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An Introduction to Student Finance

An overview of the student finance process for students in England and Wales with details of the financial support that students are entitlted to and information on how, where and when to apply and where to find help and support.

The information below is available to download as a summary handout and comprehensive powerpoint at the bottom of this page.

When applying for student finance for university there are three phases to consider and different things that you will need to do at each phase:

1. Before you go to university

What to do

  • Apply to Student Finance England/Wales for your financial support between February and May 
  • Research possible bursaries/scholarships/additional funding
  • Follow Student Finance England/Wales on social media to stay informed of updates and deadlines
  • Estimate your costs at university e.g. accommodation, transport, food, phone bill, socialising, sports - this will help you to budget once you are at university.

What finance is available

There are two costs associated with going to university and there is help available for both from Student Finance England/Wales:

  • Tuition fees (to cover your course costs and paid directly to the university)
  • Living costs (what you need to live at university) could be covered by a maintenance loan.
Tuition Fee Loan Maintenance Loan
  • Pays for university teaching and facilities
  • Up to £9,250 per year
  • Paid directly from Student Finance to your university
  • Every eligible student receives the same amount
  • Repaid after you leave university
  • Can be used for accomodation, food, transport, course materials, socialising
  • Means tested - the amount you receive depends on your household circumstances
  • Paid to you in three instalments over the year
  • Repaid after you leave university

The amount you receive for your maintenance loan can vary each year and is based on your situation in one of the following three circumstances:

  • Living at home while you study
  • Living away from home
  • Living away from home and studying in London

Extra help may be available if:

  • You have children or an adult who depends on you financially
  • You have a disability, including a long-term health condition, mental-health condition or specific learning difficulty

Comprehensive information based on finance figures for 2020/21 is included in the downloadable powerpoint presentation and online at Student Finance England and Student Finance Wales websites along with details of how to apply.

Check for scholarships and bursaries

These financial awards are available directly from universites to provide extra financial help and support. Details will be avaialble on university websites and you can ask for details at open and applicant days. 

Scholarships and bursaries tend to prioritise students when:

  • their family has a low income
  • they are the first person in their family to go to university
  • they study a particular subject (depending on university)
  • they achieve higher than average grades at school/college
  • they study locally

2. During your time at university

What to do

  • Complete your enrolment when you arrive at university
  • Using your estimated costs, create a budget, working out how many weeks you need each maintenance payment to last for, and how much you can spend
  • Reapply for finance each year (you will be reminded).  If there are changes in you circumstances, your loan will be readjusted

If your circumstances change during your studies

  • You will re-apply for finance every year 
  • Changes in household income can be adjusted year-to-year, so if your income goes up or down, your loan can be adjusted accordingly
  • If you decide to leave/return home in your second or third year, your maintenance loan can be adjusted to reflect that
  • Your finance agreement cannot change during your studies (or after)  -  fees and repayment threshold will remain the same

Part-time employment

Many students find that they need a part-time job to help cover the cost of going to university.

  • It is recommended that you don’t work for more than 16 hours a week to allow time for your studies – different courses have different amounts of contact/study time
  • The university can help you to find a local job
  • Your current employer may be able to transfer you to a different branch
  • You can work for the university through the Students' Union or employment schemes
  • There are often ambassador schemes that provide work experience and payment/rewards

3. When you leave university

What to do

  • You will start to repay your loan the April after you leave university
  • You will not pay back anything if you earn under £26,575 a year
  • You will pay 9% of anything you earn over the threshold e.g. if you earn £28,575, you will pay 9% of £2000, which is approx. £15 a month.
  • Your repayments will be taken by HMRC along with tax, pension and National Insurance straight out of your wages.

Student loan repayments

  • Repayments are always based on your income rather than what you owe
  • You will never be asked to repay what you owe in full
  • The loan belongs to you, and no family member or partner can be asked to repay
  • If your income falls below the threshold, repayments stop
  • If you choose to work abroad, repayments will be taken through the local tax system where applicable, and adjusted for each country’s cost of living
  • The loan does not affect your ability to buy a house, car etc

What if the loan system changes?

There have been stories in the news about possible changes to student finance, it is important to note:

  • At this stage, the Government report is only advisory, and therefore it will be up to the Government to decide whether to implement any or all of the recommendations
  • Any changes/proposals, will not commence until the new starters entering University in 2021/22, and any changes made will not affect those already at University at that point (i.e. none of these changes are retrospective – current students/graduates will remain on the current system)
  • The finance arrangement you agreed to at the beginning of your degree cannot be changed without your consent

In summary

  • A Tuition Fee Loan is available to all eligible students
  • Maintenance loans are calculated for each individual
  • Research all finance that may be available to you
  • Apply online & on time – no need to wait for a confirmed place
  • Repayments will be linked to your income, not what you owe
  • In most cases, funding will only be provided once (course length +1) so make sure you want to go to university and have chosen the right course

Further Information

Downloads