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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 2 September 2021.

How much do students spend on living costs?

The 2021 Student Money Survey from Save the Student found that:

  • On average, students across the UK spent £810 per month on living costs. Just over half of this figure was spent on rent.
  • Spending was below average in Scotland (£781 per month), Wales (£800), and Northern Ireland (£756). Within England costs varied from £751 per month in the North West to £896 in London.
  • 66% of students worked part-time to help fund their education. This is lower than in previous surveys due to the pandemic’s impact on businesses.
  • 65% of students received a maintenance loan, 38% received some form of grant scholarship or bursary.
  • 66% of students received some support from their parents. On average this was worth £121 per month.
  • 76% worried about making ends meet, 60% said their maintenance loan was not large enough, and 43% 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 the websites of individual universities.

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. These include 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.

Other Library briefings (England)

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

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