Whether you’re heading off to university this year or you’re in the process of submitting your UCAS application, you will probably be interested in what financial options are available to you. Student finance is available to most people across the UK, but it is important to note that the criteria differs depending on your situation and location.
What are tuition fees?
Firstly, let’s look at what tuition fees are and who is eligible to receive tuition fee support. Tuition fees were introduced to the UK in 1998 and they have increased over the years, currently sitting at around £9,000 across the UK (excluding Scotland). They are essentially the price the public has to pay to attend university.
How much are tuition fees?
It’s important to look into your options when deciding where to study as the price of tuition fees varies depending on which region you study in and which region you are from:
- In England the costs are £9,250 per year for UK students.
- If you’re Scottish and you’re studying in Scotland you will not have to pay any tuition fees. This is due to the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) subsiding the cost. However, students from elsewhere in the UK can expect to pay £9,250 per year.
- To study in Wales, you can expect to pay £9,000 per year
- If you’re Northern Irish studying in Northern Ireland, you’ll pay £4,395 per year. However, students from elsewhere in the UK can expect to pay £9,250 per year.
What Student Finance options are available in the UK?
So, after looking at those prices you might be wondering how people manage to afford university. That’s where student finance comes in. Student finance will help you manage costs and it makes going to university a reality for many students across the country.
Student Finance in England and Wales
In England and Wales you can receive a tuition fee loan, a maintenance loan and a maintenance grant.
Tuition fee loan
This loan covers the cost of tuition fees. Tuition fees are paying for teaching time, student support, attending the university and general learning costs. Tuition fees do not cover resources like textbooks and stationery and will have to be repaid in the future. All students can receive a tuition fee loan to cover the full cost of annual tuition fees.
A maintenance loan is a sum of money that is loaned to you to cover the cost of living. This will usually mean rent and for some it could cover food costs.
The cost of living will vary depending on where you live in the UK. Everyone who is eligible to receive student finance will also be eligible for a maintenance loan but the amount you can receive does vary depending on your household’s income:
A maintenance grant is another type of funding available to people in certain situations. For example, if you're a single parent or you have a disability. The difference between a grant and a loan is that a grant does not need to be repaid.
Check out this video for a clear explanation
Student Finance in Scotland
If you are Scottish and you are studying in Scotland, there are some differences…
Tuition fee loan
Scottish students will not need to take out a tuition fee loan because the SAAS will cover the cost of tuition. This is not something that needs to be repaid. If, however, students are from England, Wales or Northern Ireland, they will have to pay the full tuition fee amount, and take out a loan in their own country to pay for this.
Scottish students studying in Scotland can receive a maintenance loan from SAAS to cover the cost of living but the amount they are eligible to receive depends on household income.
Just as in England and Wales, in Scotland you can also receive grants, sometimes referred to as bursaries, which do not need to be repaid if you are in a certain situation, such as living with a disability, are financially responsible for another adult or are studying a specific course type.
Student Finance in Northern Ireland
If you are from Northern Ireland, you will be eligible for a tuition fee loan, a maintenance loan and a maintenance grant. The tuition fee loan is up to £4,630 to cover the full cost of studying.
The maintenance loan is available to anyone but the amount will depend on household income:
You can also receive a maintenance grant if you’re a resident of Northern Ireland. This is ‘means tested’ and is available if your household income is below £41,065. It’s paid directly to students and can be anything up to £3,475 per year.
How to apply for Student Finance
You need to apply for your student loan in the country in which you are living before you start university. This is an important point that’s often overlooked - the country in which you are a resident is the country you should apply for finance from, not the location of your chosen university.
Applications for Student Finance in England
If you are from England, you can apply to student finance directly on the Government website. You will need to sign up and create an account there.
Applications for Student Finance in Wales
If you are from Wales, you will need to apply for your student finance via this link. Create an account to start your application.
Applications for Student Finance in Scotland
If you are Scottish and you are applying for a student loan you should visit the Student Awards Agency Scotland website to apply.
Applications for Student Finance in Northern Ireland
If you’re from Northern Ireland, follow this link to create your account and begin your application.
Applications for other UK territories
There may be slightly different rules if you are a student from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man.
