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Student finance 

What financial help is available to students?

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Written by  Tim Heming
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Reviewed by  Jonathan Leggett
Updated: 28 Aug 2023

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.

What kind of financial help can students get?  

Student loans are often the main way students in the UK fund their education. The money is provided upfront by the government and is split into the following: 

  • Tuition fee loan. Available to all students studying for their first undergraduate degree, tuition fee loans cover the full amount of your education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Set at £9,250 per year for 2023-24, you start repaying the loan when you're earning £27,288 per year or above. Tuition fees for Scottish students studying in Scotland are covered by the government. 

  • Maintenance loan. Intended to help cover living costs, such as accommodation and food, while you are studying, maintenance loans are means tested on factors. These include your family income and where you are studying. For 2023-24 you can get a maintenance loan of up to £13,022 (if you’re living away from home and in London). 

 Tuition fee loans and maintenance loans aren’t the only financial support available. Other options include: 

  • Grants, bursaries and other loans. Depending on your personal circumstances, including your background, financial status, your A Level results and even the course you choose to study, there might be other financial support available. This may include grants and bursaries that you do not have to repay. 

  • 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. 

What grants can students get?  

There are a number of grants and bursaries you can get as a student, depending on your individual circumstances. We list some of the main ones here. But there might be more financial support available through local charities and organisations, so it is always worth researching before you begin your studies.  

Parents' learning allowance 

You may be eligible for help with your learning costs if you’re a full-time student with children. How much you get depends on your household income. This allowance is paid on top of your other student finance and will not affect your benefits or tax credits.   

Childcare grant 

You may be eligible for financial help with your childcare costs if you are a full-time, higher-education student with children under 15 (or under 17 if they have 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.   

Adult dependent grant 

If you’re a full-time student in higher education and an adult depends on you financially, you can apply for an adult dependants’ grant of up to £3,354 for the 2023-24 academic year.  

Travel grants 

You may get a grant to cover some of your travel expenses if you normally live in England and you’re studying abroad as part of your course, or you’re on a study or work placement through the Erasmus, Turing or Taith schemes.   

The same holds if you’re a medical or dental student studying abroad or attending a clinical placement in the UK.  

University awards 

Students can apply for money directly from their university or college on top of other student finance.   

Each university or college has their own rules about bursaries, scholarships and awards that determine who qualifies and how much you can get.  

NHS and social work bursaries 

You can get an annual payment from the NHS to help with your study and living costs if you’re studying to be a doctor or dentist.   

Similarly, if you’re training for social work, you may get a bursary to help with living costs and tuition fees that doesn’t depend on your household income 

Dance, music and drama awards 

You may be able to get an award to help with fees and living costs at specialist schools in England.   

You should apply directly to the school and the amount you get depends on your household income and where you live and study.   

You must be aged 16 to 23 and show talent and a likelihood to succeed in the industry.  

How can I apply for a student grant?  

It will depend on which grant you are applying for. A good place to start is the government's official student finance website, which lists available grants, bursaries and loans.  

You can check whether you are eligible and then follow directions to complete the application form with personal, financial, and course details.   

You’ll also need to submit some documents, such as proof of identity and household income if applicable. The funding applications can take time, so it’s always wise to apply early.  

When will my student loan be paid?  

Financial support from the government’s student finance department will generally be paid to students in three equal instalments in September, January, and April. Support is paid monthly in Scotland.  

What financial support is available to students in Scotland?  

Financial support for students in Scotland differs from the rest of the UK because there are no tuition fees for Scottish students studying at a Scottish university.   

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, students generally pay tuition fees.  

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) also provides additional financial assistance, such as the Young Students' Bursary, which offers non-repayable grants to students aged under 25 based on household income.   

As with the rest of the UK, students from low-income backgrounds can also apply for a maintenance loan assessed on various factors, such as parental income.   

Additionally, in Scotland the Care-Experienced Bursary and the Discretionary Fund offer support to students with specific circumstances.  

What financial support is available to students in Wales?  

