Rent and food prices have increased for students while maintenance loans are lower in real terms compared to last year.
This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
Cost of living support for students primarily comes from student finance loans and grants/bursaries. Support might also be available to students from universities, educational trusts and charities, and the benefits system.
Financial support for the living costs of eligible higher education students who ordinarily live in the UK 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 live:
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.
Living cost loans and grants/bursaries
Depending on their country of residence and course, 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 UK Government has said:
You may not get the full amount, so you 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.
Whether a student can access additional support through the student finance system generally depends on their personal circumstances and course. This support includes:
- A loan to cover any undergraduate tuition fees, and a loan towards fees for masters’ degrees.
- Disabled Students’ Allowance to help cover the extra costs a student might incur because of a long-term health condition, mental health condition, physical disability, or learning difficulty.
- A Childcare Grant for eligible students from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Students in Scotland should apply to their university for support from the University Childcare Funds, and lone parents may be eligible for the income-assessed Lone Parents’ Grant and Childcare Grant.
- Parents’ Learning Allowance for students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which can be used towards the everyday costs of study, such as study materials and travel.
- An Adult Dependants’ Grant for eligible students from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland with a partner or another adult who depends on them financially. The Scottish equivalent is the Dependents’ Grant.
- A Care Experienced Students Bursary (CESB) for students in Scotland who are care leavers. 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, including bursaries and grants.
See also guidance published by the Student Loans Company on cost of living student finance 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. Many universities have expanded the support they offer to students in response to the rising cost of living.
Scholarships and bursaries
Universities may also offer scholarships and bursaries to students who have excelled academically or are from a disadvantaged background, such as refugees and asylum seekers. Opportunities will be advertised on providers’ websites and listed on websites such as the Scholarship Hub. Each university will have its own rules about eligibility and how much might be available.
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 for more information.
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). 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.
Organisations such as Turn2Us, Family Action, and Funds Online have searchable online databases of grants. The National Zakat Foundation may support Muslim students who do not feel able to access student finance because of their faith.
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
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, such as Personal Independence Payment.
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 gets Universal Credit, or if they are in receipt of certain other means-tested benefits or tax credits, they may be eligible to receive any or all of three instalments of Cost of Living Payment totalling £900 in 2023/24.
Students getting certain non-means-tested disability benefits such as Personal Independence Payment may also be eligible to receive a one-off £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment in summer 2023.
For more information on these and details of similar payments made in 2022/23, see the Commons Library briefing Cost of Living Payments: Overview and FAQs.
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.
The Commons Library briefing Student support for undergraduates across the UK sets out the amount of financial support undergraduates from each part of the UK might receive.
Section 3 of the Commons Library briefing Higher education in the UK: Systems, policy approaches, and challenges considers the current financial pressures on students and whether the available support is adequate.
The webpage Research on the increasing cost of living and inflation collates all Commons Library publications on the rising cost of living in the UK, including causes of inflation, the effect on households, and government support.
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.