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Financing your studies

Student finance and funding

How much will it cost to go to university? How do you apply for student finance, and what funding and support is there?

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CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: In spite of the uncertainties created by the current situation, you should apply for student finance as usual. Funding agencies are working hard to process all applications. For up-to-date info on the effects of coronavirus on university education, visit our coronavirus information hub.

 

CONTENTS

  1. University tuition fees

  2. What financial support is there?

  3. Other funding and financial support

  4. Course-related payments

  5. Travel grant

University tuition fees

UK universities usually charge you for course tuition. Fees can vary between universities and courses. If you’re an international student, a different scale of fees is chargeable.

All universities show course fees on their websites. You can also find and check fees for specific courses on our Course Chooser. Make sure to check the universities and courses you’re interested in before you make your UCAS choices.

What are student living costs?

As well as tuition fees, you’ll have maintenance or living costs, especially if you move away from home. This can include rent, bills, travel, textbooks and other living expenses.

What financial support is there?

There are two different types of loan that are available if you’re eligible and plan to study in the UK: tuition fee loan (paid to your university directly) and maintenance loan (paid to you to support your living costs).

The maintenance loan is means-tested, so your household income is taken into account. This is usually based on your parents' income, unless you’re a mature or independent student and have earned your own living for a number of years. Only those with a low household income are likely to be eligible for full financial support.

If your household income is higher, you can apply for a reduced amount of maintenance loan – with the implication that the difference will be found elsewhere. This might be through contributions from parents, a part-time job or savings. It's also worth looking for other financial support, such as grants, bursaries or scholarships, if you’re eligible.

How much financial support can you get?

For information on student finance relevant to you, click on the links below for where you live before starting university:

Contact your education authority if you come from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
If you started your university course in the previous year, you remain under the scheme from when your course began for the duration of your degree.

If you've studied a course of higher education before, this may affect the level of support you're entitled to.

Where loans are concerned, consider whether you're an 'independent student'. Have you earned a living for three years, or are you irreconcilably estranged from your parents? Care leavers may be considered as independent students. Being 'estranged' is different from your parents not being willing or able to support you financially. If you say you're estranged and are in touch with your parents at all, you stand to lose a lot. The charity Standalone provides information on financial support for independent students.

Other funding and financial support

Extra funding is available to support eligible students for their university studies. When applying for financial support, do it as early as possible and always check the small print. Remember to inform funding providers if any of your circumstances change, as the amount you’re entitled to might also change.

Additionally, depending on personal circumstances, some UK-resident students qualify for extra financial help paid by their student finance body.

Scholarships and bursaries

Scholarships and bursaries are awards to support your learning and living while at university, which don’t need to be paid back. Scholarships are usually awarded on merit, i.e. if you excel at your subject or a sport. Bursaries provide financial support based on personal circumstances.

Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)

In the UK, the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) provides financial support for extra study-related costs due to a disability (as defined by the Equality Act 2010).

Disabilities include long-term health conditions, physical disabilities, autism or specific learning differences like ADHD, dyslexia or dyspraxia. Depending on your needs, you could get a specialist mentor, suitable equipment or help with disability-related travel costs.

You must be studying for at least a year on a UK undergraduate or postgraduate course. This can include Open University or distance learning courses. You'll need proof of your disability and you must be eligible for student finance. If you've studied at university-level before, you’re still eligible to apply. You may not be eligible if you’re an EU student, or get equivalent funding from another source (such as a social work allowance or disabled students' allowance).

Will DSA affect your other financial support?

DSA is not income-related. The amount you get will depend on your needs. It won't affect other loans you may receive. You don't get the money up front, and you can only claim for items or help specified by your needs assessment.

When you order equipment or arrange non-medical support, you can send a claim with the related invoices or receipts to your student funding body. It'll pay the supplier's invoice or reimburse you for receipts. Make sure you only buy items confirmed as eligible for funding, otherwise you may not be repaid. For some items, such as a new computer, you may need to pay part of the cost yourself. If you leave your course early, you might have to pay some costs back.

How to get the DSA

If you intend to study full-time and apply for a student loan, you can apply for the DSA as part of that process. If you're not claiming student finance, or if you’re a part-time student, you can apply for DSA separately. There's no deadline for applying, but do it as soon as possible as claims take a while to review.

