Student Finance 2021
Are you about to start the first year of your university degree in 2021/22? If so, you’ll know that a key focus is what it may cost you and how the various offers of financial support can really benefit you.
Finding your way around what fees and finances are available for your degree, can at times seem like you’re trying to find all the right pieces to complete a jigsaw without knowing what the finished picture will look like.
Our guide will show you what’s available and how you can apply. (If you're applying to study at a university in the U.S, check out our College Fees & Funding guide).
The costs and support differ depending on whether you’re studying full or part time and where you live and study at.
1. I’m a UK resident studying at an English university
The key costs you will have to pay are tuition fees and living expenses.
An English university can charge yearly tuition fees of:
a. up to £9,250 if you’re studying full-time
b. up to £6,935 if you’re studying part-time (as long as your course is at least 25% of a full-time course each year).
Universities that want to charge more than £6,000 (this is the vast majority in 2021) are required to provide widening access programmes.
This means, to encourage students from poorer, low income backgrounds to apply, they need to offer incentives such as bursaries, extra teaching support and outreach programmes.
These need to cover your accommodation, food and general living costs.
Living expenses differ depending on which city or rural university you are attending and whether you’re living in private accommodation or halls of residence. They can vary from £8,000 to £12,000 a year. It’s worth using an online student calculator to work out your exact living expenses.
There are loans to help you pay these costs and you can apply online. There are two main loans: tuition fee and maintenance.
Tuition fee loans are available for both full and part-time courses, though maintenance loans are only available if you’re studying on a full-time course.
Tuition fee loan
You can apply online via Student Finance England for a tuition fee loan (known colloquially as your student loan). You can borrow up to £9,250 per year (or your maximum fee if is it less). This loan is paid directly to your university for your tuition fees.
Please be aware that if you’re studying at a private institution you can only apply for a tuition fee loan of up to £6,165 per year and the private institution may charge substantially more than this. You will have to find the difference yourself.
You can apply via Student Finance England for a maintenance loan to cover your living expenses. Please note there are no maintenance grants as per previous years as the government has stopped these.
The maintenance loan amount you can apply for is on a sliding scale dependent on your household income. It can be up to £12,382 in London and up to £9,488 outside London. It’s worth using the student finance calculator to establish how much maintenance loan you can apply for.
If you’re studying at an English university but you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you must apply for finance in the region your home is based eg if you live in Wales you need to apply via Student Finance Wales even if you’re going to be studying in England.
Over the course of your degree the loan amounts can add up.
For example, if you studied for 3 years at a university with £9,250 tuition fees per year and you received the maximum £8,700 maintenance loan you could finish your university degree with £53,850 of loan debt to pay back.
Most students end up with less but an average is certainly between £30,000 to £40,000. This will be significantly less if you’ve been studying part-time with smaller tuition fees to pay and no maintenance loan.
Repaying your loan
After you finish university and you start working and if you’re earning £21,000 or more, repayment of your loan is at 9% of the salary you earn above this £21,000 threshold.
You repay nothing if you’re earning less than £21,000. This 9% is regardless of the loan amount you’ve amassed and the monthly repayment amount differs depending on your salary. For example, if you earn £25,000 you will pay £30 a month and if you earn £30,000 a month you will pay £67 regardless of whether your loan equates to £20,000 or £40,000.
While you’re studying, interest on your loan is charged at the current rate of RPI (retail price index) plus 3% and the rate differs after you’ve completed your studies depending on your salary. The Student Loan Company has immensely detailed facts and figures for you on repaying your student loan.
It’s worth being aware that If you haven’t repaid your student loan 30 years after you have graduated, it will be wiped out.
Grants, bursaries and scholarships
These are still available, but only in certain circumstances.
If you’re studying medicine, dentistry, nursing or healthcare courses you may be eligible for NHS bursaries which you don’t need to pay back, towards your tuition fees and living expenses.
Individual universities also offer hardship funds to help with your living expenses, travel, childcare etc. Chat to them about what’s available as soon as you can, as these funds are limited.
2. I’m a UK resident studying at a university in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland
These differ depending on both where your home is and which region you’re studying in.
|My home is in||I‘m studying in Scotland||I‘m studying in Wales||I‘m studying in Northern Ireland|
|England||Up to £9,250||Up to £9,250||Up to £9,250|
|Scotland||No tuition fee||Up to £9,250||Up to £9,250|
|Wales||Up to £9,250||Up to £9,000||Up to £9,250|
|Northern Irleand||Up to £9,250||Up to £9,250||Up to £4,160|
From a purely financial position there is a great benefit to studying in your home region if your home is in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Applying for student finance
You can also apply for student loans and in some cases, grants. You must apply for finance in the region your home is based eg if you live in Wales you need to apply via Student Finance Wales even if you’re going to be studying in Scotland.
3. I’m an EU (European Union) or overseas student
If you’re from an EU country, you will pay the following tuition fees:
- Up to £9.250 at an English university
- Up to £9,000 at a Welsh university
- Up to £4,160 at a Northern Ireland university
- There is no tuition fee at a Scottish university
As an EU student you may be eligible to apply for a student loan. Please visit the UK government's Student Finance section for more comprehensive information.
If you are from a non EU country the tuition fees differ by each university and you will need to contact the individual university direct for full details. You will not be eligible for a student loan but individual universities may offer you access to bursaries and scholarships depending on your personal circumstances.
There is a lot to absorb and understand. However, if you work through it in a logical, systematic way, you will find you can complete your jigsaw and receive all the financial support you can. There are really great guides on student finances at moneysavingexpert and also at Which.
For more tips and advice on student finance at university, please see: