Are you eligible for student finance?
Unsure if you can apply for undergraduate student finance? We look at the eligibility criteria, and who qualifies for home fees in the UK.
Eligibility for undergraduate student loans in the UK
Home fees vary by nation within the UK. Your eligibility for student finance depends on a number of different factors, such as where you live and what you’re studying.
This list is an overview of the common eligibility criteria for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For full details, please refer to the student finance body for the relevant nation or the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).
Where you live – general residence criteria
Where you normally live before you start studying determines which nation you apply for funding in. To apply for student finance in one of the UK’s four nations (England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland), you:
- Must normally live in that nation
- Must have been living in the UK for three years up to when you start your course (‘on the first day of the first academic year of your course’)
- Must be a UK national or have 'settled status' – in other words, no restriction of how long you can stay in the UK
If you've moved to a different UK nation because you want to study there, that doesn't count as being 'ordinarily resident'. If you've been temporarily abroad, or away with the UK Armed Forces, you're usually still eligible for support.
If you don't meet the general residence criteria, there are some exceptions where you may still be able to apply for student finance for the 2020–2021 academic year. These include:
- You’re the child of a Swiss national or the child of a Turkish worker in the UK
- You or a close relative live in the UK and are recognised as a refugee, or have been granted humanitarian protection
- You or a close relative are an EEA or Swiss migrant worker
- You’re staying in the UK as a stateless person, having lived legally in the UK for three years before your course
If you’re an EU student
Each of the UK's nations have confirmed that EU students starting a degree in the academic year 2020 (and before) will be eligible for financial support for the duration of their course on the same basis as they are currently. However, this will change for those starting in the 2021–2022 academic year, with most EU and EEA students losing home fee status and financial support entitlement after Brexit. Exceptions include students from Ireland, and EU students already living in the UK by 31 December 2020 who are registered under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Currently, if you or a family member are an EU national and have lived in the EEA or Switzerland for the three years before your course begins, you're eligible for a tuition fee loan that you’ll eventually have to pay back. The rate of tuition fees is the same as for home students, which varies depending on where you study (in Scotland and Northern Ireland, students from the rest of the UK or RUK are charged more).
If you normally live in the UK nation you’re applying to for student finance, and didn't move there for the purpose of studying, you may also qualify for living cost support. To be eligible, you must have lived in the UK for at least three years before the start of your course (five years if resident in England).
If you’re a non-EU international student
Universities and colleges will usually charge you higher fees than home students. You’re unlikely to get financial support from the UK student loans system unless you meet one of the residence exceptions outlined above. If you qualify for student finance on these grounds, you're considered a home student and tuition fees would be charged accordingly.
For any queries about visas and eligibility for international students, refer to UKCISA.
There's no age limit for tuition fee loans or grants. To get a maintenance loan, in general you must be under 60 on the first day of the first academic year of your course. If you change to a different course after turning 60 years old, you’ll no longer be eligible for a maintenance loan. However, in England over-60s can access a means-tested loan for living costs.
Where you study
To get student finance, you must study your course at a publicly funded UK university. Or if you study at a private institution, your course must be approved for public funding. The tuition fees charged by private institutions may be higher than the tuition loan you get, in which case you’ll have to fund the difference.
If you’re from the UK, you can also apply for funding to study a degree in the Republic of Ireland. This is set to continue after Brexit, as part of the Common Travel Area agreement between Ireland and Britain. You won't need a visa and will have the right to access healthcare on the same basis as Irish citizens, or take out private health insurance.
What you study
Type of course
Your course must be a 'recognised' course. The following types of courses are all eligible for undergraduate student finance. If you’re unsure whether your course is eligible, check with your university or student finance body.
Examples of eligible courses:
- First degree
- Foundation degree
- Certificate of Higher Education
- Diploma of Higher Education
- Higher National Certificate (HNC)
- Higher National Diploma (HND)
- Postgrad Certificate of Education (PGCE/PGDE in Scotland)
- Initial Teacher Training (ITT/ITE)
- Integrated Master's degree
- A pre-registration postgraduate healthcare course (English-resident students)
On some courses you may be eligible for money from other public funds – such as the NHS bursary, where this is still available. If you get public money from a different source, this may affect whether you're eligible for other student finance or how much you might receive.
If you study part-time, your eligibility for student finance depends on the 'course intensity'. To get a loan, you need a minimum course intensity of 25%. This would be a course that takes four times as long as the full-time equivalent, where you study roughly 30 credits a year.
Depending on your household income, you may get financial support towards your tuition fees and some course costs. Maintenance loans are only available in England and Wales. Welsh residents who study a second degree part-time in certain subjects may also be able to access funding.
Be aware that if you’re a part-time student, you’ll begin paying your student loan back four years after beginning your course, even if you've not yet completed your studies. But repayments are only taken if your income is above the threshold for loan repayments.
Previous study at the same or higher level
Usually, student finance is only available if you’re studying for your first degree. You may be able to get further student finance if you’re studying a postgraduate teaching course or certain healthcare courses.
If you previously started but then withdrew from a course, you may only be entitled to partial funding. This'll depend on how long you previously studied for. If you get only partial support, it’s down to you to fund the rest of your course.
What you need to do
If you meet the criteria, you can find more details on eligibility for student finance for each UK nation:
If you’re not sure you meet the criteria, check the UKCISA website for more guidance on home and overseas fees. In the information for each UK nation, there are detailed definitions of criteria used to determine fee status.
Everyone has different circumstances – talk to universities or funding organisations directly if you have questions about your personal circumstances.
Note that universities have the discretion to decide each case based on individual circumstances. None of this will affect the way you’ll be considered for admission to the university (these decisions are based purely on academic merit).