Studying at university can be a great experience, but it can also be costly. The cost for most undergraduate courses in the UK is £9,250 a year, which is on top of rent and other living costs. It’s hard for most people to afford these payments without some financial aid.
To help students afford university costs, the government provides student finance options. You may also be eligible for various loans, bursaries and grants, such as the Disabled Students Allowance, depending on your individual circumstances and financial position.
If you think you’ll need help from student finance, it’s important that you look into your options as soon as possible. You will need to complete an application form that will help determine how much financial help you can be given. The application process can take up to six weeks, so you need to plan ahead so that your finance is sorted before you start your course.
Student finance is a broad topic, so we’ve compiled this guide to help you navigate it and understand what loans you may be eligible for.
How can I apply for student finance?
You can apply online for financial help if you were a university student in England during the academic year 2021 to 2022 or the current academic year 2022 to 2023. Student finance offers eligible students Tuition Fee Loans, Maintenance Loans and various bursaries and grants.
The cut-off point for applying for student finance is nine months after the start of your academic course. You can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan if you need financial help with funding a further education course at a college or training provider.
The application process for students in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is slightly different to the process in England. EU students can apply online for tuition fee support and help with living costs. You can apply via post if you are an EU student and are only applying for help with tuition fees.
Continue reading to find out who is eligible for student finance, how much you may be able to receive and how you can apply for student loans.
Who is eligible for student finance?
There are a number of factors that influence who qualifies for student finance and how much you can receive. This includes:
- which university or college you plan to study at
- your course
- if you have previously studied a higher education course
- your age
- your nationality and residency
Your university or college must be officially recognised and offer a qualifying course. You won’t be eligible for student finance if you are studying for a degree apprenticeship. You may be eligible for a Tuition Fee Loan if your course offers one of the following qualifications:
- a first degree (such as BA, BSc or BEd)
- a Foundation Degree
- a Certificate of Higher Education
- a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)
- a Higher National Certificate (HNC)
- a Higher National Diploma (HND)
- an Initial Teacher Training course
- an integrated master’s degree
- a pre-registration postgraduate healthcare course
Students who are studying one of the following courses are eligible for a Maintenance Loan:
- a first degree (such as BA, BSc or BEd)
- an Initial Teacher Training course (degree level or above)
- an integrated master’s degree
- a Foundation Degree in dental hygiene and dental therapy
- a DipHE in dental hygiene and dental therapy or operating department practice
There is no maximum age limit for Tuition Fee loans. However, your age may affect how much of the Maintenance Loan you receive. Students aged 60 years or older may get limited funding for Maintenance Loans if they are studying full-time and their course starts on or after 1 August 2016. The amount that you are eligible for will depend on your household income.
You are eligible for full support if you are a UK national or Irish citizen or have settled status in the UK. Other residency statuses may also grant you full financial support. This includes individuals who are refugees, have humanitarian protection, or are stateless persons. You could also qualify if you are under 18 years old and have lived in the UK for at least seven years or if you are aged 18 years or older and have lived in the UK for at least 20 years or over half your life.
Am I eligible for student finance if I’ve already studied a higher education course?
Most students are only eligible for student finance if they are studying their first higher education course. This is still the case even if your first course was self-funded. However, you may be eligible for limited funding depending on your course or special circumstances. For example, you may get some funding if you study for a ‘top-up’ qualification (such as an honours degree after a foundation degree).
You may get limited funding if you have completed an honours course or hold a higher qualification and start a new course in one of the following areas:
- agriculture and related subjects
- architecture (if it’s a MArch RIBA Part 2 course)
- biological sciences
- computer science
- mathematical sciences
- medicine and allied subjects
- physical sciences
- courses leading to qualification as a veterinary surgeon
Students who start a healthcare course on or after 1 August 2017 may also qualify for additional funding.
When can I apply for student finance?
It’s a good idea to apply for student finance as soon as possible. You don’t need a confirmed offer of a place on your course before you apply for a student loan.
It can take up to six weeks for your student loan application to get processed, so you should try to apply by 31 May if your course is due to start between 1 August and 31 December. The deadline for student finance applications is nine months after your university course starts.
You can track the progress of your student loan application through the Student Finance England website. Your student finance account will also show your loan payment dates.
How much student finance am I eligible for?
