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Student finance - how does it work?

Student Finance: How does it work? – Part 1

Tom Braithwaite, Obp Chartered Accountants | 17th February 2020

Student finance can be a confusing thing for upcoming students and parents, but is essential to understanding how your university course and life is paid for, where it goes, and how/when it’s paid back after you graduate. Student finance has changed a few times over the last few years, but here’s a quick rundown of how student finance works in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

How much does it cost?

Most tuition fees for students in England studying in the academic year 2019/2020 are fee-capped at £9250 per year. These are for full-time undergraduate courses at publicly funded institutions in England, for English students.

Scotland, Welsh and Northern Irish systems are slightly different – Scottish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) demand Scottish students a maximum of £1820 per year for a full-time undergraduate course in the academic year 2019/2020.

If you live in Wales and attend a Regulated University in Wales, the maximum tuition fee you can be charged is £9000 per year for a full-time undergraduate course in the same academic year.

Northern Irish students attending a publicly funded university in Northern Ireland can be charged a maximum of £4275 per year in the same academic year.

For Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish students studying in English universities, the tuition fees for those institutions apply to you also.

Tuition fee loans

These numbers may scare you at first, but thankfully in each region of the UK you can apply to cover the full cost of your tuition fees, for up to 5 years of academic study. Some details here about part-time courses or starting new courses after leaving a previous one are confusing, and better information on your individual eligibility can be found here.

Maintenance Loan

This loan is a bit more complicated, but you apply for it in the same place as your tuition fee loan. This money is for your day-to-day living expenses: rent, bills, food, travel etc. This loan is paid directly into a chosen bank account each term, or monthly if you’re in Scotland, and can be spent on absolutely anything at all – so you need to be very careful about what you do with it.

This loan is also partly means-tested, which means that everyone eligible is able to claim a minimum amount, regardless of their, or their parents’, financial situation. The amount of money one person is able to obtain is mostly dependent upon their parents’ financial situation though; those with the lowest household income can claim the most amount of money, and those over the threshold of highest household income can claim the minimum. For a quick way to work out how much you could be eligible for, find the student finance calculator.

Loan and grant information for Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish students are slightly more complex, as previous years have seen incentives from respective governments to students who study in their home regions of the UK. For example, Welsh students in previous years have received respectable maintenance grants from the Welsh government if they decide to study in universities in Wales.

For more info on the minimum and maximum amounts of maintenance loan visit the student finance website England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Part 2 coming soon…

So I’ve covered how much an undergraduate course costs per year for different students in regions of the UK, how fees differ depending on which Universities you study at, and how to apply for both tuition fee and maintenance loans. Part 2 then covers how you pay back your loans, which types of loan plans work, and when your student debts get written off.

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