Other financial support for university students
Check our guide to extra financial help for undergraduate students at university. Apply for financial support early, and always check the small print. Ensure funding providers know if your circumstances change
Click to skip to:
Get a student loan • Scholarships and bursaries • Extra government financial support for students • Financial help for care leavers • Course related payments and travel grants • Other ways to finance your studies • Budget to make your money stretch further • Financial support in an emergency
It may appear to be a large amount of debt but if you're eligible, consider a student loan more as a graduate tax. Unlike other loans, you only pay it back once you are earning above a certain amount. Students applying for full-time undergraduate loans in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales may also be eligible for a partial grant or bursary. Grants and bursaries do not need to be paid back. As students' household income goes up, the amount of maintenance loan awarded goes down. See our guide to tuition fees and undergraduate student loans in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Also, where loans are concerned, consider whether you are 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 are 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.
Financial help is also available through scholarships or bursaries from universities and charitable or educational trusts. Student bursaries provide financial support based on your personal circumstances. Scholarships are usually awarded on merit, if you excel at your subject or a sport. Scholarships may also be available for international students. Universities may offer a 'fee waiver' rather than a financial award. This means you won't owe money to the university for your tuition fees, but you won't get any extra cash to live on. Scholarships or bursaries do not need to be paid back.
Do check if there is a student grant or bursary that will apply to you. There can be some diverse criteria! They can include your parents' jobs, or where you were educated. There's even a scholarship if your surname is Graham and you study in Glasgow.
How to find out about scholarships and student bursaries? See our guide to university scholarships and bursaries (with our handy grid of current financial support at each UK university). We also have information on other scholarships and bursaries. If you know which universities you're interested in, our University Profiles include a section on fees & finance. If your exam results mean you end up in Clearing, be particularly watchful. There have been suggestions that some universities may increase bursaries and scholarships in August in order to fill their places.
Do your personal circumstances qualify you for extra financial support?
Depending on your personal circumstances, some UK-resident students qualify for extra financial help. This is paid by your student finance body.
Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) is available to students living in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Students can get financial support for extra study-related costs due to a disability (as defined by the Equality Act 2010).
- Disabilities include long-term health or mental health conditions, physical disabilities, autiism, 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, whether that is full-time or part-time. 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 previously, you are still eligible to apply. You are not eligible if you are an EU student, or get equivalent funding from another source (university, social work allowance or NHS disabled students' allowance).
- Will DSA affect my other financial support? DSA is not income-related. The amount you get will depend on your needs. It won't affect other student finance (i.e. 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. You order equipment or arrange your non-medical support, then send a claim with the related invoices or receipts to your student funding body. They will 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. If you're buying a new computer you may need to pay part of the cost yourself. If you leave your course early, you may need to pay some costs back.
- How to get the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA). If you intend to study full-time and apply for a student loan, you'll be able to apply for DSA as part of that process. If you're not claiming student finance, or if you are a part-time student, you can apply for DSA separately. There is no deadline for applying, but do it as soon as you can because claims take a while to review. 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 are getting a student loan and continuing on the same course. You need to reapply if you changed or stopped course, repeat a year of study, 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 are 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, and 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, unless you have been overpaid. You must be a full-time undergraduate, or on a teacher-training course (ITT or PGCE). The financial support students get will depend 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 ('dependent's grant' in Scotland). If you are financially responsible for another adult. This is normally someone you are married to, or a partner (if you're under 25, this must be a civil partnership). You can't count grown-up children as adult dependents. You can't apply if the other adult is also a student getting student finance.
What financial support can students get from the Adult Dependents' Grant? In 2019–20 you could get £2,640–3,007 depending on which UK nation you are 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 are based in), you won't be eligible. If you are getting an NHS bursary, you are not eligible. If you get other government grants, they may affect how much financial help you get from this grant. The money you receive won't affect what student finance you're entitled to.
How to get the Adult Dependent's Grant? Apply to your student finance body, depending on where you live. You need to apply before the cut-off date for student finance, and will need to give evidence of your household income. The money will be paid directly into your bank account at the start of each term. Update your student finance body if your circumstances change, otherwise you may have to pay money back.
- Childcare Grant (England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland differs, see below). If you have children financially dependent on you and pay for their childcare costs. Children should be under 15 years old or, if they have special educational needs, under 17.
What financial support can students get from the Childcare Grant? 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 – this can't be a relative. If you've not arranged childcare yet, you can estimate costs. Give 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 are 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, like 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 are then responsible for paying your childcare provider. Three times a year you need to confirm your actual childcare costs. Contact your student finance body if there are any changes (like changing childcare provider). Scottish students. If you are studying in Scotland (whether full-time or part-time), apply as early as possible to your university's discretionary Childcare Fund. If studying elsewhere in the UK, check with your university what help may be available. You may need to apply for Child Tax Credits or Universal Credit instead.