Full-time students can get a Tuition Loan of up to £9,250. You can get a loan of up to £11,100 if you’re studying an accelerated degree course.
The following table shows how much Maintenance Loan you may be eligible for if you are a new or continuing student and studying full-time in the academic years 2021 to 2022 and 2022 to 2023. The loan is based on your household income and the start date of your course.
|Circumstances||Academic year 2021/2022||Academic year 2022/2023|
|Living with your parents||Up to £7,987||Up to £8,171|
|Living away from your parents (outside London)||Up to £9,488||Up to £9,706|
|Living away from your parents (in London)||Up to £12,382||Up to £12,667|
|Year of study abroad||Up to £10,866||Up to £11,116|
|Aged 60 or over||Up to £4,014||Up to £4,106|
You can use the government’s student finance calculator to find out the estimated amount of student finance that you may be eligible for. The calculator will also be able to tell you if there are any additional grants or allowances that you may be eligible for.
Student Finance England must be updated if there are any changes to your living arrangements. This is to make sure that you are loaned the right amount. You may be asked to provide evidence of these changes.
Students that receive any of the following may be eligible for a Special Support Grant in place of the Maintenance Grant:
- Income Support
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- the housing element of Universal Credit
The amount that you receive will be the same as the Maintenance Grant, but it won’t affect how much of the Maintenance Loan you are eligible for.
When do I start repaying my student finance loan?
How much you repay and when you start repaying your student loans will depend on which repayment plan you’re on. There are four repayment plans (1,2,4 and Postgraduate Loan). You will automatically be placed on the relevant plan. If you have more than one loan, you may be placed on multiple payment plans.
The earliest that you’ll start repaying your student loans is the April after you leave your course. If your course is longer than four years, you will have to start repaying the loan in April, four years after you started the course. Your repayments will automatically stop if you stop working or if your income falls beneath the threshold.
The amount you must be earning before you start repaying your student loans (based on which repayment plan you are on) is listed in the table below.
|Plan||Repayment threshold per week (before tax)||Repayment threshold per month (before tax)||Repayment threshold per year (before tax)|
|Plan 1||£388||£1,682||£20,195 a year|
You won’t be faced with a penalty if you pay some or all of your loan early. The extra repayments can be made through your online account, via a bank transfer or through a cheque in the post. Alternatively, you can pay the extra payments via International Bank Transfer (IBAN) if you are based overseas.
How do I repay my student finance loan?
Your repayments will be taken out of your salary once you are earning over the relevant threshold for your repayment plan. The student loans will be taken along with your tax and National Insurance before you are given your pay. Your payslip will list how much has been deducted.
If you are self-employed, HMRC will calculate your student loan deductions based on your tax return. The deductions will be made simultaneously when you pay your tax.
If you leave the UK for over three months, you will need to notify the Student Loans Company (SLC). They will calculate if you have to repay your loan and how much you should be paying. The repayment rules are the same as they would be if you were still in the UK. However, the repayment thresholds are different in each country.
Your repayment amounts are based on the following if you are living abroad:
- the minimum amount under Plan 1 for that country
- the minimum amount under Plan 2 for that country
- the minimum amount under Plan 4 for that country
- the minimum amount under the Postgraduate Loan plan for that country
After SLC has calculated the amount that you need to repay, you can make the payments through your online account or by International Bank Transfer (IBAN). You can check how much your repayments are and your remaining balance through your annual statements from SLC and via your online account.
To avoid overpaying, you can start making direct debit repayments once you near the end of your loan. This stops the repayments coming out of your salary and prevents your employer from automatically deducting more than you owe. SLC will notify you once are in your final year of repayments so that you can set up a direct debit.
UK students are usually eligible for student finance when they are studying their first higher education course. International students and students studying additional courses may also be eligible for limited funding, depending on their course and individual circumstances.
Student finance typically offers student Tuition Loans and Maintenance Loans. The tuition fee loan covers the cost of your course, while the maintenance loan can be used to contribute towards your rent and living expenses. The amount you are eligible for will depend on your household income. You may also be eligible for grants, bursaries and scholarships if you meet certain criteria.
When you are applying for student finance, you will need to provide a variety of information, such as your household income and your course details. The money will usually be paid directly into your bank account. You will only start repaying the loan once you are earning over a certain amount. Your repayments will be based on which repayment plan you have been placed on.