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Student finance 

What financial help is available to students?

Victoria Russell
Written by  Victoria Russell
Updated: 26 Feb 2024

As well as student loans to cover tuition fees and living costs, there might be other ways of accessing the financial support you need while studying in higher education. Read on and we'll walk you through your options.

Understanding the types of financial help available for students can make a world of difference. This comprehensive guide will explore the various financial support options that students can tap into, ensuring that money concerns don't overshadow the university experience.

Student loans

For many students in the UK, student loans are the cornerstone of their financial plan for higher education. The government provides these loans upfront, allowing students to focus on their studies rather than their bank balance.

Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Loan

  • Tuition Fee Loan: This loan covers the full cost of education in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, with a cap of £9,250 per year for the 2023-24 academic year. Scottish students studying in Scotland are even luckier, as their fees are fully covered by the government. Repayment is income-contingent and begins once you start earning over £27,288 annually.

  • Maintenance Loan: Designed to help with living expenses, the maintenance loan is means-tested and varies depending on where you live and study. For instance, if you're living away from home and studying in London, you could receive up to £13,022 for the 2023-24 academic year.

Additional financial support options

Beyond loans, there are a plethora of grants, bursaries, and other financial aids that don't require repayment. These are often based on personal circumstances, such as background, financial status, and even A Level results or chosen course.

Student bank accounts and credit cards

If you’re about to start higher education, a student bank account that offers an interest-free overdraft and other perks such as cashback or a free railcard could help you manage your finances. A student credit card might also be useful, especially if you can take advantage of any loyalty points on offer. But this needs to be used responsibly, as interest rates can be high.

Grants and bursaries

The landscape of grants and bursaries is vast and varied. From local charities to organizations, there are numerous avenues to explore based on individual circumstances.

Parents' learning allowance and childcare grant

For those with children, additional support is available that doesn't affect other benefits or tax credits. This includes the Parents' Learning Allowance and the Childcare Grant for children under 15, or under 17 with special educational needs.

Disabled students' allowance

You may be able to get financial support to cover study-related costs if you have a disability, including a mental-health problem or long-term illness. It depends on your individual needs — not your household income — and you do not need to pay it back. Students can get up to £26,291 a year for support in 2023-24. Contact Student Finance and if directed, you can book in for a free assessment.

Travel grants and university awards

Students studying abroad or those with specific requirements like clinical placements can apply for travel grants. Additionally, universities often have their own funding schemes to support students.

Applying for student grants

When it comes to applying for grants, the best starting point is the government's official student finance website. Here, you'll find a comprehensive list of available grants, bursaries, and loans, along with the necessary application details.

Payment schedules and regional support

Government financial support is typically paid in three instalments throughout the academic year. In Scotland, however, payments are made monthly. Regional bodies like the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and Student Finance Wales offer additional assistance tailored to their residents.

Hardship funds and support for mature students

The student hardship fund is a lifeline for those facing unexpected financial difficulties. Mature students, too, can access financial support, with no age limit for tuition fee loans for first undergraduate degrees.

International students and energy bill help

While international students may not qualify for government loans, many universities offer scholarships and bursaries. Additionally, students can apply for discounts on energy bills and council tax, easing the burden of utility costs.

Maximizing your financial support

To ensure you're receiving the maximum financial support, use the government’s student finance calculator. It's also worth exploring grants and bursaries from charities like Buttle UK, Turn2us, and The Prince's Trust.

Further education and postgraduate support

For those considering postgraduate studies, loans are available to help with course fees and living costs. A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan, for example, can be applied for through Student Finance.

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