Part-Time Students and the Council Tax
Part-Time Students are not eligible for Council Tax exemption as students. Statutory Instrument 1992 No. 548 "The Council Tax (Discount Disregards) Order 1992" (amendments made in Statutory Instrument 2011 No. 948), sets out classes of persons who are to be disregarded when assessing liability for Council Tax. Amongst these are "person[s] undertaking a full time course of education". A full-time course of education is defined in paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the Order as follows:
4.-(1) A full time course of education is, subject to subparagraphs (2) and (3) one-
(a) which subsists for at least one academic year of the educational establishment concerned, or, in the case of an educational establishment which does not have academic years, for at least one calendar year;
(b)which persons undertaking it are normally required by the educational establishment concerned to undertake periods of study, tuition, or work experience (whether at premises of the establishment or otherwise)—
(i) of at least 24 weeks in each academic or calendar year (as the case may be) during which it subsists, and
(ii) which taken together amount in each such academic or calendar year to an average of at least 21 hours a week.
[Subparagraphs (2) and (3) have to do with the definition of "work experience"].
Part-time undergraduate students can proceed at varying rates, taking up to seven years to complete their studies. They are offered a range of units each academic year, and each year may enrol on units worth between zero and 80 credits (See the University Calendar: Regulations for Undergraduate Awards, Part-time Candidates, Programme of Study). Students enrolled on units are billed pro-rata to the full-time enrolment of 120 credits. For example, a part-time undergraduate student enrolled for 70 credits in a given academic year would be billed for 70/120=58% of the full-time fee.
The University considers 40 hours study per week to be the normal undertaking of a full-time student. Therefore, the 21 hours mentioned in paragraph 4(1)(c) of the schedule are equivalent to 21/40=0.525 of a full-timer's study. We therefore interpret the 21-hour criterion as indicating study beyond half-time. Since full-timers enrol for 120 credits each year, it follows that part-timers must be enrolled on at least 0.525 x 120=63 credits in any given year to qualify for exemption from the payment of Council Tax. It should be noted, however, that such students will be charged more than half of the full-time fee for their course.
Postgraduate Taught Students
Very few postgraduate students are enrolled on units within courses of variable length. In any case, a part-time postgraduate taught student can rarely progress more quickly by enrolling on additional units: most part-time courses are of two years fixed duration. Instead of choosing from a range of units, part-time postgraduate students are able to study the same subject matter as full-timers, but over twice the time. Correspondingly, fees for part-time postgraduate courses are therefore set at half the full-time rate – the full-time fee spread over twice the time. It is anticipated that part-time postgraduates will, therefore, attend for half the hours of a full-timer, that is, 20 hours per week. Whilst it is possible that a part-time postgraduate student may attend for more than 20 hours, this is not a requirement and is not reflected in the fees which are payable. Therefore, the majority of part-time postgraduate students will not be exempt from paying Council Tax. Full-time postgraduates are exempt but are also charged higher fees.
Postgraduate Research Students
The same reasoning applies. Students studying for a research degree part-time have a period of study twice as long as that allowed to full-time students; fees are charged accordingly. It is not a requirement of the University that part-time postgraduate research students attend for more than 20 hours per week.
Whilst it is the University's policy to interpret the provisions of the Statutory Instrument strictly, we are aware that the definitions of student, full-time, etc., found in the Statutory Instrument are not common to all regulations. Therefore, students who are not exempt from paying the Council Tax may nevertheless be eligible for other benefits. The Union of UEA Students' Advice Centre situated in Union House is able to offer more detailed advice about claiming benefits.