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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 round – especially when it comes to financial support for part-time students. Here’s how to get started…

Note: The following information reflects undergraduate courses in England in the 2017/18 academic year.

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

Both the fees and the funding you’re entitled to will depend on where you plan to study in the UK, among other factors. Here's an overview... 

1. Tuition fee loans

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 is non-means tested which means that what you receive won't depend on your household income.

You must meet the following criteria:
  • 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 PGCSE), generally speaking you can't already hold a qualification at the same or a higher level than the one you're studying.
  • 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, full-time.
The loan is worth up to £6,935 a year if you’re studying at a publicly-funded university or college, or £4,625 if your university is privately-funded. To keep things simple, this is paid directly to the university.

If you are not eligible for a tuition fee loan, there are some other options; namely, sponsorship from an employer or paying your university in agreed instalments.

Things are slightly different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Check our respective guides to learn more about loans and grants to cover your fees and living costs, in these countries.

2. Support for living costs, plus extra help

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 are for full-time students currently. We'll update this guide once more information is known.

Until then, you should speak to your university about any scholarships, bursaries or fee waivers they offer to their part-time students. What's on offer will vary from institution to institution, as will the criteria these are based on e.g. academic ability, financial circumstances, if you have a disability, if you have any dependants who rely on you etc. 

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    3. Repayments

    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 whatever comes first!

    Plus, you'll only start repaying this once your income is more than £21,000 if you're an English student (as per government announcements in October 2017, this is set to rise to £25,000). Read our guides to student finance in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to learn how repayments work for students here. 

    What you repay is based on how much you earn (currently 9% above this threshold), rather than how much you borrowed; so don't pay too much attention to course fees when choosing what and where to study. Therefore, if you lose your job, earn less or decide to take a break from working for whatever reason, your repayments will simply stop.

    And if you haven't repayed your debt after 30 years, whatever is left is completely wiped

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