Going to university is a dream for any student. However, it's also a very expensive dream. Currently universities in England can charge up to a massive £9,250 per year for an undergraduate course. Rates differ for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Here's how it works out
(prices correct as of Feb 2020).
Student Finance Breakdown
Planning to study in...
Over the course of a normal three-year degree that's a whopping £27,750 you could end up paying - and that's just for tuition...
You'll also have to factor in accommodation and all your living costs too. Student halls can range from £80 to £150 depending on where you are living, plus you have to factor in the cost of food, travel, socialising, clothes, books, oh the list is endless…
The University of Manchester estimates living costs for students at around
. Studying in London is - as you might have guessed - a lot more expensive. UCL estimate living costs to be £9,580 per year , depending on whether you are living in halls or private accommodation. £10,920 - £13,364
Now if that's enough to make you start hyperventilating, don't panic! As there are plenty of sources of finance to help you cover the cost of everything. And we've got it all laid out for you right here.
As well as explaining the basics of student loans and bank accounts, this guide also aims to give some practical hints and tips about money management, with advice from experts and university students.
1. Student Loan
2. Maintenance Loan
3. Student grants
4. Bursaries and Scholarships
5. Student bank accounts
6. Managing your money
What is it for?
It pays for the tuition fees charged by your university.
A loan sounds scary. Do I really need one?
Taking out a student loan is very different to taking out a payday loan from Wonga. You aren't going to have bailiffs banging on your door, taking your TV as repayment - so no need to worry.
In fact, the best way to think about student loans is to think of it like a form of tax. It doesn’t affect your credit score and it’s only when you’re earning over a certain amount (see below) that you’ll start paying it back in affordable monthly chunks.
Who do I get it from?
You can apply for these loans through a government body known as Student Finance England (or Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland). Any loan you receive will, confusingly, be paid out by an organisation known as the Student Loans Company.
How much do I get?
How much you get depends on whether you are applying for finance in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland and whether you are a full or part time student.
Here is the maximum tuition fees you can apply for each year, depending on where you are based in the UK and where you plan on studying.
In England, new full-time students can apply for a maximum of £9,250 and new part-time students can apply for a maximum of £6,935 to cover UK tuition fees. Those choosing to study accelerated 2-year degrees will be able to apply for a maximum of £11,100.
In Scotland, new full-time students can apply for a maximum of £1,820 towards fees in Scotland and £9,250 to cover fees in other parts of the UK. Part-time students with an individual income of up to £25,000 per year can apply for a fee grant. The amount paid depends on your course.
In Wales, new full-time students Welsh students will receive a grant of £4,800 that is non-repayable, regardless of where they choose to study. They will need to apply for a loan to cover remaining costs. New part-time students can apply for a maximum of £6,935 to cover tuition fees across the UK.
In Northern Ireland, new full-time students can apply for a maximum of £4,395 for courses in Northern Ireland and £9,250 for courses across the UK. For new part time students, they can apply for a maximum loan of £3,206.25.
This will cover the cost of part time courses in Northern Ireland but students may need to cover the rest of the fee amount if they chose to study part time elsewhere in the UK.
When do I get it?
You’ll never see this money, as the student finance company will pay it directly to the university.
When do I pay it back?
When you pay it back depends on how much you earn in your career after university and which government you borrowed from:
England & Wales
In England and Wales the same rules apply. You will be eligible to start repaying your loan the April after you have finished your course - only if you are earning over £25,725 a year. The government will take 9% of anything you earn over £25,725 from your salary.
So, if you earn £31,000 per year, for example, or £2,583 per month before tax, you'll only pay £39.60 per month in loan repayments. That's because you are earning £440 more per month than the threshold, and 9% of £440 is £39.60.
If you become unemployed or start earning less than the threshold again, you will stop making loan repayments.
You are expected to pay the full amount of your loan back to the government, plus interest. However, if after 30 years you haven’t paid it all back, your loan debt is written off.
Scotland & Northern Ireland
The current threshold for having to repay your loan back to the Scottish or Northern Irish Government is £18,935 (though the Scottish Government is promising to increase their threshold to £25,000 by April 2021). You'll be expected to pay 9% of any income over £18,935.
