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.

Financial support for English students

There are two types of loan available to English students studying in an English university or college, a Tuition Fee Loan and a Maintenance Loan. You can apply for these if your course started on 1 August 2016 or later.

Tuition Fee Loan

This is the loan that covers the cost of your course tuition fees. It’s paid to your college or university, and you pay it back once you finish your course and start earning above a certain amount.

Full time students can get loans of £9,250 for the academic years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.

Full time students at a private university or college can get £6,165 for the academic years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.

Maintenance Loan

This loan is to cover your living costs while studying.

The exact amount you can get will depend on your household income.

Full-time student 2017 to 2018 academic year 2018 to 2019 academic year
Living at home Up to £7,097 Up to £7,324
Living away from home, outside London Up to £8,430 Up to £8,700
Living away from home, in London Up to £11,002 Up to £11,354
You spend a year of a UK course studying abroad Up to £9,654 Up to £9,963

Part-time students from England

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.

Postgraduate master’s students from England

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 £10,609 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.

Financial support for Scottish students

Scottish students studying in Scotland can get a mixture of a bursary – which does not need paying back - and a maintenance loan, which does need to be paid back.

The amount you can get varies depending on your household’s income.

Household income Bursary Loan Total
£0 to £18,999 £1,875 £5,750 £7,625
£19,000 to £23,999 £1,125 £5,750 £6,875
£24,000 to £33,999 £500 £5,750 £6,250
£34,000 and above £0 £4,750 £4,750

Some courses, such as Medicine at St Andrews, sandwich courses and when studying abroad, can affect your financial support. There’s more information on the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) website.

If you’re doing a Dentistry BDS, there is also a Dentistry Student Support Grant (DSSG).

Other funding for Scottish students

Depending on your circumstances, here are some other ways of getting financial support.

Care experience bursary and grant for full time students who have been looked after by a Local Authority and are under 26.

Living cost grant for lone parents and those with dependents, or if you’re a carer.

Disabled student’s allowance is available for those with disability or learning difficulties.

Financial support for Welsh students

Need to know

Grants don’t usually have to be paid back unless you leave the course early, but you do have to pay back any loans you borrow.

You’ll only repay the loan element of the tuition fee once you’re earning over the income threshold after you graduate. This is currently £25,000 per year.

Help with living costs for new students

Welsh students starting a university course in September 2018 can apply for new grants and loans. The support is open to first-time undergraduate full and part-time students.

While all new students will get some financial support, the amount you can receive in loans and grants varies based on your household’s income and where you will be living during term time. The tables below show how much you’ll get in different situations.

Living with your parents

Household income Grant Loan
£18,370 or less £6,885 £765
£25,000 £5,930 £1,729
£35,000 £4,488 £3,162
£45,000 £3,047 £4,603
£45,001 or more £1,000 £6,650

The total for students living with their parents in loans and grants is £7,650.

Living away from home, studying outside London

Household income Grant Loan
£18,370 or less £8,100 £900
£25,000 £6,947 £2,053
£35,000 £5,208 £3,792
£45,000 £3,469 £5,531
£45,001 or more £1,000 £8,000

The total for students living away from home outside of London in loans and grants is £9,000.

Living away from home, studying in London

Household income Grant Loan
£18,370 or less £10,124 £1,126
£25,000 £8,643 £2,607
£35,000 £6,408 £4,842
£45,000 £4,174 £7,076
£45,001 or more £1,000 £10,250

The total for students living away from home in London in loans and grants is £11,250.

Part-time students will get support pro-rata based on the course intensity with a maximum from grants and loans of £4,987.50

Postgraduate students can get a postgraduate loan of £13,000 if studying anywhere in the UK, and will get around £4,000 extra for studying in Wales.

Need to know

The Welsh Government partial cancellation scheme means you could also get up to £1,500 to reduce your maintenance loan when you make your first loan repayment. You can also read more about repaying your student loan on our website.

Tuition Fee Loan

You can apply for a tuition fee loan that will help cover the course fees. It’s paid directly to your university or college and eligibility isn’t based on your household income. You can borrow however much your fees are up to the below amounts. If it’s more, you’ll need to find the money from somewhere else.

Where you’re studying Full time Part-time
Studying at a public university or college in Wales £9,000 £2,625
Studying at a public university or college in England, Northern Ireland or Scotland £9,250 £6,935
Studying at a private university or college in England, Northern Ireland or Scotland £6,165 £4,625

If you started your course before September 2018, you will carry on receiving support within your existing package.

Grants for childcare, dependants and disabled students

There is also further support for students who have children or dependents, or who have a disability. The full details can be found on the Student Finance Wales website.

Financial support for students of Northern Ireland

There are two types of non-repayable financial support if you’re from Northern Ireland and studying in the UK called Maintenance Grant and Special Support Grant.

You can only get one of the grants, not both, and the amount you get depends on your household income.

You can apply for both when you apply for your Student Loan. While both grants give you same amount, one key difference is that a Maintenance Grant will reduce how much student loan you can get. Here’s more about the difference, to help you decide which one is best for you.

Special Support Grant

Instead of replacing part of your Student Loan, this grant is paid on top. So you’ll get your full student loan, and then won’t need to pay back the amount you get from the Special Support Grant.

It’s also not counted as income if you’re getting income-related benefits.

You’ll likely qualify for the Special Support Grant if:

  • you’re a single parent
  • you have a partner who is also a student
  • you have a disability or learning difficulties.
Household income Grant amount
Less than £19,203 £3,475
£19,204 to £41,065 Partial grant
£41,066 and over Not eligible for grant

Maintenance Grant

This grant replaces part of the Student Loan for Maintenance, so if you receive the full £3,475 grant, you’ll receive £3,475 less in your loan.

Household income Grant amount
Less than £19,203 £3,475
£19,204 to £41,065 Partial grant
£41,066 and over Not eligible for grant

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 £25,000+ a year.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, loan repayments only start once you’re earning over £18,330 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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