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Financing your studies

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.

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  1. CONTENTS

  2. Eligibility for student finance in the UK

  3. Where you live – general residence criteria

  4. Where you study

  5. What you study

  6. Your age
  7. Your previous study

  8. What you need to do

Eligibility for student finance in the UK

Your eligibility for a student loan depends on a number of different factors, such as where you live and what you’re studying. ’Home fee status’ is determined by where you normally live, but the rate you're charged also depends on where you study. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, students from the rest of the UK (RUK) are charged more.. 

The following is an outline of the common eligibility criteria for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For full details, please refer to the relevant student finance body for your nation or, if you live overseas, to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

Where you live – general residence criteria

Where you normally live before you start studying generally determines whether you’re eligible for home fee status, tuition fee or maintenance (living cost) support. Your ‘residency’ is based on living continuously in a nation or region, usually for three years. If you moved solely for education your residency may be deemed to be where you lived beforehand.

Below, we cover the student finance eligibility for UK students, students from across the EEA/EU territories (including UK nationals), and international students.

If you're in the UK

To apply for student finance in one of the UK's four nations (England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland), you must be a UK national or have ‘settled status’ i.e. with no restriction on how long you can stay in the UK. If you require a visa to be in the UK, you don't have ‘settled status’. You must also have lived in the UK or its islands for the three years before your course starts. 

To get student finance, you should apply to the nation where you normally live. If you moved to a different UK nation because of studying 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 above, there are some exceptions where you may still be able to apply for student finance. For example, if:

  • You or a close relative live in the UK and are recognised as a refugee, or have been granted humanitarian protection
  • You’re staying in the UK as a stateless person, having lived legally in the UK for three years before your course

Student finance eligibility after Brexit

The transition period for Brexit ended on 31 December 2020. For courses starting after 1 August 2021, the policy for England is outlined below, with other UK nations expected to be broadly similar. Detailed guidance on student finance is normally issued by all nations in March or April, prior to the start of the next academic year.

Courses starting on or before 31 July 2021

Each of the UK's nations have confirmed that EU students starting a degree course in the academic year 2020–21will be eligible for financial support for the duration of their course on the same basis as they were prior to Brexit: 

  • EU nationals (and family members) who’ve lived in the EEA or Switzerland for the three years before their course begins are eligible for home fee status and a tuition fee loan
  • EU and other relevant students may also get a living cost loan if they’ve lived in the UK for at least the three years before the start of their course (five years if in England)

Courses starting on or after 1 August 2021 

EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals  living outside the UK are likely to be charged tuition fees in line with international students (see further down this page). The categories below may still be eligible for home fee status and some financial support. The following information is taken from UK Government guidance issued in December 2020.

EU/EEA or Swiss citizen

If you’re an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen living in the UK by 31 December 2020, and you continue to live in the UK, you must register with the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by 30 June 2021. Early application is advised. You could be granted settled status if you’ve already lived in the UK for five continuous years, or pre-settled status otherwise. Those with pre-settled status can apply for settled status after five years of UK residence. 

You’ll have home fee status, and may be eligible for student financial support as follows:

  • Settled status: in general, if you have settled status you’ll be eligible for tuition fee and maintenance support if you’ve lived in the UK for at least three years
  • Pre-settled status (with three years residency in the UK, Gibraltar, EEA and Switzerland): if you’re an EU national you should be eligible for tuition fee support, while EEA and Swiss workers (and family members) may get tuition fee and maintenance support (they’ll need to confirm their work status) – former EEA and Swiss migrant workers are also eligible
  • Pre-settled status EU students may also qualify for maintenance support in some UK nations (not England), for example EU students who normally live in Scotland and have lived in the UK and islands for three years before the start of their course

You should apply for student finance from the UK nation where you live (i.e. England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland).

Family members and the EU Settlement Scheme

If you're the family member of someone in UK who has been awarded settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, you may be eligible to join them. Please see Government guidance for details. 

Irish citizen living in the UK or Ireland

Irish citizens based in the UK or Ireland are covered by the Common Travel Area agreement. If you’re an Irish student, you won’t need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme unless you choose to.