- Parents' Learning Allowance (England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland differs, see below). Students with children can get the Parents' Learning Allowance to help with study-related costs. It provides financial help for things like books, 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 financially dependent on you. You must also be applying for income-assessed student loans.
What financial support can students get from the Parents' Learning Allowance? In 2019–20, depending on where you are 'ordinarily resident' (which nation you lived in before you started studying) you could get between £1,538–1,716. 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's any changes, let your student finance body know.
Can students claim benefits? There are very few circumstances where students can claim government benefits. If you are on benefits and want to study for a degree, most universities have a money advice or welfare service. They usually provide advice on all aspects of financial support, including housing and money. You can also contact organisations such as Turn2Us, a UK charity that provides practical help to people who are struggling financially.
- Universal Credit has been introduced in the UK; some students may be eligible for support. If you are already on a 'legacy benefit' (the ones that are being stopped), these are due to change to Universal Credit by 2023. If you are 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 loan – 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 will be assessed on the maximum loan or grant available to you, regardless of whether you have claimed the full amount.
- Jobseeker's Allowance is not normally available to students.
- Disabled students needing help with personal care or mobility can claim personal independent payments. Be aware, if your health improves during your course your eligibility may be reassessed.
- Parents who are students can still claim Child Benefit.
- Remember your income (whether grants, loans or other money) may affect the amount of benefits you may receive.
A major barrier to care leavers going into higher education is a perceived lack of financial support. If you have been in care at all (even for a short period of time), check if you are entitled to financial help. You may 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. Read about applying to university as a care leaver and also our Clearing advice for care leavers. Check out also the information on applying for loans as an independent student (above).
Could you get financial support because of your course?
Subject bursaries. Depending on where you are in the UK, there may be financial help for students on certain courses.
- NHS bursary – or similar. In England, for most health profession students NHS bursaries have stopped – you'll need to apply for a student loan. However, there is still financial support for students from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who study in their own nation, although this may not be termed an 'NHS bursary'. See our guide to NHS bursaries for more information.
- Teacher training. There is little in the way of financial help from the government for undergraduates interested in teacher training. In England, a bursary is available to eligible veterans from the armed forces for teaching certain subjects in secondary education To find out more, see Get Into Teaching. Considering a maths or physics-related degree at an English university? Then you could try for a scholarship from Future Teaching Scholars. Apply for this programme before or during your first year of your degree. There is more government funding for postgraduate students, depending on where you live in the UK. Read our postgraduate guide on How to become a teacher for more information.
- Social work bursaries. In England and Wales, full-time and part-time undergraduate and postgraduates may get financial help from a social work bursary. These are funded by the NHS, based on nominations from universities. A nomination does not guarantee bursary funding. In England you must normally live in England and not already have a higher education qualification in social work. You can't be receiving other payments (student loans for undergraduate students do not count). In Wales you need to have lived in Wales for the past 12 months, and in the UK for at least three years. You must be on an approved social work degree or master's in Wales – and you can't already have a social work qualification. You can't be receiving financial help or payment from another organisation. You must be registered with Social Care Wales.
What financial support can students get from a social work bursary? In England, in 2019, undergraduate students could get a basic bursary of £4,862.50 per year (£5,262.50 in London). Students not gaining a social work bursary may still receive a placement travel allowance of up to £862. In Wales, undergraduates could get up to £2,500 per year. Welsh students only get a travel allowance if they are awarded a non-income assessed social work bursary. All bursary payments are pro-rata for part-time students. You won't need to pay the money back unless you're overpaid; make sure you update your funder about any change in circumstance.
How do you get a social work bursary? In England, your university will shortlist eligible students and inform the NHSBSA (NHS Business Services Authority). Undergraduates can only apply for financial help from their second year of study. Students apply to NHSBSA from the March before their course resumes. Students can apply before knowing whether they have been nominated for a social work bursary by their university. If they do not get the bursary, they may still get a placement travel allowance (PTA). You must reapply each year. The money is paid in three termly instalments, after your university confirms your attendance. In Wales, you will be informed by your university if you are nominated. Applications can be made from August, but first you must 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'll still be able to apply for student loan finance. It's also worth looking for financial support from university scholarships or student bursaries. Erasmus+ grants. In 2019–20 an Erasmus+ grant will still be available for exchanges to Europe (whether for study or a work placement). If there is 'no deal' with Brexit, the UK government has pledged to cover the payment of awards to British applicants. Applications for awards must have been submitted before the UK exits the EU. Read more about Erasmus in the Complete University Guide.
