Debbie Steel. Careers Writers Association

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Financial Support for Higher Education

The cost of higher education (HE) is a concern for many parents. However, research shows that HE is worth the investment. Graduates, on average, earn more in their lifetimes than non-graduates. In addition, a university education can be a really positive experience, often leading to a fulfilling career.

Unless stated otherwise, this article gives an overview of the financial support available for students starting full-time HE courses in 2017 and provides links so that your son or daughter can find out more. As funding is reviewed every year, ensure that they use the most up-to-date information. Bear in mind that eligibility for financial support depends on a number of factors such residency, and where they live and study.

Tuition fees and support

  • Students from England pay fees of up to £9,250* a year regardless of where they study in the UK, but they are usually entitled to a Tuition Fee Loan so they don’t pay the fees up front. Your son or daughter will only start repaying their loan once they are earning a certain income.
  • Students who are from Wales also pay fees of up to £9,250* a year. The big difference for Welsh students is that, in addition to a Tuition Fee Loan, they may be entitled to a non-repayable Fee Grant that significantly reduces the fees payable.
  • At the time of writing, arrangements for students from Northern Ireland have yet to be published for 2017; those starting courses in 2016 paid fees up to £3,925 a year if they studied in Northern Ireland but higher fees elsewhere in the UK.
  • Students who live in Scotland don’t normally have to contribute towards their course fees if they study in Scotland, but are charged up to £9,250* a year elsewhere in the UK.

(* The maximum fee for those who study at Welsh universities is £9,000 a year.)

Help with living costs

The cost of living, including the price of student accommodation, varies widely in different areas of the UK. It’s a good idea to help your son or daughter set a budget.

Most students are able to apply for a Maintenance Loan to help with their living costs. How much they get depends on your household income, whether or not they study in London and whether or not they live at home. If your household income is low, depending on where you live in the UK, a non-repayable grant or bursary may be available to reduce how much has to be borrowed for living expenses.

Support with certain courses

If your son or daughter applies for a course leading to professional registration in nursing, midwifery, one of the allied health professions (such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy or radiography), dentistry or medicine, they may be entitled to support through the NHS Bursary Scheme. However, arrangements vary depending on the course and where they study in the UK; for instance, in England, most new students are no longer entitled to an NHS Bursary, but in Wales funding is still available. They can find out more through:

For those taking an approved course in social work, a limited number of bursaries may be available. Universities can provide information.

Other support

  • Certain organisations (such as professional bodies) and individual universities offer scholarships or bursaries. These may be awarded to students studying certain subjects, local students, those from under-represented groups and those with particular academic or sporting excellence.
  • Some employers (including the Armed Forces) offer sponsorships, particularly to those doing science, technology and engineering courses.
  • Students who have been in care, have a disability, are a parent or who have an adult dependant, may be able to claim additional funding.
  • If your son or daughter wants to study abroad, they need to research fees and living costs. Special arrangements apply to those who study through Erasmus+ as part of their course.
  • If your son or daughter is in particular financial hardship, their university may be able to provide extra financial support.

Sources of information

Make sure that your son or daughter accesses the relevant student finance website for more details on funding HE, to calculate their entitlements and to apply for support:

The UCAS website – – also has useful information and links.


As daunting as it might seem, don’t let the cost of HE put your son or daughter off applying to university. Financial support is out there, so make sure that they make a claim.

© Debbie Steel, January 2017