When applying, you'll need to provide evidence of your eligibility. You'll be told if you need to attend a study assessment centre to identify your support needs. You don't need to reapply each year if you’re getting a student loan and continuing on the same course, but you need to reapply if you changed or stopped your course, repeat a year or change from full-time to part-time study. You'll also need to reapply if you didn't take out a maintenance or tuition fee loan.

Dependents' grants

If you’re a UK resident on a low income and financially support another adult or a child, you may be eligible for a grant. There are three types of dependents' grants:

  • Adult Dependents Grant
  • Childcare Grant
  • Parent's Learning Allowance (Scotland differs slightly)

The money doesn't need to be paid back unless you leave your course early, or for grants based on your income, if you've been overpaid. You must be a full-time undergraduate or on a teacher-training course (ITT or PGCE). The financial support you get depends on your income. You'll need to provide copies of relevant documents to confirm your finances at the end of the academic year.

Adult Dependents’ Grant

Known as a 'dependent's grant' in Scotland, you can get the Adult Dependents' Grant if you're financially responsible for another adult. This is normally someone you're married to or a partner (if you're under 25, this must be a civil partnership). It doesn’t include grown-up children. You can't apply if the other adult is also getting student finance.

In 2020–21 you can get £2,640–£3,094 depending on which UK nation you're a resident in. The amount depends on your income, including that of your adult dependent. If they have an annual income of around £3,800–£3,923 (depending on which nation you're based in), or if you receive an NHS bursary, you won't be eligible. Other government grants might affect how much you get, but the money you receive won't affect what student finance you're entitled to.

To get the Adult Dependents’ Grant, you have to apply to the student finance body for where you live. You must do this before the cut-off date for student finance and give evidence of your household income. The money will be paid directly into your bank account at the start of each term. Remember to update your student finance body if your circumstances change, otherwise you may have to pay money back.

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Childcare Grant

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you can get a Childcare Grant if you have children who are financially dependent on you and you pay for their childcare costs. They must be under 15 years old or under 17 if they have special educational needs.

How much Childcare Grant can you get?

You can get financial help for up to 85% of your childcare costs (up to a capped amount). You'll need to use a registered or approved childcare provider who isn’t a relative. If you haven’t arranged childcare yet you can estimate costs, but provide the actual costs as soon as you can, otherwise you may get less money. The amount you get will depend on your household income, whether you get other government grants and how many children you're claiming for. If you get other help for childcare costs (such as childcare benefits or an NHS bursary) this may affect your claim.

How do you get the Childcare Grant?

Complete a Childcare Grant application form, with a careful estimate of your weekly childcare costs. Send it to your student finance body as soon as you can, before the application deadline for student finance. You'll also need to provide evidence about your children by showing, for instance, a birth certificate or other official document if you've moved to the UK.

The money is paid directly into your bank account at the start of each term once your university confirms your attendance. You're then responsible for paying your childcare provider. You'll need to confirm your actual childcare costs three times a year. Contact your student finance body if there are any changes, such as changing childcare provider.

Childcare Grants for Scottish students

If you’re studying in Scotland, apply as early as possible to your university's discretionary childcare fund. If studying elsewhere in the UK, check with your university to see what help is available. You may need to apply for Child Tax Credits or Universal Credit instead.

Parents' Learning Allowance

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, if you have children you can get the Parents' Learning Allowance to help with study-related costs. This provides financial help for things like study materials or travel. You don't need to be paying for childcare to get this grant. You'll need to give evidence that you have a child who's financially dependent on you, and you must be applying for income-assessed student loans.

What financial support can students get from the Parents' Learning Allowance?

In 2020–21, depending on the nation you lived in before you started studying, you can get between £1,538–£1,776. Scottish students who are single parents can apply for a means-tested Lone Parents' Grant of up to £1,305 annually.

How do you get the Parents' Learning Allowance or Lone Parents' Grant?

When applying for student finance, complete the relevant section. You don't need to wait until your university place is confirmed but if there are any changes, let your student finance body know.

Can students claim benefits?

There are very few circumstances where you can claim government benefits as a student. If you’re on benefits and want to study a degree, most universities have money advice or welfare services. You can also contact organisations such as Turn2Us, a UK charity that provides practical help for those struggling financially.

