This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.

Student finance

Financial support for the living costs of higher education students primarily comes from Government loans and grants/bursaries. Additional support is also available to some students depending on their personal circumstances.

To ensure they have applied for everything to which they may be entitled, students should consult the website of the respective student finance body for where they ordinarily reside:

Students must reapply for support each year of their course. Students begin to repay any loans when they start earning over a certain amount. Grants and bursaries do not have to be repaid.

See the relevant Commons Library casework article for information on eligibility for support in England, WalesScotland, or Northern Ireland.

Living cost loans and grants/bursaries

Depending on their country of residence and level of qualification, students can apply for a loan, grant, bursary, or a combination thereof, to help cover day-to-day living costs, including accommodation, food, and transport. Support will generally be paid to students in three equal instalments in September, January, and April. In Scotland, support is paid monthly.

The amount and type of support to which a student is entitled may be based, in part, on their household income. In most cases, this will include their parents’ income. If a change of circumstances reduces a student’s household income during the academic year, they may be entitled to more support and should contact their relevant student finance body.

For students not entitled to the maximum amount of support, the Government has said:

[Y]ou may have to find other ways to fund the rest of your living costs. This could include, for example, part-time work, local authority assistance, bursaries, scholarships, or family contributions.

The adequacy of maintenance support in England is discussed in the Commons Library briefing The value of student maintenance support.

Other support

Whether a student can access additional support through the student finance system generally depends on their personal circumstances. This support includes:

  • Eligible students across the UK can get a loan to cover any undergraduate tuition fees, and a loan towards fees for masters’ degrees.
  • Disabled Students’ Allowance helps to cover the extra costs a student might incur because of a long-term health condition, mental health condition, physical disability, or learning difficulty.
  • Eligible students from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland can apply to the relevant student finance body for a Childcare Grant. Students in Scotland should apply to their university for support from the University Childcare Funds (PDF), and lone parents may be eligible for the income-assessed Lone Parents’ Grant.
  • Students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland can apply for the Parents’ Learning Allowance, which can be used towards the everyday costs of study, such as study materials and travel.
  • Eligible students from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland with a partner or another adult who depends on them financially can apply to the relevant student finance body for an Adult Dependants’ Grant. The Scottish equivalent is the Dependents’ Grant.
  • Students in Scotland who are care leavers may be eligible for the Care Experienced Students Bursary (CESB). Care leavers in the rest of the UK should contact their local authority to ask about the Higher Education Bursary. For more information, see the Propel website.
  • Students studying certain courses, such as medical, dentistry, healthcare, social work, and teacher training degrees, may be entitled to additional financial support.

Support from universities

Most universities will have a student advice/welfare service that can advise on a range of issues including finances, housing, and benefits.

Students concerned about their financial situation should contact their university to learn what additional funding might be available, including hardship funds in England and Wales, discretionary funds in Scotland, and support funds in Northern Ireland.

Universities may offer scholarships and bursaries to students who have excelled academically or are from a disadvantaged background. Opportunities will be advertised on providers’ websites. The more generous sources of funding are likely to be competitive and targeted at postgraduate students. See the Commons Library casework article Finding funding for a master’s degree.

Charitable funding

Students can apply to educational trusts and charities for small amounts of funding if they meet an organisation’s eligibility criteria. This process is explained in a document published by London Metropolitan University (PDF).

Organisations such as Turn2UsFamily Action, and Funds Online have searchable online databases of grants. The London School of Economics has published a list of charitable funding available to students. St George’s Medical School has published a list for medical students.

The House of Commons Library also holds reference books to help identify relevant funding (parliamentary log in required). These books may be available in larger public libraries. They include:

  • The Guide to Educational Grants;
  • The Directory of Grant Making Trusts;
  • The Grants Register.

Benefit support

Most full-time students are not eligible to claim Universal Credit, but there are some exceptions. Students may qualify for disability-related benefits and financial support.

Students who want to check what benefit support they may be eligible for should seek advice from a professional welfare specialist. Welfare rights advisers can be found using the postcode finder on the Advice Local website.

If students are having problems claiming Universal Credit, they can contact the confidential Citizens Advice Help to Claim service.

Government ‘Help for Households’

For information on Government schemes and other financial support, see Help for Households.

Cost of living payments

If a student is eligible for Universal Credit, or if they are in receipt of certain other means-tested benefits or tax credits, they may be eligible to receive one or both instalments of the £650 Cost of Living Payment.

Students entitled to certain non-means-tested disability benefits (as of 25 May 2022) may also be eligible to receive a one-off £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment.

See the Commons Library briefing Cost of Living Payments: Overview and FAQs.

Energy bill discount

Through the Energy Bills Support Scheme, student tenants in a household with a domestic supply contract for electricity will receive a £400 grant. The grant should be automatically discounted from electricity bills in monthly instalments between October 2022 and March 2023.

For more information, including on when a student’s landlord pays the energy bills, see the Commons Library briefing Energy Bills Support Scheme: Government policy and FAQs and the Government guidance Getting the Energy Bills Support Scheme discount.

Support with childcare

See the Commons Library casework article Childcare support for students for information on free childcare entitlements and tax-free childcare for which students may qualify.

Further information

The Commons Library briefing Student support for undergraduates across the UK sets out the amount of financial support undergraduates from each UK nation might receive.

The webpage Research on the increasing cost of living and inflation collates all House of Commons Library publications on the rising cost of living in the UK, including causes of inflation, the effect on households, and Government support.

Disclaimer

The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.

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