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What types of extra funding are available to help you at university?

Struggling to make your student loan and whatever you have saved stretch to cover the cost of uni? See what other financial support is available...

Firstly, a reminder of a typical student finance package

What is it? A typical full-time undergraduate student finance package is made up of two elements: a tuition fee loan to cover - yes, you guessed it - your tuition fees, plus a maintenance loan to help cover your living costs. Both need to be paid back, but only once you're earning above a certain threshold after graduating - so don't worry too much about them for now.

You can learn more about what's available where you live and plan to study, in our specific guides covering student finance in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Studying part-time? Currently you can receive a tuition fee loan, with maintenance loans being introduced in 2018. Learn more about part-time student funding.

Where do you get them from? You need to apply for student finance from the student funding body for the part of the UK you currently live. See here what you can get plus when you should apply by in order to receive your finance in time for the start of your course.

Typical example: Tuition fee loans cover your tuition fees and are paid straight to the institution by your student finance body. Sixty-five per cent of your maintenance loan is guaranteed, while the rest will depend on your annual household income. Those with a household income of £25,000 or less will receive the full amount. What this ‘full amount’ is will depend on where in the country you are studying (and living). 

  • Living at home while studying? £7,097 per year
  • Living away from home outside of London? £8,430 per year
  • Living away from home in London? £11,002 per year
     

Scholarships and bursaries

What are they? Scholarships and bursaries come in various shapes and sizes. They might be offered on the basis of your academic abilities, they may be means-tested (i.e. based on your household income and personal circumstances), or perhaps a combination of both. They might also be offered for other reasons – for example, if you have a disability or dependants who rely on you.

Funding like this can last for one year of your university course (usually the first year), or they can extend over the whole period of your studies. Scholarships try to cover some or all of the cost of your tuition fees and living costs - meaning you won’t need to borrow as much in terms of student loans or as an extra on top of what you're entitled to.

Plus, they don't need to be paid back!

Where do you get them from? These are offered by universities, further education (FE) colleges that offer degree courses, charities, trusts or even your local council. What's available and the eligibility criteria you have to meet will vary.

Typical example: An Academic Achievement scholarship from Bournemouth University, or something like the Leverhulme Trade Charities Trust undergraduate Bursary. While they have different names, these two examples are pretty much the same thing – free financial help given at the discretion of an institution.
 

Fee waivers

What are they? In effect, fee waivers reduce the amount of your tuition fees. You can get fee waivers just by themselves, or you can get a mixture of a fee waiver and bursary in one package of support. Plus, nothing has to be paid back.

Where do you get them from? A university or college might offer to reduce the cost of your tuition fees for a year or more, rather than give you a cash payment, or they could give you both. This means you don’t need to borrow as much from the Student Loans Company. Bear in mind that because a high proportion of students will never pay off the full amount of their student loans that this might not be as generous as it appears upfront.
 

Hardship funds

What are they? These are designed to help if you’re having financial problems, either while you’re at university or when you’re applying. They are awareded by institutions themselves, with the amount of money awarded decided on a case-by-case basis.

They have different names in different parts of the UK: the Access to Learning Fund in England, Financial Contingency Funds in Wales, Support Funds in Northern Ireland and Discretionary Funds in Scotland. As of 2014, universities and colleges fund these themselves (previously the UK government funded these as well). Universities and colleges decide who should receive this cash. 

There’s usually an application form to complete in order to state your case. You can apply either if you simply have less money coming in than going out, or if an unexpected cost arises like an expensive repair bill. Your circumstances will be taken into account and certain groups – student parents, disabled students and so on – will normally be prioritised for help, although all home students can apply.

Where do you get them from? You can get these via your university or college, either when you’re already at university or in some cases while you’re applying there. Because these are decided case-by-case, it's worth researching what's available yourself in relation to your own circumstances, rather than going on the word of other students who've applied for these - just because someone else received a certain amount (or were unsuccessful) doesn't necessarily mean you get the same result.

Typical example: Second-year student Laura Kennedy told us she received a £400 one-off payment from Kings College London in December 2011. No application - the university just looked at her details and gave the money when they could. So it's worth asking to see what's available, rather than worry on your own!
 

Get the full student finance picture, with our free guide:

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