Note, here we are mainly focusing on full-time students who live in England, but where there’s an important difference for other UK students, we’ve mentioned it. If you're applying from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, read our guides about student finance in these countries - in these cases, you can apply for financial support as you would if you were remaining in your home country to study.
Get started by watching this quick video sum-up from Student Finance England:
So to sum up, there are two types of expenses for students: tuition fees and living costs.
For the academic year 2016/17, the deadline to apply for student finance to receive yours in time for the beginning of your course
You can still apply after this date but it's not guaranteed that you'll receive it in time for September. You can apply for student finance up to 9 months after the beginning of your course.
2. Tuition fees trivia
Prior to Government plans announced in July 2016, the maximum amount which universities and colleges in England could charge in tuition fees was £9, 000 per year – this was standard for roughly a third of institutions with other universities and colleges charging this amount for a small number of their courses (e.g. medicine, law courses) and lower fees for the rest.
However the Government has set out plans to allow universities to raise their tuition fees to £9, 250 per year for courses beginning in 2017. Not every university will be able to raise their tuition cap – only those deemed to have a “high” quality of teaching according to the Government’s teaching excellence framework will be eligible to do so.
If you're partway through your course as of September 2017, your tuition fees may rise as well; however this will depend on the contract you have with your university.
You don’t need to find the money to pay your fees upfront – a loan covers the fees, and you’ll only repay it when you’ve graduated and you’re earning over £21, 000 per year.
While it might seem like a lot of money now, don’t just look at the price-tag when choosing courses – find the course that’s right for you! Because of the way you’ll repay your loan, a course with lower tuition fees doesn’t always work out cheaper. How much you repay per month will depend on how much you’re earning. So push repayments to the back of your mind, focus on your studies and think about paying back your loan later.
Tuition fee loan
This part of the loan is designed to cover your fee costs. You can borrow up to £9, 000 a year (or however much your fees are).
Applying to a private institution? You can apply for a tuition fee loan of up to £6, 000 a year, but this might not cover your fees in full – you’ll have to find the extra money somewhere else.
This part is designed to cover the cost of accommodation and living costs. You’ll start repaying the maintenance loans once you're earning more than £21, 000 per year a la tuition fee loan repayments.
How much you’ll receive will depend on your household income. If your annual household income is £25, 000 or less, you can receive the maximum amount of £8, 200 (if you’re studying in London, this increases to £10, 702). How much you’re eligible for decreases as your annual household income increases. The maintenance loan replaces previous grants which were available. You can learn more about these on the Ucas site.
Sixty-five percent of the loan is guaranteed which means you’ll receive this no matter what. The other 35% will depend on your family's household income. The good news is that the amount you can get has increased since previous years.
So from this point, students can apply for a tuition fee loan and a maintenance fee loan (both repayable) only. You’ll apply for both student loans in one go, via the Student Finance England website.
4. Grants, bursaries and scholarships (i.e. free cash)
There are also a number of extra funding options which you don’t have to repay if you’re studying under certain circumstances. Bursaries and scholarships may be out there courtesy of your university based on your academic abaility so ask about these.
Just note that non-repayable grants (of up to £3, 387) which were available previously will no longer exist; instead these have been replaced with maintenance loans which do need to be paid back.
If you meet certain criteria you can receive a minimum of £57.90 per week through income support.
Do you have children or dependant adults?
If you’re a full-time higher education student and you have children or adults who depend on you for care and finance support, there are a number of (non-repayable) grants available:
Childcare Grant: to help with childcare costs for full-time students, these are worth up to £155.24 per week if you have one child or £266.15 per week if you have two or more.
: worth up to £1, 573 a year, if you have children you can apply for this to help with costs tied to your education and course such as books and travel. This is dependent on household income.
: if you have an adult who depends on you financially, you can apply for this grant worth up to £2, 757.
: if you’re responsible for a child either under 16 or under 20 and in approved education or training, you can receive financial support for each qualifying child. Calculate how much in Child Tax Credits you can receive based on your circumstances.
Are you disabled?
Disabled Students’ Allowances are available if you have a disability that meets the Equality Act 2010’s definition of such, such as a long-term health or mental health condition or learning difficulty. What support you receive will depend on your disability.
Studying a particular subject?
If you’re studying a medical, dentistry or healthcare course, you can apply for as well as for help with travel costs to placements as part of your course.
There are also bursaries for social work students and extra help for teacher training students.
Support from university or college
There are also available. If you’re struggling to support yourself financially while studying, you can apply to your university or college for assistance. How much you can receive will vary from one institution to the next as this is not government-funded. You’ll need to speak to the student services department at your university or college for more information.
Bursaries and scholarships are awarded by universities and colleges and do not have to be repaid either. They are awarded for lots of different reasons – from personal circumstances to academic achievement.
5. Repaying your student debt
The below information on repayments applies to those who fall under 'Plan 2' which is for students in England who started studying after September 1st 2012. Read more about Plan 1 and 2 here.
You could come out of a three-year university course with up to £50, 025 (plus interest) to pay back in student loans, although most will have a lower level of debt.
You'll only start paying back your student loan once you are earning over £21, 000 per year. Once you are, you'll pay back 9% of your income (so it doesn't matter how much you borrowed but rather how much you are earning.