Are you Eligible for Student Finance?

If you are unsure whether you can apply for student finance, we’ve looked at the eligibility criteria for each of the UK’s four nations – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Read below for our quick guide on what criteria you’ll need to meet.

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Where you live • If you are an EU student  If you are an International student  Your age  Where you study • What type of course you study  Part-time study  Previous study  What you need to do

International and EU student eligibility

Where you live

Where you normally live determines which nation you apply to. There are three key parts to the general residence eligibility. Whichever of the UK’s four nations you apply to for student finance, you:

  • Must normally live in that nation (whether England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland). 
  • 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 of studying there, that does not count as being 'ordinarily resident'. If you have been temporarily abroad, or away with the UK Armed Forces, you may still be eligible for support.

If you don't meet the general residence criteria above, there are some circumstances where you may still be able to apply for student finance. Many of these also require that you have lived in the UK, EU, European Economic Area or Switzerland for at least three years before your course starts.

These exceptions include:

  • If you are 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 are staying in the UK as a stateless person, having lived legally in the UK for three years before your course.

The above list is not comprehensive, but an overview of the common residence eligibility criteria for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There may be other exceptions. For full details, please refer to the student finance body for the relevant UK nation, or the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), who list detailed criteria. See the links under What you need to do, at the foot of this page.

If you are an EU student

Brexit is not set to have any immediate impact on funding for EU students attending university in the UK. Each of the UK's nations have now confirmed that EU students starting a degree in 2020 will be eligible for financial support for the duration of their course, on the same basis as they are currently. 

If you, or a family member, are an EU national and have lived in the European Economic Area or Switzerland for the three years before your course begins, you will be eligible for student finance to provide a tuition fee loan. You will need to repay the loan.

The fees charged to EU students are the same as for ‘Home’ students. This includes Scotland and Northern Ireland, where other students from the 'rest of the UK' (RUK) are charged more.

If you normally live in the UK nation being applied 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 also have lived in the UK for at least three years before the start of your course (five years, if resident in England).

The rules on previous study apply if you have already studied a publicly-funded higher education course in the UK or EU. Please see the section on Previous study below for details.

If you are an International student

Universities and colleges usually charge higher fees to international students than to Home/EU students. See what fees international students have to pay at UK universities.

International students are unlikely to receive financial support from the UK student loans system, unless they meet one of the residence exceptions outlined above. If you qualify for student finance on these grounds, you are considered a ‘Home/EU’ student and tuition fees would be charged accordingly.

For any queries regarding visas and eligibility for international students, please refer to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA). See What you need to do, at the foot of this page.

Your age

Your age may determine whether you can apply for certain student finance. There is no age limit for tuition fee loans or grants. To get a maintenance loan, you must be under the age of 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 will no longer be eligible for a maintenance loan.

University of Oxford

In addition to the above, there are eligibility criteria for the course you study, and whether you have studied before.

Where you study

Your course must be at a publicly-funded UK university or, if at a private institution, a course approved for public funding. Note, the tuition fees charged by private institutions may be higher than the tuition loan you receive, in which case you will have to fund the difference.

The exception to this is students from Northern Ireland, who can apply to study at universities in the Republic of Ireland. They can receive financial support from Student Finance NI towards the required 'student contribution'. It is not yet known how Brexit will affect this arrangement. For 2019–20, the ROI government has confirmed that students will be charged the lower contribution rate for the duration of their course. 

What type of course you study

Your course must be a 'recognised' course. The following types of courses are all eligible for undergraduate student finance.

  • 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)

If you are not sure whether your course is eligible, check with your university or contact your student finance body.

On some courses, students may be eligible for money from other public funds – such as the NHS bursary, where this is still available. If students receive public money from a different source, this may affect whether they are eligible for other student finance, or how much they might receive.

Part-time study

If you study part-time, course eligibility also depends on the 'course intensity'. If your course takes four times as long as the full-time equivalent, this is 25% intensity. It means you study roughly 30 credits a year.

Depending on your household income you may get financial support towards tuition fees and some course costs, but maintenance loans are only available in England and Wales. Be aware that part-time students begin paying their student loan back four years after beginning their course, even if they have not yet completed their studies. However, repayments will only be 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 to students doing their first degree – even if your previous course was self-funded. You may be able to get further undergraduate student finance if you are studying a postgraduate teaching course (ITT/ITE, PGCE, or PGDE in Scotland) or certain healthcare courses.

If you previously started but then withdrew from a course, you may only be entitled to partial funding. This will depend on how long you previously studied for. If you get only partial support, it will be up to you to find the money to complete your course.

What you need to do

If you are not certain whether you meet the eligibility criteria

  • Check the website of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) for their 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 – we suggest talking to universities or funding organisations directly if you have questions relating to your personal circumstances.
  • Note that universities have discretion to decide each case based on the individual circumstances. None of this will affect the way you will be considered for admission – these decisions are based purely on academic merit. Course applications for undergraduate study are made through UCAS.

If you believe you fit the eligibility criteria

You can find further details on eligibility for student finance for each UK nation: