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Tuition fees and financial support

In all UK nations, students are charged tuition fees and loans are available to cover the cost of fees –Scotland is unique in that tuition fees for Scottish students are paid for by the Scottish Government. The different student funding bodies within the UK also provide living cost support in the form of maintenance loans, grants and bursaries. Funding is also available to help in certain circumstances, such as support for students with disabilities or with the costs of childcare.

The type of support available and eligibility requirements are set out by the student funding bodies for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This briefing summarises the support available but should not be considered a substitute for funding body guidance when looking for detailed advice on specific cases.

Students receive support from the funding body of the nation in which they reside in. Students studying on the same course may therefore receive different amounts of funding depending on which nation of the UK they lived in before beginning their study. 

The following charts and table provide a broad summary of key support: please see the respective nation’s section for full details and additional grants/loans.


 Sources for charts: Gov.UK, Student Finance; Student Finance Wales, Undergraduate Students, Student Awards Agency Scotland, Full-time undergraduate funding; Student Finance NI,  Full-time undergraduate, accessed 21 September 2020.

How much do students spend on living costs?

The 2020 Student Money Survey from Save the Student found that:

  • On average students across the UK spent £795 per month on living costs. Just over half of this went on rent.
  • Spending was above average in Scotland at £823 per month and below average in Wales (£742) and Northern Ireland (£655). Within England costs varied from £726 per month in the West Midlands to £923 in London.
  • 74% of students worked part-time to help fund their education.
  • 74% of students received a maintenance loan, 44% received some form of grant scholarship or bursary.
  • 68% of students received some support from their parents, on average this was worth £131 per month.
  • 71% worried about making ends meet, 55% said their maintenance loan was not large enough and 39% said they had not been made aware of the full range of funding options available to them such as scholarships, grants and bursaries.

Fee status

Funding bodies all have residence conditions and only students assessed as ‘home’ students are eligible for support. The residency rules can be found on the respective sections of websites for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Loan repayment

Information on paying back student loans, the repayment threshold and the current interest rate can be found for all UK nations at Gov.UK, Repaying your student loan.

Other funding sources

In addition to funding from the respective UK funding agencies, individual universities or colleges may provide scholarships, bursaries or awards. These funds are allocated based on criteria set by the institution. Commonly used criteria include higher grades, low income, geography and support for particular subjects.

Information on these awards is on individual universities’ websites.

Several websites also provide further sources of advice on student finance. These include:

Policy background and developments

Across the UK, there has been much discussion about how to finance higher education, whether such funding models are sustainable, and the impact of student finance systems on participation levels, particularly on students from low-income backgrounds. Summaries of recent debates are set out in each respective section of this paper. This includes: discussion of the impact of the Scottish Government’s tuition fee policy on student debt and participation; the Augar review of post-18 education in England; the introduction of tuition fee grants and the Diamond review in Wales, and policy developments in Northern Ireland following the formation of the new Executive in January 2020.

Support for students deferring places in 2020/21

The Department for Education has published a package of support for students required to defer their place in 2020/21, which highlights potential opportunities to gain work experience, learn new skills, and undertake additional learning. UCAS is expected to directly communicate with those who have deferred their place in 2020/21. Universities UK has said that where there is “no option but for students to defer their places”, universities will maintain regular contact with such students, make available some online content, and, where possible and appropriate, provide mentoring and access to careers guidance. Students are advised to contact their individual institution.

Other Library briefings (England)

The following contain statistics and information on student support in England:

The Library briefing Coronavirus: Financial impact on higher education (CBP8954) contextualises financial pressure on the HE sector due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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