- The Travel Grant gives financial help for study abroad – or clinical placements if you are on a medical or dental course. Clinical placements must be in the UK (or also the Republic of Ireland, if you're from Northern Ireland). Study abroad includes study at an overseas university as part of your course, or an Erasmus work placement or study. Eligible expenses include travel, visas, vaccinations, medical insurance and more. Travel costs have to be considered 'reasonable' – no first-class or business-class flights!
- How do you get a travel grant? You must be a full-time undergraduate student getting means-tested student finance. Overseas study must be for at least half of each academic term, or if you're on an Erasmus scheme. Clinical placements must be a requirement of your course and you won't qualify if you are eligible for other funding (such as NHS bursaries). If you've studied at this level before, you might not be eligible for funding.
- How much financial support do students get? You pay the costs up front – keep receipts as evidence of what you spent. The amount you get back depends on your household income. You'll need to cover c.£300 of the year's cost yourself. Students from Wales are expected to pay the first £1,000 if their household income is over £59,200. You won't need to pay the grant back unless you're overpaid or you leave your course early.
- Students from Scotland also get financial help with travel expenses. Study abroad must be a compulsory part of your course, and not a paid placement. You can claim the cost of travel abroad, and medical insurance. The financial support you get does not depend on our household income. Update SAAS about studying abroad when applying for student finance, and you will be sent a claims form. Students on an Allied Health Profession (AHP) course, nursing diploma or degree can claim travel expenses when on clinical placement. AHP placements must be in Scotland.
You can also read the Complete University Guide's top tips for cheap student travel.
Think outside of the box. Finding other ways to sort your university finances.
Most students work part-time, so think about jobs at the Students' Union or as a university 'student ambassador'. Consider also whether studying part-time would suit you better. Birkbeck University courses all run in the evening, so students can work during the day. Online courses or distance learning provide alternatives to full-time study, for example studying law to become a Chartered Legal Executive in England. You can get some student finance for distance learning and online university degrees, although these are usually only eligible for part-time funding.
Some employers sponsor employees through degrees. Several employers now offer the new degree apprenticeships (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), and graduate apprenticeships (Scotland). On a degree apprenticeship you work for the employer and get a basic salary. The employer pays tuition fees for your course which, for example, you might attend at university one day a week. Other companies offer sponsorship in the form of a scholarship or bursary covering partial costs. There is the expectation that the student will work for the sponsoring company during holidays or after graduation. Dyson is unusual in that they pay tuition fees and a wage while offering a degree at their own training facility.
Another option is taking an accelerated degree over a shorter period of time than traditional degrees. This costs more in the short term, as you need an increased student loan and do not have long holidays in which to earn money. On the plus side, you finish your degree a year sooner and could be on a graduate salary while other students are still getting into more debt.
If you are enterprising, you could consider ways to earn your own money. Universities often give support to students who want to develop a business idea.
Once you have an idea of what financial support you'll get from student loans or other sources, you should plan ahead and budget. See our guide to managing your money along with a handy budget template. If you still think you'll have a shortage of cash, see if your university finance support team have any suggestions. It may be possible to defer your entry and take a gap year, where you can focus on trying to earn money.
Bank account overdrafts. If you are a full-time student, get a good student bank account. Don't be swayed by the tempting freebies – focus on the overdraft and the small-print of what's on offer. Treat your overdraft as emergency financial support, not spending money. Try not to go over your agreed overdraft limit, as you'll get additional charges and fees and make the problem worse. After you graduate, you'll need to prioritise paying off your overdraft to stop the interest building up. Make sure you switch to a graduate account and again, check the rates. Sharia compliant bank accounts are available. International students are unlikely to get a student bank account that offers an overdraft, but may be able to get a normal current account.
Hardship funds (sometimes also Student Support Funds in Northern Ireland, and Discretionary Funds in Scotland). Universities can give emergency financial support if students run out of money and are at risk of dropping out. They are unlikely to provide help if it's due to excessive spending! You'll need to apply, normally through your university student services department. You'll also need to provide evidence. Universities decide which students need support and how much financial support they will give. This may be help with day-to-day study and living costs or to meet an unexpected or exceptional cost. Priority groups tend to be older or disadvantaged students and finalists. The money does not need to be repaid. Students need to be UK residents, although there may also be hardship funds for EU and international students.
Do not get a payday loan!
Next page: University Bursaries and Scholarships