Students studying in Wales can also access a range of financial support options.   

Tuition fee grants can cover a significant portion of tuition fees for eligible students and maintenance grants and loans are also available, assisting with living costs based on household income.   

Students with dependent children or adult dependents can receive extra financial aid.   

It's important to note that these arrangements may change over time, so students should regularly check the Student Finance Wales website for the most up-to-date information and to understand the financial assistance available to them during their studies.  

What is the student hardship fund?  

The student hardship fund is a financial resource provided by universities and colleges in England and Wales to assist students facing unexpected financial difficulties during their studies.   

It offers grants or financial support to cover essential living costs, such as accommodation, food and study materials.   

Eligibility criteria vary, often considering factors like family income, personal circumstances, and academic progress.  

Contact the student-services department at your university or college to find out if you qualify for help.   

They will decide the amount, which is then paid in a lump sum or instalments.   

You usually won’t have to pay the money back, but in some cases you’ll get a loan that you have to repay. 

In Scotland, you can apply for help through your university of college discretionary fund.  

Can mature students get financial support?  

Students can access much of the same financial support no matter what age they are, but it is dependent on factors such as where and what you'll study, whether you are planning to study full-time or part-time, and your household income.  

There is no age limit on eligibility for tuition fee loans, so anyone can apply, providing that they’re going to be studying for their first undergraduate degree.    

Can international students get financial help in the UK?  

International students in the UK may be able to access financial support as some universities offer scholarships and bursaries specifically for international students based on academic merit, country of origin or field of study.  

You will first have to meet eligibility criteria so it’s advisable for international students to research options and inquire with their chosen institutions directly. 

Do students get help with energy bills? 

You may be able to receive help with your energy bills if you’re studying in the UK.   

Some universities offer financial assistance or bursaries to help students manage their utility costs and students living in private accommodation can apply for discounts on energy bills and council tax.   

Check with your university's student support services and local authorities for information on available energy bill assistance programs and eligibility criteria.  

Can I ask student finance for more money?  

You might be able to get your student loan increased if you have not given your family income and therefore are currently only receiving the minimum maintenance loan.  

The government’s student finance calculator can help you work out how much more money you may be able to receive. 

You can also apply for additional grants and bursaries through the student finance department if you’re on a low income, disabled or have children.  

Can a full-time student also claim Universal Credit or Job Seeker’s Allowance? 
Full-time students are generally ineligible for Universal Credit or Job Seeker’s Allowance, but there might be a few exceptions, including if: .   

  • You're under 21, studying a course below A Level-equivalent, and lack parental support 

  • You're a parent or guardian of a child 

  • You live with a partner who receives Universal Credit 

  • You're receiving specific allowances or payments due to a disability  

 Part-time students may have a higher chance of claiming benefits, provided they can meet work-related requirements. Remember, your maintenance loans impact how much Universal Credit you might receive, but tuition fee loans and other grants do not.  

Do charities offer students any financial support?  

You may be able to get some financial support from charities in the UK. Other charities help with advice and by signposting where and how to apply for grants and bursaries. Examples include:    

Buttle UK. Offers grants to young people experiencing financial hardships, aiming to improve their education, training, and well-being.  

Turn2us. Provides information on available grants, benefits, and financial assistance to help students access crucial funds during their studies.  

The Prince's Trust. Supports young people with grants, loans, and mentoring to empower them in pursuing education and training opportunities. 

Samaritans. Offers emotional support, and in some cases, financial assistance to students experiencing mental health challenges. 

Disability Rights UK. Provides guidance and resources for disabled students, helping them navigate financial aid options and support services.  

Student Minds. The UK’s student mental health charity.  

What help is there for further education?   

Funding and loans are also available for those studying Master’s and Postgraduate study. These include:  

Doctoral loan 

A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course, such as a PhD. If eligible, you should apply online to Student Finance.  

Master’s Loan 

A Postgraduate Master’s Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate master’s course.   

As with other student loans, you’ll need to start repaying it once your income is over a certain threshold. 

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