You may be eligible to get support from the UK government’s Universal Credit benefit scheme. If you’re already on a 'legacy benefit' (the one that's being stopped), this is due to changes to Universal Credit by 2023. If you’re already claiming a legacy benefit but experience a change in circumstances during this period, you may be moved immediately to Universal Credit. Universal Credit treats student maintenance loans – and some grants – as 'unearned income'. Your entitlement to Universal Credit will reduce by £1 for every £1 of unearned income, less a £110 monthly disregard. You’ll be assessed on the maximum loan or grant available to you, regardless of whether you've claimed the full amount.

Jobseeker's Allowance isn't normally available to students.

If you’re a disabled student and need help with personal care or mobility, you can claim personal independence payments. Be aware, if your health improves during your course, your eligibility may be reassessed.

Parents who are students can still claim child benefits.

Remember your income (whether grants, loans or other) may affect the amount of benefit you get.

Financial help for care leavers

If you've been in care at all, even for a short period of time, check if you’re entitled to financial help. You’re likely to qualify for extra funding from the government or get a student bursary from your university. Even if you don't get extra funding, you may get help with accommodation outside of university term times.

Course-related payments

Subject bursaries

Depending on where you are in the UK, there may be financial help for certain courses.

NHS bursary

The NHS bursary itself is only available to new medical and dental students (except in Scotland). However there may be additional government funding for students studying nursing, midwifery or an allied health professional course.

Teacher training

In England, a bursary is available to eligible veterans from the armed forces for teaching certain subjects in secondary education. Scholarships from Future Teaching Scholars are available, and there is some government funding for postgraduate students.

Social work

In England and Wales, full-time and part-time undergraduates and postgraduates may get financial help from a social work bursary. These are funded by the NHS and are based on nominations from universities. There are several eligibility requirements you’ll have to meet. Details of funding are usually available the spring or summer immediately before the academic year starts.

In England in 2019, as an undergraduate you may get a basic bursary of £4,862.50 per year (£5,262.50 in London). Your university will shortlist eligible students and inform the NHSBSA (NHS Business Services Authority). You can only apply for financial help from the second year of study. You apply to NHSBSA from by 31 August before your course resumes. You can apply before knowing whether you have been nominated for a social work bursary by your university. If you do not get the bursary, you may still get a placement travel allowance (PTA) of up to £862.50. You must reapply each year. The money is paid in three termly instalments, after your university confirms your attendance.

In Wales, you could get up to £2,500 per year, plus a ‘practice learning opportunity allowance’ if you get this bursary. You’ll be informed by your university if you’re nominated. Nominated students will be emailed an application – but this doesn’t mean you will be successful. To get the bursary, you must first register with Social Care Wales. Your first application for financial support must be in the first year of your course. If successful, you'll need to reapply each year. The money is paid by instalments, once your university confirms your attendance.

In Northern Ireland undergraduate students may also be eligible for a social work bursary; please contact the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) at the Department of Health in Northern Ireland for details.

Scotland currently only provides funding for postgraduate social work students.

Study abroad

If you study abroad for between one term and one year as part of your course, you can still apply for student loan finance during this time. It's also worth looking for financial support from university scholarships or student bursaries.

Travel grant

For full-time students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the travel grant gives financial help for study abroad or UK-based clinical placements. Study abroad includes studying at an overseas university as part of your course, or an Erasmus placement. The grant can cover eligible expenses including travel, visas, vaccinations and medical insurance.

How do you get a travel grant?

You must be a full-time undergraduate student receiving means-tested student finance. Overseas study must be for at least half of each academic term. Clinical placements must be a requirement of your course and you won't qualify if you’re eligible for other funding (such as an NHS bursary). If you've studied at this level before, you might not be eligible for funding.

How much financial support could you get?

You pay the costs yourself upfront and have to keep receipts as evidence of what you spent. You can then claim the money back. The amount you get back depends on your household income, and you'll need to cover c.£303–£309 of the year's cost yourself. If you’re from Wales, you’re expected to pay the first £1,000 if your household income is over £59,200. You won't need to pay the grant back unless you’ve been overpaid or you leave your course early. 

Students from Scotland

You can also get financial help with travel expenses for travel abroad. This must be a compulsory part of your course, and not a paid placement. You can claim the cost of your journey and medical insurance. The financial support you get doesn't depend on your household income.

You have to update SAAS about studying abroad when applying for student finance, and you'll be sent a claims form. If you’re on an Allied Health Profession (AHP) course or studying a Nursing diploma or degree, you can claim travel expenses when on clinical placement. AHP placements must be in Scotland.

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