Changes in maintenance support from 2010

Maintenance grants, maintenance loan levels and income thresholds were all frozen at 2009/10 levels in 2010/11 and 2011/12.

2012/13 saw full grant levels for new students from England increased by 12%, maximum loan levels by 11%; changes to income thresholds and fee loans were extended to part-time students.

The full grant increased by 3.2% in 2013/14; 1% in 2014/15 and was frozen in 2015/16. Maximum loans amounts were frozen in 2013/14, increased by 1% in 2014/15 and 3.3% in 2015/16. Income thresholds were frozen in 2012/13, 2014/15 and 2015/16.

Maintenance grants ended for new students in 2016/17. New students received all their maintenance support as loans. At the same time the maximum value of support was increased by around 10% to £8,200 in 2016/17 (from its 2015/16 level of just over £7,400). It has since increased in cash terms in each subsequent year and will be £9,978 in 2023/24.

The maximum value of support broadly maintained its real value over the following five years before falling in real terms in 2022/23 and 2023/24.

The household income level at which a student qualifies for the maximum level of support has remained unchanged in cash terms since 2008 at £25,000. This means it has fallen in real terms by 39%, making students from lower real household income levels less likely to be eligible fort full loans.

Key trends in the real value of the maximum maintenance support package over time 

  • A gradual real reduction during the 1960s
  • A partial reverse in this cut in the late 1970s before some relatively small real cuts in the early 1980s
  • The introduction of loans in 1990/91 which initially increased the value of the overall support package and gradually replaced grants over time.
  • The total value of support increased gradually each year during the 1990s and up to 2003/04.
  • The reintroduction of grants in 2004/05 and their extension in 2006/07 both resulted in jumps in the maximum value of support
  • The 2012 reforms increased the size of the support package for new students. Subsequent freezes or below inflation increases in grant and/or loan rates meant real values fell in the following few years.
  • Loans replace grants for new students from 2016/17. Increases in the maximum loan amounts in the same year took the value to what was then its highest level in real terms.
  • Maximum loan amounts increased gradually between 2016/17 and 2021/22.
  • Inflations was much higher in 2022/23 and 2023/24 than the cash increase in maximum support levels. The real terms cut was 7% in 2022/23 and 4% in 2023/24.
  • The maximum support in 2024/25 is expected to be around £1,250 less than in 2021/22 in September 2023 prices if adjusted by CPI inflation.
  • This cut, at 11% over three years, is larger than any real cuts seen in student support going back to the early 1960s.
  • Maximum loan amounts are increased by the Government in line with forecast inflation, but differences between forecast and actual inflation are not ‘corrected’ in later years.
  • In January 2023 the IFS said that because the forecasting errors in the previous two years had not been corrected the maximum support amounts will be around £1,500 less in the future. This cut is now effectively baked into future support. It said that the way that forecast inflation is used to uprate maintenance loans “ not a sensible policy” and “The government’s framing of this announcement as a ‘cost of living boost for students’ is at best highly misleading”.

 Chart titled "Maximum value of standard maintenance grant and loan" Showing the amount available for new students from England since 1962 in September 2022/23 prices. The total has generally increased over time, but support has shifted from grants to loans. There has been a fall in the amount available in the latest three years.

Sources: see accompanying spreadhseet

It is only students from the poorest households who qualify for the maximum level of maintenance support, so they face the greatest impact of any changes in the overall amount available.

Real level of loans in recent years

While the maximum value of support increased up to 2021/22 in real terms there was still concern that it was not enough to cover student living costs, particularly due to increases in the cost of accommodation. The real cuts in 2022/23, 2023/24 and smaller cut in 2024/25 make it more likely that students will not be able to cover their living costs without additional financial help.

Two chart showing 1) How the maximum maintenance loan varies by household income in 2024/25, and 2)How the assumed parental contribution varies with household income in 2024/25.

The real level of household income level at which support starts to be reduced has fallen over time. This means that the maximum support package is only available at lower real household income levels. It also means that in higher income households parents of dependent students need to make larger contributions to bring support levels up to the maximum. Parental contributions are not made explicit in student finance material and there is a fear that this means that some students do not receive the support they need.

The independent Augar Report made a number of recommendations on maintenance support to a Government review of post-18 education and funding. These included bringing back maintenance grants of at least £3,000 for disadvantaged students. The Government’s review did not accept the Augar report recommendation and made no changes to the student maintenance system.

This paper looks at the value of the support for student maintenance over time and its impact on public expenditure. Some of these older statistics refer to England and Wales, although devolution of student finance means that figures from 2006/07 cover England only.

The following Library publications give more information about changes in this sector:

The insight Student finance in England: How much would it cost to bring back grants? Looks at the hypothetical effect of reintroducing a means-tested grant for undergraduates, of up to £3,000 a year.

The briefing paper Student support for undergraduates across the UK outlines the student support systems for undergraduate higher education students in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It sets out the amount of funding that students may receive and references recent debates and developments in HE funding across the UK.

The aim of this note is to look at trends in the level of support for maintenance, not specific eligibility criteria or additional grants/allowances for different groups of students. Details of these for students from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can be found at:

More detail on loan and grant levels, income thresholds and variations by where the student lives, studies etc. can be viewed on the Student Loans Company’s website.

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