on residential support, spend on travel is also capped at £25,000. This means that where 15% of the institution’s allocation would be greater than £25,000, £25,000 is the maximum the institution can spend on travel costs.

If institutions face exceptional circumstances and feel that more needs to be spent on travel, they should submit a business case to ESFA by e-mailing: Institutions can use up to 5% of their allocation for administrative costs.

Student Eligibility


To be eligible for RBF in the 2017 to 2018 academic year, students must be aged 16 or over but under 19 on 31 August 2017.

Students aged 19 or over are eligible for RBF if they are continuing on a study programme they began aged 16 to 18 (‘19+ continuers’) or have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).


Students must meet the residency criteria set out in the 2017 to 2018 academic year ESFA Funding Regulations.

Household income

Institutions should target RBF towards those students facing the most significant financial barriers to participation. They should assess the student’s actual need for help with residential costs before awarding RBF support.

Institutions should take account of the young person’s household income when deciding how much RBF to award. Household income must be verified by evidence, for example, an award notice showing receipt of benefits, a P60, Tax Credit Award Notice, evidence of self-employment income etc.

Assessment and payment of RBF

As RBF is awarded to institutions because they are delivering specialist provision, ESFA expects that the majority of RBF funding will be used to support students enrolled on this provision. However, institutions have the discretion, in line with this guide, to decide which students get RBF support and how much support they should get.

Institutions should manage the number and size of RBF awards they make to keep within their budget.

Institutions should assess each student’s actual need for help with residential costs by assessing their household income, before deciding whether to award RBF support. RBF should not be awarded just because a student is enrolled in residentially delivered provision. Institutions should publish their RBF policy to help students understand the criteria against which they will be assessed.

RBF payments for accommodation must be made directly to the student’s landlord. The landlord may be the institution itself if they provide accommodation directly or a private landlord. No payments should be made directly to the student as these payments would be subject to the Social Security Amendment (Students and Income related Benefits Regulations 2000).

Students can receive benefits and/or other forms of financial support at the same time as RBF.

Institutions may wish to keep a contingency fund to respond to needs that come up later in the academic year such as a change in a student’s circumstances rather than allocating all funds at the start of the year.

Institutions may use RBF to help residential students with the cost of travel from their term time lodgings to site (up to a maximum of 15% of their allocation, capped at £25,000). The use of RBF for travel costs does not replace the statutory duty on local authorities to set out, in an annually published transport statement, the arrangements they will make to facilitate the participation in education or training of young people of sixth form age.

Institutions should not use RBF for any purpose designed to give them a competitive advantage over other institutions. RBF should not be used for:

  • fees for access to college facilities
  • block subsidy of transport
  • costs that are in the scope of the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund
  • childcare costs that are in the scope of the Care to Learn scheme

Institutions should take account of equalities legislation when administering RBF. This means they must not discriminate against their students based on their protected characteristics. Institutions are also subject to the public sector equality duty in section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010.

Institutions should explain to students how they can complain or appeal about any decision relating to RBF support and/or if are unhappy about the way in which their application for RBF support was handled. All complaints should be made by following the institution’s normal complaints procedure.


ESFA has based RBF allocations for the 2017 to 2018 academic year on the:

  • average actual RBF spend over the 3 previous years; or
  • the amount of RBF allocated in the 2016 to 2017 academic year

For the 2017 to 2018 academic year, ESFA has also applied growth to allocations generated by the methodology above. An additional 5% has been added to the allocations of institutions that:

  • spent all their 2015 to 2016 allocation
  • spent over their 2015 to 2016 allocation
  • spent within £15,000 of their 2015 to 2016 allocation

This increase is to help cover any in year growth in demand for residential support for those institutions where recent demand has been very close to, or has exceeded, their allocation.

The allocations methodology disregards any spend by institutions that is outside policy guidelines (inappropriate use of RBF for travel for non-resident students, for example).

Institutions given an allocation for RBF are responsible for:

  • staying within budget
  • setting clear policies for RBF at their institution which explain what criteria they will use and how students will be assessed
  • paying RBF funds for the residential costs of eligible students
  • reporting any anticipated underspend to ESFA as soon as possible
  • completing the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) to report students receiving residential support (and inform future allocations)
  • providing minimal additional management information to ESFA on an annual basis (in October) to provide data on student numbers, expenditure and the ILR sector subject areas of RBF supported students

Institutions may use up to 5% of their RBF allocation to cover administrative costs. The 5% should be taken from allocation total; it is not an additional 5% on top of the total allocation.

Institutions should use the funding allocated to them for RBF solely to support eligible students with residential costs in line with RBF policy.

Where institutions identify that they will be unable to spend the majority of their RBF allocation, they should notify ESFA as soon as possible to arrange to repay the excess via our:

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

ESFA will aim to distribute any returned funds to other institutions that can make use of further funding. Institutions may top up RBF from their own sources if they choose to do so.


RBF allocations will be paid to institutions in 3 instalments; 50% in August; 25% in December and 25% in March.

Data and management information requirements

Institutions should complete the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) to indicate the numbers of students getting residential support from RBF. ESFA will use this information to develop future allocations.

ESFA will also request MI to support its monitoring of RBF and to inform future year’s allocations. The information required is:

  • the number of students supported with RBF for accommodation costs and the total amount of RBF spent on accommodation
  • the number of students living in term time lodging
  • the number of students receiving RBF to help with transport costs whilst living in lodgings off campus
  • the total amount spent on transport to off-site accommodation
  • the amount spent on administrative costs
  • RBF supported students’ study programme core aims, as reported in the ILR
  • any mitigating circumstances to explain underspent/overspent allocation

ESFA will issue more details about the MI collection before the return is due.

ESFA will reconcile RBF funds once data from the annual MI return has been analysed. We will write to institutions to confirm the amount of reconciliation, the reason for it (if applicable) and the date the action will be taken.

Audit requirements

Institutions should maintain accurate and up to date records to evidence which students get RBF funding; confirm student eligibility for funding and show appropriate use of funds.

The administration and allocation of RBF is subject to the institution’s normal governance and audit regimes. RBF funding is also subject to the normal assurance arrangements for 16 to 19 education and training. Institutions should note that, following an audit, funding might be recovered where RBF payments are found not to have been made in accordance with this guide.

ESFA cannot guarantee to reimburse any overspends by institutions as this is dependent on funds becoming available for redistribution. Institutions are therefore advised not to overspend in the expectation that there will be a reallocation of funds later in the year. ESFA will not reimburse any overspend that is not within the scheme rules as set out in this guide and may take action to recover any RBF funds spent outside the scheme rules.

RBF and other forms of financial support

Students receiving RBF may also get support from other types of student support such as the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund, Care to Learn and free meals in further education if they meet the appropriate eligibility criteria. Institutions are not permitted to transfer any funds from RBF to other student support schemes provided by ESFA or the Skills Funding Agency (SFA).

Apprenticeship programmes

Young people on any paid education, training or apprenticeship programmes are not eligible for RBF support.

List of specialist residential institutions

Specialist residential institutions offering the Residential Bursary Fund in the 2017 to 2018 academic year can be found on GOV.UK.

Further information

Institutions should direct any queries about the allocation and administration of RBF to ESFA via our

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Published 2 March 2017