Quick guide to student finance if you’re from Scotland
Are you a Scottish student planning to stay in Scotland for uni? Hoorah! You won’t pay a penny in tuition fees...
Generally you need to have been living in Scotland for three years up until your point of application to be considered eligible for free uni education. You might also be able to get free cash towards living costs for Scottish students through bursaries and grants.
It’s not all a free ride though. If you’re planning to go further afield to England, Northern Ireland or Wales, you could be looking at up to £9,250 a year in tuition fees. However, you’ll not be expected to foot that bill upfront – there are grants and loans available.
From elsewhere in the UK but want to study in Scotland? You’ll be eligible to pay up to £9,250 a year in Scottish higher education tuition fees, as you would if you remained in your home country to study.
See our guides for student finance in England, Northern Ireland and Wales instead.
A quick introduction
The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) gives financial support for Scottish students pursuing higher education anywhere in the UK, so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with them.
This quick video gives you a synopsis of what to expect from SAAS:
Watch now: Funding available for Scottish students
The following information in this guide is aimed at what the SAAS refer to as ‘young students’.
The SAAS will define you as a young student if:
- you're under 25 years old, before the start of the academic year they’re assessing you for
- you do not have a child of any age dependent on you, at the start of the academic year they’re assessing you for
- you have not supported yourself from earnings or benefits outside full-time education for any three years before the first day of the first academic year of your course
- you are not married, in a civil partnership or living with a partner before the first day of the first academic year of your course – this will be reviewed if your circumstances change during your course
If you don’t meet all of these requirements, you are considered an 'independent student', and the information below might not quite apply.
The SAAS has more information if you believe you’ll be considered an independent student.
No tuition fees for Scottish students studying in Scotland
If you’re staying in Scotland to go to uni, then good news: your tuition fees will be paid for you by the SAAS – you don’t have to pay a thing back! In 2018/19, 128,176 Scottish students had their fees covered.
This means you have to be living in Scotland when you apply to university and for three years beforehand. If you were born in Scotland but moved elsewhere and then applied, you are not considered a Scottish resident and thus won’t qualify.
Remember that you still need to apply to the SAAS for this, each year of your course. Don’t automatically assume you’ll get it without sending in your application or because you submitted it the previous year already.
Scottish students studying in England, Wales or Northern Ireland
You can apply for a student loan (non-income assessed) to pay part of or all your fees. Keep in mind that by not staying in your home country to study, you forfeit your free tuition and could be charged upwards of £9,250 a year in annual fees study in these countries.
You’ll still need to apply through SAAS for finance.
Is there funding for living costs?
Scottish students studying in Scotland
So you don’t have to worry about tuition fees – fantastic! But you still need to think about money for accommodation, books, travel and nights out.
You can apply for a maintenance loan which is means-tested based on your household and circumstances. The maximum you can receive is £5,750 and the minimum loan is £4,750. This must be repaid.
If you’re under 25 years old, you can also apply for a 'Young Students’ Bursary'. This does not need to be paid back. You can receive up to £1,875 if your annual household income is under £18,999 and the amount slowly reduces as that income reaches £34,000 a year. If your household income is over £34,000 you won’t be eligible for this bursary.
There’s more information about the Young Students’ Bursary on the SAAS website.
Nursery and midwifery students
There are also further funding options for specific courses, such as student nurse bursaries if you're studying nursing and midwifery. The SAAS website has more details around eligibility criteria and how to apply.
Disabled students' allowance
Extra help is available to you if you incur extra costs while you study because of a disability or learning difficulty.
If this is the first time you’re applying for the allowance, or if you’ve applied before but your disability has changed significantly since you last applied, a needs assessment will have to be carried out.
The SAAS website has a PDF for those looking for more information on the disabled students allowance.
Have an adult dependent or are you a lone parent?
There are also living cost grants for those caring for an adult dependent, or those who are a lone parent. You won't need to pay either of these back, so it's worth doing some research if this applies to you. There are some eligibility conditions to meet in order to qualify for these.
Scottish students studying in England, Wales or Northern Ireland
Living cost assistance is the same as it would be if you were studying in Scotland. You will still be eligible to apply for the Young Students’ Bursary, maintenance loan, and any grants you are entitled to.
Student loan repayments
If you’re a Scottish student, you won’t begin repaying any student loans (nor interest on top) until the April after you graduate and only once you’re earning more than £18,330 per year.
You’ll repay 9% of whatever you earn annually above this amount. This threshold will usually go up incrementally each year in line with inflation, so keep checking back to see what it is when you begin repaying.
Repayments will be taken from your pay by your employer, alongside tax and National Insurance.
The government subsidises the actual cost of interest on the loans so any interest that accumulates will also be linked to the rate of inflation – simply put, the amount you put back will be roughly the same compared to what you originally borrowed.
Read more about Scottish loan repayments on the SAAS site.
So if you graduate and get a job with an annual salary of £20,000, you’ll repay the following:
- Minus the minimum repayment threshold from your salary: £20,000 - £18,330 = £1,670
- Calculate 9% of this to get what you’ll repay annually (and divide by 12 to get the monthly repayment figure):
- £1,670 / 100 x 9 = £150.30 repaid annually
- £150.30 / 12 = £12.53 repaid monthly
Do student loans expire?
After 35 years, any outstanding debt you still owe will be written off, even if you didn’t pay anything during that time.