Check out this handy video explaining how to apply:
How long does it take to receive Student Finance funds?
Typically, it takes around 6 weeks from your application to receiving the funding but sometimes it can take longer. Your student finance body will confirm in writing that your application has been approved and they will also confirm the amount of funding that will be paid.
To make sure you don’t experience any problems with payment, check that the bank details you provided on your application are correct. You will also need to enrol once you arrive at university and your tutor will need to confirm that you are attending.
When is Student Finance paid?
The payment of your loan differs depending on your country.
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales you will receive your student finance payment in three instalments, usually mirroring the 3 semesters;
In Scotland, you will receive your loan on a monthly basis, usually on the 7th of each month, and in September you will receive a double payment to help with any costs at the beginning of the academic year.
Extra financial support
In general, the extra financial support available is the same across the UK. We do recommend that you check the individual websites linked above for your country but the general rule is that you can receive this funding in each country in the UK.
Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)
The DSA is a funding support available to people who struggle with a mental health problem, a long term illness or any other disability.
You are eligible for this funding if you suffer with any of the following:
- specific learning difficulty, for example dyslexia or ADHD
- mental health condition, for example anxiety or depression
- physical disability, for example if you have to use crutches, a wheelchair or a special keyboard
- sensory disability, for example if you’re visually impaired, deaf or have a hearing impairment
- long-term health condition, for example cancer, chronic heart disease or HIV
You can receive up to £25,575 per year. This is a grant and therefore does not have to be repaid.
You can apply for this through your student finance application if you have done one already, or you can fill out a form which allows you to only apply for DSA without applying for student finance.
Low Income Support
If you are on a low income or you are from a low income household you can apply for Universal Credit. This will be paid monthly, or twice per month if you live in Scotland.
You can make a claim if you’re in full-time education and you live with a partner who is eligible for universal credit, you’re responsible for a child (single or a couple), or if you’ve reached state pension age.
The amount you receive depends on different criteria:
You can apply for Universal Credit online. You will need to create an account.
Students with dependents
There are three other options for funding if you have dependents:
To be eligible for all of these, you must be a full-time student.
To find out more about the amount you could receive and how to apply, it is advisable to visit the government website and read through the criteria.
Bursaries, grants and funds
Many types of bursaries and grants are available to students today. These payments do not have to be repaid.
If you are a medical, nursing, midwifery or allied health profession student then you are eligible to apply for different grants and bursaries.
The NHS learning fund provides grants of up to £5,000 per academic year, plus an additional £2,000 per year if you are a parent. The NHS bursaries offer a wider range of help and grants of £1,000 to eligible students.
If you’re a medical or dental student you may apply for a grant to cover your travel expenses for travel between your home and your placement location.
Social work students and teacher training students and students who are studying abroad are also eligible to apply for different bursaries.
To find out more about applying for these funding opportunities it is best to visit the Government website. For country-specific information, follow the relevant links.
Reapplying for Student Finance
It’s really important to understand that you have to re-apply for student finance every year that you are in education.
Each year, the deadline for returning students is usually in June.
You should reapply via your student finance account and it is vital that you don’t miss the deadline otherwise you may not receive any funding for the coming academic year. Check the website relevant to your funding body and your application status regularly to find out when the official deadline for reapplying is.
Understanding Student Loan Repayments
Unfortunately, your student loan will have to be repaid at some point!
There are different plans depending on which country you are from, but in general you don’t need to worry about paying off your loan until you are earning upwards of £20,000 annually.
If you’re above the payment threshold you will pay 9% of your income that’s above that threshold.
If you’re employed in the UK, then your repayment will be deducted automatically each month from your payslip before you receive your salary. You do need to let your employer know that you’re due to repay a student loan so that they can manage the deduction from your pay and ensure this goes to the relevant place.
Still have questions?
Learning about Student Finance options can be overwhelming to start with but once you are in the application process it is reasonably straightforward.
We would advise using the Government site for any further questions you may have, or contacting your Head of Sixth Form, Careers Leader or Careers Adviser - the person who manages your university applications.
Final Takeaway: Remember to always check your government website and make sure that the information you have is relevant to your personal circumstances.