Student finance for undergraduates

Students studyingSo, you want to go to university or college to study further, but aren’t sure of what the costs might be, and how you can afford them? Student loans are available to help with both tuition fees and the day-to-day costs of living. Find out what you’re entitled to in grants and other support, and how you pay back any loans.

Tuition fee loan

Every university and higher education college will charge a tuition fee for each year that you study there. The amount they charge can vary, and can also depend on where you live and where you want to study. The maximum yearly tuition fees for higher education are shown below.

Student home region

Location of university or college

England

Scotland

Wales

Northern Ireland

England

Up to £9,000

Up to £9,000

Up to £9,000

Up to £9,000

Scotland

Up to £9,000

No fee

Up to £9,000

Up to £9,000

Wales

Up to £9,000

Up to £9,000

Up to £9,000

Up to £9,000

Northern Ireland

Up to £9,000

Up to £9,000

Up to £9,000

Up to £3,575

EU

Up to £9,000

No fee

Up to £9,000

Up to £3,575

Other international

Variable

Variable

Variable

Variable

(Source: UCAS, January 2014)

You can get a tuition fee loan, which covers the full cost of your tuition fees, for every year of your studies. The tuition fee is paid direct to the university or college. You only start paying back this loan after you stop being a student and you are earning above a certain amount. Remember that previous study might affect your entitlement, so check with your funding agency.

Students from Wales

Students from Wales can apply for a fee loan of £3,575 in 2013/14, with any remaining fees paid through a grant of up to £5,425. (Source: Student Finance Wales, August 2013)

Maintenance loan

On top of tuition fees there are a number of other things you’ll need to pay for. These may include accommodation, food, books and travel. A maintenance loan is available for each year of your studies to help with these costs. The maximum amount you can borrow depends on which UK country you’re from and where you’ll be living during your studies among other considerations. You receive a payment at the start of each term (monthly in Scotland).

Maintenance grant

You may be entitled to a maintenance grant to help with living costs. Maintenance grants do not need to be repaid and are dependent on household income. The less your household income is, the more grant is available each year.

Any maintenance grant you receive reduces the amount of maintenance loan you can take out.

The amount of maintenance grant you can get varies between UK countries. In Scotland, maintenance grants are known as bursaries and in Wales, they are known as Assembly Learning Grants.

Other forms of student financial help

There are a number of other financial support packages which you may be able to access as an undergraduate depending on your circumstances. These include students on a low income, those with children or dependents, disabled students, and those studying for particular professions (such as the NHS).

Managing your student budget

Now you know your student income from loans and grants, it is vital that you put in place a plan to manage your day-to day budget. 

Repaying student loans

There are special rules on how you repay a student loan. Repayments are linked to your income, and for courses that started on or after September 2012, you’ll only start making repayments when you earn £21,000 or over in a year. Your employer will deduct payments from your salary, and if you are self-employed you will make repayments as part of your self-assessment tax returns.

You pay interest on tuition fee and maintenance loans from the moment you receive them as a student until you pay back your loans in full. If you’ve not repaid the full loan 30 years after the first payment you made, the rest of the loan is written off and you no longer have to pay anything.

Students often forget that they have to pay back maintenance loans as well as tuition fees after graduation and when they are earning enough. This can come as a shock in your first pay packet, so be prepared.

Further Information

For more detailed information on student loans, grants and other financial support available for undergraduate study – and how and when you pay the loans back – contact your nation’s student finance agency: