Student finance: What you need to know

As an undergraduate 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. Loan support is also available for certain postgraduate courses.

How much does university or college cost?

The maximum tuition fee that publicly-funded universities and colleges in England can charge students living in England taking full-time undergraduate courses annually is £9,250 for the current, 2020/21, academic year.

For the 2020/21 academic year, the same £9,250 maximum tuition fee will apply to students living in England studying at universities and colleges in England that have registered with the Office for Students, the new Regulator for Higher Education in England, as Approved (Fee Cap) providers.

In addition, students living in England starting full-time undergraduate accelerated degree courses at Approved (Fee Cap) providers in England in the 2020/21 academic year, from 1 August 2020 onwards can be charged up to £11,100 in tuition fees.

You can apply for a tuition fee loan to cover the full cost of your undergraduate course at a publicly-funded institution in England or, from 2020/21, at an Approved (Fee Cap) provider in England. If you live in England and are studying on a full-time undergraduate course at a publicly funded university in Scotland or Northern Ireland or a regulated university in Wales, you can apply for a tuition fee loan to meet the full costs of your tuition.

Further information is provided on the .GOV.UK website.

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

If you live in Scotland, tuition fee rates for full-time first undergraduate courses at publicly funded Scottish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are regulated by the Scottish Government and are currently set at £1,820. Eligible Scottish domiciled students can apply to the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) for full payment of their tuition fees, paid directly to the HEI.

This tuition fee support does not apply to postgraduate courses or courses run by Private HEIs in Scotland, as the tuition fee rates for such courses are not regulated by the Scottish Government and HEIs are free to set their own fee rate. Varying levels of support from SAAS are available in this respect.

Further information is provided on the SAAS website.

If you live in Wales and are studying at a Regulated University in Wales, the maximum tuition fee you can be charged in 2020/21 for a full-time course is £9,000. You can apply for a tuition fee loan issued by Student Finance Wales to meet the full costs of your tuition.

Further information is provided on the Student Finance Wales website

If you live in Northern Ireland and are studying at a publicly funded university in Northern Ireland the maximum tuition fee you can be charged for a full-time course is £4,395 in 2020/21. You can apply for a tuition fee loan issued by Student Finance Northern Ireland to meet the full costs of your tuition.

Further information is provided on the Student Finance NI website.

If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and are studying on a full-time undergraduate course at a publicly funded university in England (2020/21) or at an Approved (Fee Cap) provider, the same maximum fee limits that apply to students living in England will apply for your course. You can apply for a tuition fee loan to meet the full costs of your tuition.

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.

Maximum fee limits do not apply to (i) privately funded universities or colleges offering undergraduate courses in England in 2020/21 or (ii) universities and colleges that have registered with the Office for Students as Approved Providers in England for the 2020/21 academic year. If you are living in England and are studying on a course at the above universities or colleges, you will qualify for a lower rate of tuition fee loan than students studying at publicly funded universities or colleges in 2020/21 or at Approved (Fee Cap) providers.

If you have received funding for previous undergraduate study, you should contact your nation’s student finance agency, as different funding rules may apply.

Universal Credit if you’re a student

Most undergraduate students cannot claim benefits. However, scammers have been targeting students, applying for Universal Credit on their behalf and getting an advance payment, which you will end up having to pay back.

Coronavirus update

The government has released the following guidance for those applying for a student loan during COVID-19: read on the GOV.UK site.

Watch our video and read the write up of Coronavirus - your student finance questions answered for more information.

Financial support for English students

There are two types of loan available to English undergraduate students studying at an English university or college, a Tuition Fee Loan and a Maintenance Loan. Separate support arrangements apply to students undertaking postgraduate master’s degree and doctoral degree courses.

A step by step guide to help you understand what you could get and apply for this is available on the .GOV.UK website.

A quick way of working out what you’ll get is to use the Student Finance Calculator.

Disabled Students Allowance

If you have additional costs while studying as a result of a disability, you may qualify for Disabled Students’ Allowance. The amount you are entitled to is not based on your household income.

If you have adults or children who are dependent on you, you may qualify for additional grants which are based on your household income.

Further information is available on the .GOV.UK website.