Top tip: Make sure you find out from your university how much their tuition fees are before you apply for student finance – that way you won’t run the risk of not being awarded enough.
When do you need to apply by?
Applications are set to open by the end of February 2020. If you're a new student intending to start a course beginning in September 2019 you need to apply by 25th May 2020.
Note that applications can take up to six weeks to be processed, which is why it’s best to apply as early as possible. You don’t have to have chosen which university you want to go to before you apply.
How do I apply?
You make you application online at either or , Student Finance England , Scotland Wales . You'll need to provide proof of your identity (either your passport or your birth certificate) and details of your household income (so how much your mum and/or dad earn) and provide of your identity. Northern Ireland
You’ll also need to include your course start date and end date (if known – otherwise you can update later), bank account details and National Insurance Number. If you don’t know your NI number, you can find it on the
. HMRC website
Your parents will need to confirm that your household income details are correct. They'll be sent an email after you've begun you application with a link to submit their details.
What it’s for?
It is designed to help with the cost of living at university. It’s there to help pay for your rent, food, books and equipment, and other university living essentials.
How much do I get?
Again, how much you get depends on where you live in the UK – as Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland all have differing maintenance loan amounts and criteria for working out how much you get.
In England, the Student Loans Company decides how much maintenance loan to pay to you, based on a number of factors including: where you study, where you’re living and how your course is structured (see the table below for a breakdown).
2020/2021 Academic year
Living at home
Up to £7,747
Living away from home, outside London
Up to £9,203
Living away from home, in London
Up to £12,010
You spend a year of a UK course studying abroad
Up to £10,539
This maintenance loan is paid directly into your bank account in three instalments per year = one at the start of each term. You have to pay this maintenance loan back once you are earning above a certain amount.
In Scotland, they provide a mix of repayable loans and non-repayable bursaries, which are again means-tested using either your own, or your parent’s income. The table below from the shows an example of what you could get: Student Awards Agency Scotland
In Wales, you can get a Maintenance loan of up to £12,260 per year. How much you get is dependent on where you are choosing to study in the UK.
The maintenance you get is split into two parts: a Maintenance Loan , which is repayable and a Maintenance Grant, which isn’t. How much of your overall maintenance is repayable or not is worked out using your parent’s household income. You can find more information on what you could get on the
. Student Finance Wales website
In Northern Ireland, you can apply for a maintenance loan of up to £6,780, depending on where you choose to study in the UK. This loan is repayable. You can also get a maintenance grant of up to £3,475, depending on your household income, which doesn’t have to be paid back
When do I get it?
The maintenance loan is paid directly into your bank account in three instalments over the academic year, but do check your relevant Student Finance website for confirmation.
When do I pay it back?
You pay your maintenance loan back at the same time and under the same terms as your tuition fee loan.
Top tip: Take the time to explain to your parents what information you need about them in order to successfully apply for the right amount.
For more information on student loans and maintenance loans, check out this great video from
guru, Martin Lewis: Money Saving Expert
Who are they for?
To help students whose parents earn less than a certain amount.
What grants are available?
There are many grants available. Again, what exactly is available depends on which Student Finance centre you are applying through and your personal situation.
For example, if you are a student with dependent children you can get a grant to help with living costs. And there's extra support if you have a disability, long-term mental illness or a specific learning difficulty (like dyslexia).
There are also grants and bursaries available for
(through the NHS), teacher and social work students. medical students
You can find out more details on what is available and if you are eligible on your Government's Student Finance websites.
How much do I get?
How much you get varies as it is dependent on income, personal circumstances and also what you plan to study. These grants are paid on top of you other student fee and maintenance loans.
When do I get it?
Like the maintenance loan, your maintenance grants are paid directly into your bank account.
When do I pay it back:
Because this is called a grant rather than a loan, you won’t have to pay it back.
Bursaries and Scholarships
Most universities offer also bursaries and scholarships available to help fund your way through university.
You can check if you chosen university offers any scholarships via their profile pages.
Search for your uni here.
Student Bank Accounts
What is a student bank account?
