Debbie Steel. Careers Writers Association

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Financial Support for Higher Education

With student debt mentioned in the media on a regular basis, as a parent you will be forgiven if the cost of higher education (HE) concerns you. Martin Lewis busts some myths about student loans and debt in a recent article on It’s also worth remembering that HE is usually worth the investment. Graduates, on average, earn more over their lifetimes than non-graduates, and a university education can be a really positive experience, often leading to a fulfilling career.

This article gives an overview of the financial support available for students starting full-time undergraduate HE courses in 2019 and provides links so that your son or daughter can find out more. As funding arrangements are reviewed every year and can be complex, ensure that they use relevant and 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 and Wales pay fees of up to £9,250 a year if they study in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, or up to £9,000 a year if they study in Wales. They are usually entitled to a Tuition Fee Loan so they won’t have to pay the fees up front.
  • Students from Northern Ireland pay fees up to £4,160 a year if they study in Northern Ireland. If they go to university in England or Scotland, they have to pay up to £9,250 a year, and if they study in Wales they’ll pay up to £9,000 a year. Tuition Fee Loans are available.
  • Students who live in Scotland don’t normally have to contribute towards their course fees if they study in Scotland; students need to apply to the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) who then pays their fees. But, they are charged up to £9,250 a year if they study in England or Northern Ireland and up to £9,000 a year if they study in Wales. Once again, loans are available to help with any tuition fees payable.

Your son or daughter will only start repaying their loans once they are earning a certain income.

Help with living costs

The cost of living, particularly the price of student accommodation, varies widely in different areas of the UK. It’s a good idea to help your son or daughter consider all their income and expenditure and 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 where they live, your household income and whether or not they stay at home. If your household income is low, depending on where they are in the UK, a non-repayable grant or bursary may be available to reduce how much has to be borrowed for living expenses. Eligible students from Wales receive £1,000 a year to help with living and accommodation costs.

Many students help fund their studies by working part time and/or during the holidays. This is fine as long as it doesn’t impact on their ability to reach their academic potential. Work experience, especially if related to their career aspirations, can be very valuable.

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 or radiography), dentistry or medicine, they may be entitled to some financial support through the NHS. However, arrangements vary. For instance, in Wales, NHS Bursaries are available to eligible students who commit to working in Wales after graduation, but in England, although NHS Bursaries are no longer available (apart from for the latter stages of medicine and dentistry programmes), students may be entitled to travel and dual accommodation expenses for clinical placements, and other allowances, through the Learning Support Fund. Detailed information on funding for healthcare courses can found through:

NHS Student Bursaries (for those studying in England)
Wales - Student Awards Service
NI Direct

For those taking an approved course in social work, a limited number of bursaries are normally available. Individual universities can provide information.

Other support

  • Certain organisations (such as professional bodies) and individual universities offer scholarships. These may be awarded to students studying certain subjects, local students, those from under-represented groups and those who demonstrate particular academic or sporting excellence.
  • Some employers (including the Armed Forces) offer bursaries/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. Currently, special arrangements apply to those who study through Erasmus+ as part of their course, but this may be affected by Brexit.
  • If your son or daughter finds themselves in particular 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 their 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 they claim all they can.

© Debbie Steel, March 2019