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Quick guide to fees and finance for part-time students

Are you looking to study part-time? Student finance isn’t easy to get your head around – and what you can get and how it’s worked out is different from full-time students. Here’s how to get started…

Because part-time courses are designed to be flexible and allow you to study at your own pace, you'll typically pay per credit studied (ie for each module completed) rather than per year, as is the case for full-time students. Universities will usually refer to tuition fees for part-time courses on their websites and in their prospectuses in this way, too. 

Both the fees and the funding you’re entitled to will also depend on your financial circumstances among other factors. Here's an overview.

Tuition fees

The cost of tuition for part-time students in 2017/18 is up to £6,935 for a publically-funded university, and up to £4,625 if you’re studying at a private university.

Can I get a tuition fee loan?

Good news! Part-time students – including Open University (OU) students – don't have to pay any tuition fees upfront. You can apply for a tuition fee loan. This isn’t-means tested so the amount you receive won't depend on your household income.

However, you must meet the following criteria first:
  • first undergraduate degree: this must be your first time studying for an undergraduate qualification. While there are some exceptions (such as if you're studying nursing or a PGCE), generally speaking you can't already hold a qualification at the same or a higher level than the one you're studying. If you’re not sure, check with your uni.
  • course intensity: your course has to have a 'course intensity' of 25% or more to be eligible for the tuition fee loan. This means that for each year of your part-time course, you have to be completing at least 25% of what you would be if you were studying the same course on a full-time basis. The course can’t take any longer than four times the time it would take to complete the course if studied full time (up to a maximum of 16 years)

In 2017/18, the loan is worth:
  • up to £6,935 a year if you’re studying at a publicly-funded university or college (essentially, up to the maximum cost of your tuition fees)
  • £4,625 if your university is privately-funded

It’s very likely that your uni is publicly funded (this basically just means that it gets money from the government). Only five unis in the UK aren’t:
  • University of Buckingham
  • Regent's University London
  • University of Law, Guildford
  • BPP University, London
  • Arden University
There’s a possibility it will cost more than your tuition fee loan will cover to go to a private university. If this is the case, it’s up to you to make up the shortfall.

To keep things simple, the tuition fee loan is paid directly to the university.

Learn more about fees and finance at university.

I don’t think I’m eligible, is there any help I can get towards my tuition fees?

If you’re not eligible for a tuition fee loan, there are some alternatives, but it’s best to do your research first. Some employers might agree to sponsor your studies if it’s going to advance you in your role speak to yours about options.

Some charities and educational trusts also offer grants, but that’s unlikely to be a big cash injection for your whole course it’s more likely to be a one-off of £300, or £500 for example.

You may also be able to pay your university in agreed instalments if you’re self-funding your studies but don’t have to money to pay a big batch at once. Speak to your uni directly about this option.

Things are slightly different if you choose to study in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland; check our respective guides to learn more about loans and grants to cover your fees and living costs here.

What about my living costs?

From the 2018/19 academic year, there will be maintenance loans available for part-time undergraduate students to help with living costs, just as there currently are for full-time students  hooray! We'll update this guide once more information is known.

Are there any grants available?

You should speak to your university about any scholarships, bursaries or fee waivers they offer, especially those for part-time students. What's on offer will vary between institutions, as will the criteria that these are based on, such as your academic ability, financial circumstances, whether you have a disability or any dependants who rely on you etc. You never know until you ask. 

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    You’ll start repaying your tuition fee loan either a) the April after you've completed or left your course, or b) after four years. Basically, whichever comes first!

    Plus, you'll only start repaying this once your income is more than £25,000 (if you're a student in England). Read our guides to student finance in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to learn how repayments work for students here. 

    How much you repay is based on how much you earn (currently 9% above the threshold), rather than how much you borrowed; so don't pay too much attention to course fees when choosing what and where to study. 

    If you fall out of work, earn less or decide to take a break for whatever reason, your repayments will simply stop.

    Do student loans ever expire?

    If you haven't repaid your debt after 30 years, whatever is left is completely wiped out. 

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