The top high street banks offer special accounts that are only available to students. They typically have what is known as an “arranged overdraft facility”, which means that you will have access to up to £3,000, without any sneaky interest charges.
Why do I need one?
Funding your time at university can be hard, and often your maintenance loan isn’t enough to cover the costs of living, especially in areas like London. A student account with an interest-free overdraft facility is a useful addition to university funding.
“Whilst we would not encourage students to get into debt with an overdraft and it should not form part of their budget, interest free overdrafts can be useful to cover unexpected expenditure,” says Peter Dunn, former Head of Communications at the . University of Warwick
A major mistake people often make early on is relying on their bank account overdraft as a safety net, when in reality it's anything but... Know exactly what key terms and conditions you have signed up for – otherwise you might easily find that extra little indulgence brings a flood of bank fees you could and should have avoided.
How do I apply for a student account?
To open a student account, you will need to be over 18. Most high street banks will ask you for the following things when applying for a student current account:
- Proof of ID (passport or driving license or birth certificate)
- Proof of address (a letter or bill addressed to you)
- Proof of your unconditional acceptance to a university in the UK (your UCAS letter or a letter addressed to you from your university)
This is not an exhaustive list, so be sure to check with the bank you’re intending to open an account with before you begin the application process.
When’s the best time to apply for a student overdraft?
It’s best to get your student account up and running before you apply for your student loan – that’s because your maintenance loan and any grants, bursaries or scholarships you’re entitled to will be paid directly into the account you have listed on your student loan application form.
How do I choose which bank to go with?
While there are so many websites and articles telling you which student account you should apply for, the decision ultimately comes down to you and your personal preferences. Many students tend to open an account with the bank their family use, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be getting the best deal.
Managing Your Money
Financial independence, in any form, is exciting. But it also comes at a time when there are loads of other things you need to be thinking about. That’s why many universities offer money management advice to help you get your finances straight, and make sure you have enough money to last you through the year.
Below we’ve compiled some basic money management tips to help you get the most out of your pounds…
Budget, budget, budget
The first challenge is dealing with the whopping great chunk of loan money that will land in your account in September. While it may be more money than you’ve ever seen in your life, in the grand scheme of things it’s not that much, and you’ll have to make it stretch out over the term.
The first thing student Dani does is take away the cost of his rent and see how much he is left with:
“Then I try and work out what I need for basic necessities like food, clothes and maybe some stuff for uni.” He adds, “usually, I work out an average of what I can have a month and break it down into weeks.”
Typically, that means Dani budgets between £20-30 a week.
“Sometimes, if I have money saved over from the previous week, I pass it on to the next and can spend a little more.”
It might be the last thing you want to read right now, but any kind of paid work is worth doing either while you’re at university or in the holidays.
Working will not only give your bank account a much needed boost, but also make your CV a lot more impressive to future employers.
Most universities have a dedicated job service to help students find employment during term time.
However, it can sometimes be tough to balance paid work with study commitment. Being organised is the key. Dani says:
“Last year I started keeping a diary, which I’ve never used before in my life! Yet sticking to that rigorously has meant I have been able to divide up my time between work and study, without losing track of the bigger picture.”
“When it comes to shopping, I’d say shop cheap!” says Dani. “I’m always on the look-out for what’s on offer and not constantly spoiling myself with luxuries.”
Bulk-buying food that’s on offer and freezing it is an excellent way to make sure you’re always stocked up with food, for example.
When it comes to shopping on the high street, or even going out for a meal, there’s no shortage of student offers available. Your student card will automatically qualify you for discounts on certain items, while an
will give you access to more discounts. There are also plenty of voucher websites you can use to get a good discount. Totum card
If you’re a home bunny, then remember to book your rail tickets a week or two in advance to avoid paying through the nose, or even try out the Megabus.
While these are just a few hints and tips to get you started, there are endless ways to make your money go further. You can read more about funding your studies in the
– so get cracking, and good luck! Whatuni Student Advice section
- Common Myths About Student Loans
- What To Do If You Run Out of Money at University
** All data correct as at Feb 2020. For latest loan and tuition fee amounts, please keep checking your relevant Government finance website.