Parents' and carers' guide

Student finance

The costs associated with university can often be a major area of concern for parents but there is funding available which is designed to allow higher education to be accessible to all.

The first thing to note it that no one has to pay upfront and repayments after graduation will be linked to your son or daughter’s salary so that it is manageable.

How to apply

How to apply

Applications open in the Spring of a student’s final year at school or college and close in May.

Students should make sure they submit their application before the deadline to ensure that funding is available for the start of the university term.

There are different award agencies that you need to apply through depending if you are from England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland so you should make sure they are completing the correct application based on their country of residence.

Once registered, they will be issued with a CRN (Customer Reference Number). You will then be asked to input details of your finances to support your son or daughter’s application. If you would prefer that this remains private you can request your own CRN that is linked to the form but doesn’t allow the student access to these sections.

Once complete you can track the progress of the application and change any details such as contact details or their Firm choice of university. It is really important that applications are kept up-to-date so the accurate funding is allocated.

For further advice on how to apply for student finance watch our useful video guide

Tuition fees

Tuition fees

The cost of your son or daughter’s learning experience at university is covered by tuition fees. Some universities charge a set fee for all courses while others will vary the fee by subject area, all of this information can be found online.

Regardless of cost, tuition fees are a “study now, pay later” scheme and students are entitled to a non means tested Tuition Fee Loan to cover the full cost of their course.

In the event that a student would like to use private funds to pay for some or all of their tuition fees up front they can do so by contacting their Firm choice university.

Maintenance Loan

Maintenance Loan

The other major cost associated with university is living costs – everything from rent, utilities, travel, food and course materials. The cost of living will generally reflect the geographical location of a university – with city centre prices often being higher.

In order to meet these commitments students are entitled to a means tested Maintenance Loan, with the exact amount that they receive calculated based on the following:

  • Household income – the gross income of the adults in the household where a student lives.
  • Location of university – students studying in London are entitled to more funding due to the increased cost of living.
  • Accommodation choice – students opting to live at home during their studies are entitled to less funding
  • Year of study – students taking the option of a sandwich year will not be entitled to the Maintenance Loan whilst on placement as this often has a salary attached.
  • Siblings – if you have one or more child in Higher Education at the same time they will receive additional funding in recognition that you are supporting multiple students.


The Maintenance Loan is paid in three instalments (at the start of each term) to help students budget and is repaid after graduation. For an estimate of entitlement for your son or daughter visit the Student Finance calculator.

Scholarships and bursaries

Scholarships and bursaries

Universities offer a range of packages to help students manage their finances. These are pots of funding that do not have to be repaid but the qualification criteria and amount available vary between institutions so you will need to check their individual websites to get the information you need.

Generally a bursary will have set criteria that a student will or won’t meet; these may include household income, home postcode or being the first in the family to attend Higher Education. A scholarship is normally rewarded in recognition of a student’s achievement, this may be linked to strong A Level/BTEC grades or a specialist skill set – for example, playing sport at a high level.

One important thing to note is that bursaries and scholarships are not applied for via the Student Finance website. They are allocated from the institutions themselves and students should research the application details as well as the funds available.

Living costs

Living costs

  • Laundry – students who live in halls of residence will have access to washing facilities, these normally have an additional cost.
  • Television license – students living in halls of residence and watching television require their own television license, those living in a shared household can have one per property.
  • Internet – this may be included within the cost of rent, but in some cases this will be an additional fee.
  • Travel – this may be to and from the university each day, back to the family home or university accommodation, travel around the city or travel at the weekends to visit friends and family.
  • Field trips – university courses try and provide students with many exciting opportunities to put their learning into practice. This may include off site field trips, the cost of these will be kept as low as possible and funding support may be available.
  • Gym membership, clubs and societies – there will be a lot of social activities on offer for students to engage with.

Further information regarding the cost of living can be found in our resource library

Repayments

Repayments

If a student has taken a Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Loan the amounts will be consolidated together so they will be left with one set of repayments.

Repayments begin in the April after they complete their degree providing they are earning above £21,000 per year. The amount that they will repay each month is linked to their salary and not to how much they borrowed. If for any reason their future wages drop below this figure the repayments will stop and only resume once the £21,000 threshold is exceeded again.

Student Finance will collect the repayments from a graduate’s wages. As earnings increase over time so will the amounts and any remaining balance 30 years after graduation will automatically be written off.

Annual SalaryMonthly repayment*
£22,000 £7
£25,000 £30
£30,000 £45
£35,000 £105

*Repayment is 9% of the graduates earnings over £21,000

If your son or daughter decides to move abroad to work and their salary exceeds £21,000 they are still liable to make their repayments. As they will not be paying tax within the UK it is their responsibility to contact Student Finance to make the necessary arrangements, failure to do so can result in a penalty fine.

Additional income

Additional income

It is common for students to have a part-time job while at university and this is not a problem as long as it doesn’t interfere with academic commitments.

Some universities run student ambassador schemes offering paid work that involves supporting university events such as open days. Ambassador schemes are kept flexible to allow students to select shifts that fit around their timetables and deadlines.

University terms are often shorter than those of schools and colleges giving students longer holidays. Securing full-time work during these breaks is not only good experience but will allow them to save a significant amount of money.

Budgeting

Budgeting

For most students this is the first time that they will have access to large sums of disposable income and have the responsibility of managing their finances.

Supporting your son or daughter in advance of university with budgeting and getting used to financial planning can be a real advantage to them.

There are lots of ways a student can help their funds to “go a little further” these include:

  • Comparing the prices and packages for utility suppliers .
  • Ensuring they have the best deal available for their mobile phone.
  • Choosing a student bank account with a good interest free facility (that remains interest free for some time after graduation to allow for full repayment).
  • Getting a Young Persons Rail Card (1/3 off train travel) and encouraging students to research cheaper methods of travel such as advanced train tickets or the Megabus.
  • Buying text books online – there are lots of websites dedicated to students selling second hand books as well as the university library which will house all of the books needed and can be borrowed for free!
  • Collecting their NUS card – this provides discounts at a lot of high street and online shops and restaurants.

Useful links