Student finance: What you need to know

As a student you can apply for tuition fee and maintenance loans to pay for course fees and living costs. Depending on where you live in the UK, where you want to study and your personal circumstances, you may be eligible for grants and bursaries, too.

How much does university or college cost?

The maximum tuition fees that publicly-funded universities and colleges can charge students annually is currently £9,250.

The amount they can charge you depends on where you currently live and where you’d like to study.

If you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, your nation’s student finance agency may cover some or all of your tuition fee costs.

You can apply for a tuition fee loan to cover the full cost of your undergraduate course in a publicly-funded institution.

Tuition fee loans go directly to your university or college and not to your bank account. You only start repaying these, along with any maintenance loans you have taken out, once you’ve completed your studies and started earning above a certain amount.

If you:

  • Want to study in a privately-funded university.
  • Plan to be a part-time or postgraduate student.
  • Have received funding for previous undergraduate study.

You should contact your nation’s student finance agency, as different funding rules may apply.

Postgraduate master’s students

If you plan to study a postgraduate master’s degree and are aged 59 years or under, you might be eligible to receive a loan of up to £10,280 to contribute to your course and living costs.

You’ll only make repayments when you earn over the salary threshold, which is currently £21,000 per year.

Part-time students

You might be able to receive a tuition fee loan, if your course has a ‘course intensity’ of 25% or more.

The level of course intensity depends on how much of your course you complete each year compared to an equivalent full-time course. You’ll need to check the course intensity with your university or college.

If eligible, part-time students can apply for:

  • A tuition fee loan of up to £6,935 per year.
  • Disabled Student’s Allowance, where applicable.

Welsh students

Students from Wales can apply for a tuition fee grant of up to £4,594 and a tuition fee loan of up to £4,296 if studying in England, Northern Ireland or Scotland in 2017/18 – if studying in Wales the loan is £4,046.

You’ll only repay the loan element of the tuition fee once you’re earning over the income threshold after you graduate. This is £21,000 per year.

Maintenance loans and other support for living costs

There are a number of other living costs you’ll need to pay for while you’re a student.

These include costs for:

  • Accommodation.
  • Food.
  • Travel.
  • Books and study materials.

Maintenance loans are available for each year of your studies to help with these costs. You may also be eligible for support through grants and bursaries.

The maximum amount you can borrow or claim depends mainly on:

  • Which UK country you’re from.
  • Your household income (for grants).
  • Where you’ll be living during your studies.

You receive a payment for your maintenance loan at the start of each term (monthly in Scotland) into your student account.

Managing your budget

While bursaries and grants don’t need to be paid back, student loans and maintenance loans do. You’ll have a limited amount of money and won’t want to add to your loans if possible.

This means it’s important that you plan how to use your money effectively to help with the day-to-day costs of being a student.

Remember: Nothing you borrow to fund your student life is free money!

Find out more information in your guide to Budgeting for college or university.

How repaying your student loan works

For courses funded by student finance in England or Wales from September 2012, you’ll only have to start making repayments once you begin earning £21,000+ a year.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, loan repayments only start once you’re earning over £17,775 a year.

Your employer will automatically deduct these payments from your salary.

If you’re self-employed, you’ll make repayments through your self-assessment tax returns.

If you haven’t repaid the loan in full 30 years after your first payment, the remaining balance is written off.

Students often forget that they have to pay back their maintenance loans as well as tuition fee loans, once they’ve begun earning a certain amount.

This can come as a shock once you see the first monthly deduction, so be prepared.

Find out more in our guide to Repaying your student loans.

Further information

For more information on grants, loans and other financial support available for undergraduate, part-time or postgraduate students, or for students with special needs, speak to an adviser or student support services in your university or college.

Alternatively, contact your country’s student finance agency (or the country where you plan to study if not in the UK):

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