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 each subsequent year and will be £9,706 in 2022/23.

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

  • A gradual real reduction during the 1960s
  • A partial reverse in this cut in the late 1970s before further real cuts in the 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 remained at around £6,200 a year (September 2018 prices) during most of the 1990s and up to 2003/04.
  • The reintroduction of grants in 2004/05 and the new grant 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 subsequent years.
  • Loans replaced grants for new students from 2016/17. Increases in the maximum loan amounts in the same year took the value to its highest level in real terms, substantially higher than in 1999 when grants were last abolished.
  • Maximum loan amounts broadly maintained their real value between 2016/17 and 2021/22.Higher inflation than originally forecast in 2022/23 means there will be a real cut of 7% in maximum support levels. The real terms cut in the two years to 2022/23 is even larger at just over 11% if inflation at the mid-point of the academic year is used for these calculations.


While the maximum value of support increased up to 2020/21 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 2021/22 and 2022/23 make it more likely that students will not be able to cover their living costs without additional financial help. 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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