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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 undergraduate student finance, and what funding and support is there?

Close-up of pound coins on ten pound notes


  1. Student finance

  2. University tuition fees

  3. What are your student living costs?
  4. What financial support is there?

  5. Other funding and financial support

  6. Grants for students supporting family

  7. Course-related payments

  8. Travel grant

Student finance

If you’re taking your first degree, you may wonder how on earth you’ll fund your studies – particularly when you read about the tuition fees you’ll have to pay. However, for UK-resident students there’s financial support in the way of student loans (and sometimes grants) to pay for your tuition fees and help with the cost of studying at university. The government terms this support as ‘student finance’.

Read on to find out more, including the extra help you may be eligible for based on your personal circumstances.

University tuition fees

If you’re studying for a degree at a UK university, you’ll be charged a tuition fee for each year you study. Fees can vary between universities and courses. If you’re a UK-resident student paying ‘home’ fees, each nation sets a cap on the maximum tuition fee you can be charged. 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.

Taking an accelerated degree is one way to reduce the overall cost of a degree. In England these degrees are completed in two years rather than three, studying over a longer academic year.

UK-residents who secure a degree apprenticeship won’t have to pay their tuition fees at all. Instead, you’ll be a paid employee and your employer will foot the bill for your education.

What are your 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 undergraduate loan available if you’re eligible and studying in the UK: a tuition fee loan (paid to your university directly) and maintenance loan (paid to you, to support your living costs).

The loans are provided by the UK Government and managed by the Student Loans Company (owned by the government). You’ll need to pay the money back, but only once you earn above a certain amount.

Tuition fee loans

Your tuition fee loan will usually cover the full tuition fee. If you’re at a private institution, you’ll get a reduced amount and will need to fund the difference in cost yourself. You’re normally eligible for funding for the duration of your course but if you’ve studied before – even if you didn’t finish your course – it may affect the level of support you're entitled to.

Maintenance loans

Maintenance loans are generally only available to UK-resident students. The maintenance loan is means-tested, so your household income is taken into account. It's 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 the maximum financial support.

If your household income is above average, you may be assessed for a lower amount of maintenance loan – with the implication that the difference will be found elsewhere. This might be through contributions from parents or guardians, a part-time job, or savings. It's also worth looking for other financial support such as grants, bursaries or scholarships, if you’re likely to meet their criteria.

You may be considered an 'independent student' if you've earned a living for three years, or are 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 Stand Alone provides information on financial support for independent students.

How much financial support can you get?

Each government in the UK’s four nations decides the maximum amount of funding for students from that nation. You can find full information on student finance below for where you live before starting university:

Contact your education authority if you come from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Once you start your university course, you'll be under same payment scheme from the start of your degree until its end. However the amount of funding is reviewed annually, and may change.

Other funding and financial support

Extra funding may be available to support students for their university studies if you excel in your subject of study or face financial hardship. Additionally, depending on personal circumstances, some UK-resident students qualify for extra financial help paid by their student finance body.

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.

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 normally provide financial support based on your personal circumstances.

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.

Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)

In the UK, 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. If your condition affects your ability to study, then 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, and full-time or part-time study. 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 get equivalent funding from another source (such as a social work 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 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.

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 unis have money advice or welfare services. You can also contact organisations like Turn2us, a UK charity that provides practical help for those struggling financially. In Scotland, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has useful information (see AskCPAG and search for ‘students’).

You may be eligible to get support from the UK Government’s Universal Credit benefit scheme – for example, if you’re responsible for a child. If you’re already on a 'legacy benefit' (one that's being stopped), this is due to changes to Universal Credit by 2024. If you’re claiming a legacy benefit but your circumstances change during this period, you may be moved immediately to Universal Credit.

Universal Credit treats student maintenance loans – and some grants – as 'unearned income'. You’ll be assessed on the full amount of maintenance loan you’re entitled to, even if you choose not to take it. Parents’ Learning Allowance and the Childcare Grant aren’t counted as income.

Jobseeker's Allowance isn't normally available to students unless, for example, they’re a single parent and can’t work during the summer vacation.

If you’re a disabled student and need help with personal care or mobility, you can claim personal independence payments. However, 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.

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Grants for students supporting family

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

  • Adult Dependants' 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 Dependants’ Grant

Known as a 'Dependants' Grant' in Scotland, you can get the Adult Dependants' 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 2022/23 you may get £2,640–£3,263 depending on which UK nation you're a resident in. The amount depends on your income, including that of your adult dependant. If they have an annual income of £3,796–£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 Dependants’ 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 or you may have to pay money back.

Childcare Grant

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you can get a Childcare Grant if you have children who are financially dependant 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) but you may get less, depending on your income. 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 you’re a single parent, you may be eligible for the Lone Parents’ Childcare Grant, which you can claim from the uni or college where you study.

If studying elsewhere in the UK, check with your university to see what help is available. You may need to apply for 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 dependant on you, and you must be applying for income-assessed student loans. The amount of grant that you get will depend on your household income.

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

In 2022/23, depending on the nation you lived in before you started studying, you can get up to £1,863. Scottish students who are single parents can apply for a Lone Parents' Grant of up to £1,305 per year.

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

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 (although not in Scotland), or for healthcare students in Wales. However, there may be additional government funding for students studying nursing, midwifery or an allied health professional course elsewhere.

Teacher training

In England, a Troops to Teachers bursary is available to eligible veterans from the armed forces taking an undergraduate degree to teach certain subjects in secondary education. Scholarships from Future Teaching Scholars are available for talented A-Level students studying maths or physics at degree level, who aim to move into teaching. If you study maths, physics, computing or languages and take an opt-in QTS course (qualified teacher status), you could also get a bursary.

Across the UK, there’s more likely to be funding for graduate teacher training, either university-based or school-based, mostly for shortage subjects. Postgraduate degree apprenticeships are also available in England.

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. 

In England, as an undergraduate you may get a basic bursary of £4,862.50 per year (or £5,262.50 if you attend uni 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 by the end of May to ensure your funding is in place for the autumn. You can apply before knowing whether you've been nominated for a social work bursary by your university. If you don’t get the bursary, you may still get a placement travel allowance (PTA) of £862.50. You must reapply each year. The bursary is paid in three termly instalments, after your university confirms your attendance.

In Wales, undergraduate students could get £2,500 per year, plus a ‘practice learning opportunity allowance’ towards your expenses if you get this bursary. Your uni will nominate a selection of students, who can then apply online – but this doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. To get the bursary, you must first register as a student social worker 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 uni confirms your attendance.

Students studying social work in Northern Ireland can apply for the Department of Health’s Student Incentive Scheme of £4,000 per year, plus £500 towards travel while on placement.

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 with UK-based clinical placements for medical and dental students in the years they don’t receive an NHS bursary.

The travel grant doesn’t apply to clinical placements for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals. Instead, students who receive funding support (such as the NHS Learning Support Fund in England) can claim some of their placement expenses back via their scheme.

Study abroad includes studying at an overseas university as part of your course. The grant can cover eligible expenses including travel, visas, vaccinations and medical insurance. It can be used to support the travel costs of students going overseas with the Turing Scheme if they don’t qualify for the scheme’s support.

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 up front and must keep receipts as evidence of your spending. 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 – although if you do have a low household income and are going overseas with the Turing Scheme, you may get support as part of that programme. You must update the Student Awards Agency Scotland (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, you can claim travel expenses when on clinical placement. AHP placements must be in Scotland. If you receive the Paramedic, Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary, this allows £5 for daily travel. You can claim expenses when your clinical placement costs are higher than this, using the cheapest form of public transport.

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