To qualify for home fee status and tuition fee support, you must have lived in the UK or Ireland for the three years before the start of your course. You could also get maintenance support if you’ve lived in the UK for the three years before the start of your course.

UK nationals living in the EEA or Switzerland

UK nationals (and family) living in the EEA or Switzerland may be eligible for home fee status, tuition fee and maintenance support, depending on their residency. The criteria includes:

  • Living in the EEA or Switzerland on 31 December 2020 (or having moved back to the UK immediately after living in the EEA or Switzerland), and
  • Living in the EEA, Switzerland, the UK or Gibraltar for at least the last three years, and
  • Living continuously in those areas between 31 December 2020 and the start of their course

This applies for any course starting from 1 August 2021 until 1 January 2028 in England.

Other UK nations align broadly with England, except for Scotland. Here, UK nationals from the EEA or Switzerland will only get tuition fee support unless they – or their parent or spouse – previously lived in Scotland. In that case, they'd also be eligible for maintenance support. For details, check with the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

UK national living in the EU overseas territories

If you’re a UK national (or family member) living in the EU overseas territories on 31 December 2020, you’ll continue to be eligible for home fee status in England on courses that start before 1 January 2028.

UK national living in British Overseas Territories or Gibraltar

If you’re a UK national living in British Overseas Territories or Gibraltar, you may qualify for home fee status (in England) if you have three years residency in British or EU overseas territories, the UK, EEA or Switzerland before the start of your course. In addition, if you’re from Gibraltar you should be eligible for tuition fee support on courses starting before 1 January 2028.

Crown Dependencies

After Brexit, students from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (known as the Crown Dependencies) will be eligible for home fee status in England from 2021–22 onwards. This will be on the basis of having three years residency in the UK or above islands.

Universities and colleges will usually charge you higher fees than home students. These vary by institution and also by type of course – you can check individual course fees on our course chooser. Ensure you set your location to display the correct fee.

You’re unlikely to be eligible for 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 student finance eligibility for international students, refer to UKCISA.

Where you study

To get student finance, you must study a course run by (or on behalf of) a publicly funded or registered 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 study at postgraduate level, the same applies – your fees may be higher than the loan you get.

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.

What you study

Type of undergraduate 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 undergraduate 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)

Part-time undergraduate study

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.

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.

Type of postgraduate course

For postgraduate or doctoral study, funding regulations vary by nation – some may provide student finance for postgraduate diplomas to master's, others for master's only. England and Wales have loans for doctoral study. 

For details, check our individual nation pages for the level of study you're interested in (links at the foot of this page). The funding you get will be based on the nation you live in, regardless of where you go to study.

Your age

There's no age limit for undergraduate tuition fee loans or grants. To get a maintenance loan for full-time undergraduate study, normally you must be under 60 on the first day of the first academic year of your course; if you later change course, you’ll lose eligibility.

However, in England, undergraduates over 60 can access a means-tested loan for living costs. 

For postgraduate students, loans designated for tuition fees have no age limit (Northern Ireland, or the tuition fee element of support in Scotland). However, where support can also be used for your living costs, you must have started a course before you turn 60. If you change to a different course after that, you’ll no longer be eligible for student finance.

Usually, undergraduate student finance is only available if you’re studying for your first degree. There are some exceptions to this rule, with further undergraduate funding for postgraduate teaching qualifications or certain degrees in some nations.

Find the details in our undergraduate student loan pages for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 
At postgraduate level and above, if you already have a qualification at the same level or higher the support you may get varies by nation.

In England and Wales, you aren't eligible for student finance – even if your qualification was gained overseas. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, students may be able to get a loan if they haven't had a postgraduate loan before.
Undergraduates who previously started but then withdrew from a course may only be entitled to partial funding. This'll depend on how long they previously studied for. If you get only partial support, it’s down to you to fund the rest of your course. 

Postgraduates who begin but later withdraw from a course will only be able to apply for another loan if it was due to compelling personal reasons.

Next steps

If you meet the above 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).

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