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Can You Get A Student Loan For Online Degrees?

Yes! Find out what funding is available for online degree courses. Key information for prospective students in the UK.

Eleanor Foulds
by Eleanor Foulds
Last Updated:
22 Aug 2022

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An online degree gives you the freedom to study without having to leave your house, which is perfect if you would prefer to stay closer to family or a job. If this is interesting to you, search for courses on Whatuni and apply an advanced filter to only see online/distance courses to see what's available.

Of course, there are still fees involved with online and distance courses. The fees you pay apply to the resources and tuition you are provided with from the institution you will be studying with.

Funding for online course processes remain very much the same as those you would have if studying on a university campus. Given your chosen online degree is eligible and you meet certain criteria, there are funding options available to you.

Tuition Fee Loans

You won’t have to pay up front for your online degree and will apply through the student finance website. The tuition fee set out will cover the admin costs of your course, the lectures, seminars and tutorials provided as well as the support that will be available to you. The amount of student loan needed to meet the cost of your tuition fees is not based on your household income and is paid directly to your institution in installments.

Both prospective undergraduate and postgraduate students can apply for tuition fee loans for an online degree as long as it meets criteria of the course being a Certificate of Higher Education, a Foundation or Honours Degree or a full Master’s degree. Providing it is the first time you will be studying a course at university level then you can apply for a tuition fee loan. The fee required will depend on what you are studying, where you are studying and the duration of the course. You will have to make repayments for your loan but this will not be until you are in employment and earning over the threshold, which is currently £27,295 for those in England and Wales, £25,375 in Scotland and £20,195 for those in Ireland.

Some tuition fee loans are cheaper than campus based degrees and will vary depending on whether you choose to study a full-time or part-time degree. The Open University for example has you pay for each module you choose and depending on the duration of the course, will determine how much your total fees will be.

Maintenance Loans

Students can apply for a maintenance loan to help with the costs of living if they are studying a part-time distance learning degree and are unable to attend in person due to health reasons. Providing you are studying with the Open University or another accredited institution you will be eligible. How much maintenance loan you receive will be dependent on where you will be living whilst studying, your household income and the intensity of your course.  

This loan is paid directly into your bank account and is one that will also have to be paid back once you are in employment and earning over the threshold.

Bursaries and Scholarships

Depending on the institution you are studying with and your personal circumstances, you may be offered a bursary or scholarship. These types of financial grants are ones which you will not have to pay back and are often means tested, so they take factors such as your household income into account. As a distance learning degree will not require you to come onto campus and therefore need a student maintenance grant for accommodation, a tuition fee loan is the main cost you will need to cover, but there are still other financial aids in place.

For those students with disabilities, there is support in place which provides adjustments to give them the financial assistance they may need. There is a Disabled Students Allowance in place to assist financially for any study-related costs you may incur and the amount provided is dependent on individual needs.  

Some providers also have scholarships in place which are aimed at supporting and attracting high achievers to their online degrees. You can find which scholarships may be available to you by having a look on your intended university’s website. Employers may also run bursary or scholarship schemes too so be sure to do your research. Whether or not you receive a bursary or scholarship will depend on your grades or some may require you to apply through an application form.

Employer Sponsorship

You may be lucky enough to have your employer part or fully fund an online degree for you. This option is beneficial to both you and your employer as the studies you will undertake will be of significant value, enabling you to progress in your career. If you feel you are being limited to progress in your working industry without some further guidance, then this is a viable option for some self-improvement.

The flexible nature of an online degree means you ca fit it around your work and other personal commitments with ease. You may also come to an agreement with your employer so that you split your time evenly between working and studying. What’s even better is that you are still earning a salary alongside your studies and becoming highly trained in your industry at the same time.

Should your employer decide that they only want to fund part of your degree then you will need to have another payment option in place to fund the rest of it.

Payment Plans

If you do decide to self-fund your online degree then there are usually payment plans in place. This way you won’t have to pay the whole fee up front and instead will pay either at the start of each year or in installments throughout the course. Should you decide to pay your fees in full, some institutions have small discounts in place for doing so.  Paying for your degree this way is usually done by bank transfer.

So hopefully this should answer your questions regarding whether there is financial support and student loans available for your chosen online degree. Like any other degree, applications to receive student finance are available to all and you can find further information here.


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