November 27, 2015 Izidor Bjelopoljak

Emergency Fund for the payment of tuition fees

Emergency Fund for the payment of tuition fees is a project developed by the Student Union of the Law Faculty of Nova University of Lisbon. Targeted at students who do nothave financial resources for enrolling into higher education, this project ensures appropriate funding giving everyone a chance to study. The initiative is developed in cooperation between the student union and the institution, and supported by fundraising activities ensuring a budget for such funding.

Objectives of the Intervention

The key objective is to prevent students from giving up on higher education. Our target are those students who don’t have any kind of scholarship or other benefits to support their tuition fees. Our intervention is a part of a bigger approach with several different measures to achieve the same key objective.

Other relevant projects to prevent students from giving up their university studies are the “Book Bank” and the “Code Scholarship”. The Book Bank works like a library provided by the students union for all students (around 1000). The students can have all the books required needs for one full semester without paying anything for it. The Code Scholarship provides the much needed Codes for law students in Civil Law systems like Portugal. The students union offers the scholarship to the students who don’t have the money to pay for it.

Origins and rationale of this initiative

The idea was initiated by a student movement (students union) and the key driver was local need. This initiative emerged was one of the many measures the students union decided to create to prevent students from giving up on their studies.

The framework behind this initiative is the economic crisis that affected Portugal and made it harder for students to access higher education. The number of students without money for University increased a lot in the last 3 years. Many students were affected by parental unemployment and the Students Union felt it needed to intervene to support those students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

The target group are the students that have no financial support and who are socio economically disadvantaged.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

The initiative had the support of the Faculty of Law and the Nova University of Lisbon. Public support is very high and a lot of people contributed for the project through a fundraising dinner. The main stakeholders of the initiative are the Students Union and a local private partner (a law office). Both stakeholders covered more than 95% of the financial needs of the initiative. A particular demographic change that influenced the project was the Portuguese economic crisis.

The Book Bank had the political support of the mayor of Lisbon. This project was elected on the city participatory budgeting leading to a donation of 35.000€ to create a City Book Bank similar to the one working at Nova Law School.

The Code Scholarship is funded by the Social Services of the Nova University that act has sponsor of the initiative and also interview students in order to see if they are eligible under the regulations of the scholarship.

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

The first activity was to adjust the Students Union budget to accommodate the effort of placing 17.000€ into this initiative. The second activity was to find a private partner to participate in the financial effort, preferably trough an annual contribution that would ensure the sustainability of the project in the mid and long-term. The third activity was to organise a fundraising dinner to promote the project. The fourth and final activity was to receive the applications of the students and delivering them to the University Social Services to be analysed by the social assistant technicians.

The Book Bank works with a computer program created by a IT student of Nova University where students can check which books are available for request. Whenever a student seeks a book that it’s out of stock the Students Union buys that book and sends an e-mail and a text message to the student saying that the book he needs is available. This system ensures that all students have all the books they need. Currently the Book Bank has over 20.000€ worth of books and this value increases every day.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

The financial resources of the students union along with the support of our private partner ensure the sustainability of the project.

The Book Bank has been granted 35.000€ to be replied by Lisbon’s City Council. University of Coimbra is also applying our model of Book Bank.

Resources used in the initiative

The total budget for 2 years was 22.600,00€. We funded 100% of the budget from 3 different sources: 17.000,00€ from the Students Union budget (our own donation to the initiative), 5.000,00€ from the private partner (PLMJ – Legal Office) and 600,00€ from the fundraising dinner. There were no staff costs. All technical expertise was provided by the technicians of the University (University Social Services) at no cost. The initiative relied completely on volunteers (all members of the Students Union are volunteers) and over 20 people contributed to the success of the project.

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

The emergency fund had enough money for all eligible applications (paying all students debts with tuition fees) with a surplus that will probably guarantee next year’s programme without the need of more money.
Monitoring data is being collated but is not currently available.

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