Financial support for Scottish students

Full-time Undergraduate support

Tuition Fee Support

Eligible Scottish domiciled and EU students can apply to the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) for payment of their tuition fees. The availability of funds varies depending on the mode of study:

  • Degree or equivalent at a publicly funded Scottish HEI - Full tuition fee contribution of £1,820
  • HNC/HND or equivalent at a publicly funded Scottish HEI – Full tuition fee contribution of £1,285
  • Higher Education courses at a Private provider in Scotland – Tuition fee contribution of £1,205
  • Studying at a publicly funded HEI in the rest of the UK (rUK) – Tuition fee loan of up to £9,250
  • Studying an accelerated degree course at a publicly funded HEI in rUK – Tuition fee loan of up to £11,100 from AY 2020/21

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

Young students*

Household income Bursary Loan Total
£0 to £20,999 £2,000 £5,750 £7,750
£21,000 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

Independent students**

Household income Bursary Loan Total
£0 to £20,999 £1,000 £6,750 £7,750
£21,000 to £23,999 £0 £6,750 £6,750
£24,000 to £33,999 £0 £6,250 £6,250
£34,000 and above £0 £4,750 £4,750

*single students under the age of 25 with no dependent children
**students over the age of 25

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).

Part time students

Scottish domiciled students can access the Part-time fee grant (PTFG), which gives help each year towards the cost of your tuition fees. The level of tuition fee paid will depend on the number of credits you do and the qualification you are studying.

The maximum fee grant we can award is:

  • £1,805 for publicly funded degree level courses,
  • £1,820 for eligible 120 credit university courses which are not campus based,
  • £1,274 for publicly funded Higher National awards (HNC, HND),
  • £1,195 for all courses at private providers.

Postgraduate students

Scottish domiciled and EU students undertaking any ‘taught’ postgraduate course up to master’s level (including distance learning and part time courses) can apply to SAAS for a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500. Scottish domiciled students can also access a living-cost loan of up to £4,500 (including distance learning courses).

Funding for part-time postgraduate courses is limited for ones which can be completed at no less than 50% of the pace of the equivalent full-time course. If there is no full-time course, the part-time postgraduate course must be completed in less than three years.

Funding is not available for any part-time postgraduate course delivered outside of Scotland. Full-time postgraduate courses delivered outside Scotland will only be eligible for funding if there is no equivalent course available at a Scottish institution.

The Scottish Government does not currently provide student loans for Research Masters and PhD level courses.

Find more information on the SAAS website.

Other funding for Scottish students

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

Care experience bursary and grant is available 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 adult dependants, who they act as a carer for.

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

Discretionary Funds are there to provide assistance e.g. with housing or travel costs, for students who experience financial difficulty accessing or remaining in higher education.

Discretionary Childcare Funds provide help towards the cost of formal registered childcare costs.

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 2019 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 £1,450
£25,000 £5,930 £2,405
£35,000 £4,488 £3,847
£45,000 £3,047 £5,288
£45,001 or more £1,000 £7,335

The total for students living with their parents in loans and grants is £8,335.

Living away from home, studying outside London

Household income Grant Loan
£18,370 or less £8,100 £1,710
£25,000 £6,947 £2,863
£35,000 £5,208 £4,602
£45,000 £3,469 £6,341
£45,001 or more £1,000 £8,810

The total for students living away from home outside of London in loans and grants is £9,810.

Living away from home, studying in London

Household income Grant Loan
£18,370 or less £10,124 £2,136
£25,000 £8,643 £3,617
£35,000 £6,408 £5,852
£45,000 £4,174 £8,086
£45,001 or more £1,000 £11,260

The total for students living away from home in London in loans and grants is £12,260.

Part-time students will get support pro-rata based on the course intensity.

Postgraduate master’s students starting their course after 1 August 2019 can apply for Postgraduate Master’s Finance. The size of the grant and loan you may be entitled to will depend on your household income, however, the maximum combination of grant and loan for all students is £17,000.

Further information is available on the Student Finance Wales website.

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
For more information got to Student Finance NI.

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 £26,575+ a year.

In Scotland, loan repayments only start once you’re earning over £18,330 a year. In Northern Ireland, repayments will begin when you earn more than £18,935 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.

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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