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, 2018/19, academic year.

For the 2019/20 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 2019/20 academic year, from 1 August 2019 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 2019/20, 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 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 2018/19 and 2019/20 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 £4,160 in 2018/19 and £4,275 in 2019/20. You can apply to 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 (2018/19) or at an Approved (Fee Cap) provider in England (2019/20), 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 2018/19 or (ii) universities and colleges that have registered with the Office for Students as Approved Providers in England for the 2019/20 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 2018/19 or at Approved (Fee Cap) providers in 2019/20.

If you 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 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.

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 undergraduate students can get loans of up to £9,250 if they are studying at a publicly funded university or college in 2018/29 or at an Approved (Fee Cap) provider in 2019/20. Full-time undergraduate students starting an accelerated degree course at an Approved (Fee Cap) provider in 2019/20 from 1 August 2019 onwards can apply for a tuition fee loan of up to £11,100 to meet the full costs of their tuition.

Full time undergraduate students at a private university or college in 2018/19 or at an Approved Provider in 2019/20 can get up to £6,165 in tuition fee loan towards the costs of their tuition. Full-time undergraduate students starting an accelerated degree course at an Approved provider in 2019/20 from 1 August 2019 onwards can apply for a tuition fee loan of up to £7,400 towards the costs of their tuition.Further information is provided on the .GOV.UK website.

Maintenance Loan

This loan is a contribution towards your living costs while you are attending your full-time undergraduate course at University. If you are undertaking your course by distance learning, in most cases, you will not qualify for a maintenance loan.

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

Full-time student2018 to 2019 academic year2019 to 2020 academic year
Living at homeUp to £7,324Up to £7,529
Living away from home, outside LondonUp to £8,700Up to £8,944
Living away from home, in LondonUp to £11,354Up to £11,672
You spend a year of a UK course studying abroadUp to £9,963Up to £10,242

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

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 of 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.

Tuition Fee Loans for part-time undergraduate students from England

You might be able to receive a tuition fee loan if your course has a ‘course intensity’ of 25% or more for each academic year and for the whole course.

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 undergraduate students can apply for:

  • a tuition fee loan of up to £6,935 per year at a publicly funded university or college in 2018/19 or at an Approved (Fee Cap) provider in 2019/20.
  • Disabled Students’ Allowance, where applicable.

Lower rates of tuition fee loans apply to part-time undergraduate students studying on courses at private universities or colleges in 2018/19 or at Approved Providers in 2019/20.Further information is available on the .GOV.UK website.

Maintenance loans for part-time undergraduate students from England

If you attending a part-time bachelor’s degree or equivalent course starting on or after 1 August 2018 (known as a ‘level 6’ higher education course) you may qualify for a part-time maintenance loan towards your living costs. The maximum rates of loan are the same as those for full-time undergraduate courses but the amount you will qualify for will depend on where you are living and studying and the intensity of study on your part-time course when compared to that on a full-time course.Further information is available on the .GOV.UK website.

Part-time maintenance loans are not available for levels 4 and 5 courses (e.g. Foundation Degree, HND) or for part-time courses undertaken by distance learning.

Postgraduate master’s students from England

If you plan to start 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 in 2018/19 (or up to £10,906 for new students in 2019/20) 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.

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

Postgraduate doctoral students from England

If you plan to start a postgraduate doctoral degree and are aged 59 years or under, you might be eligible to receive a loan of up to £25,000 in 2018/19 (or up to £25,700 for new students in 2019/20) 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.

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 2019/20

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

Dependent students*

Household incomeBursaryLoanTotal
£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

Independent students**

Household incomeBursaryLoanTotal
£0 to £18,999£875£6,750£7,625
£19,000 to £23,999£0£6,750£6,750
£24,000 to £33,999£0£6,750£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.

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.Find out more about other financial support in Scotland

Financial support for Welsh students

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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 incomeGrantLoan
£18,370 or less£6,885£955
£25,000£5,930£1,910
£35,000£4,488£3,352
£45,000£3,047£4,793
£45,001 or more£1,000£6,840

The total for students living with their parents in loans and grants is £7,840.

Living away from home, studying outside London

Household incomeGrantLoan
£18,370 or less£8,100£1,125
£25,000£6,947£2,278
£35,000£5,208£4,017
£45,000£3,469£7356
£45,001 or more£1,000£8,225

The total for students living away from home outside of London in loans and grants is £9,225.

Living away from home, studying in London

Household incomeGrantLoan
£18,370 or less£10,124£1,406
£25,000£8,643£2,887
£35,000£6,408£5,112
£45,000£4,174£7,356
£45,001 or more£1,000£10,530

The total for students living away from home in London in loans and grants is £11,530.

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 master’s 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.

Postgraduate doctoral students aged 59 years of under can get a postgraduate loan of up to £25,000 if studying anywhere in the UK 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.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 studyingFull timePart-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.Find out more about financial support for Welsh students 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 incomeGrant amount
Less than £19,203£3,475
£19,204 to £41,065Partial grant
£41,066 and overNot 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 incomeGrant amount
Less than £19,203£3,475
£19,204 to £41,065Partial grant
£41,066 and overNot 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 £25,725+ 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.