Student loans and grants

Student & graduate bank accounts

Student loans and grants

By Chiara Cavaglieri

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Student loans and grants

A quick guide to student finance, including loans to cover your tuition fees, and free cash such as grants, bursaries and scholarships.

If you're a full-time student, you don’t need to find the money to pay university fees upfront. You can get a loan to cover the fees, and you’ll only repay it when you’ve graduated and are earning over £21,000 a year.

A tuition fee loan worth up to a maximum of £9,000 a year is available to cover fees and is paid directly to your university. This will rise to £9,250 in 2017, in line with planned changes to raise tuition fees for some universities.

In England, a loan for tuition fees is paid by the Student Loans Company directly to your university. Welsh Students at Welsh universities pay lower tuition fees. Scottish students at Scottish universities don't pay tuition fees.

You will also get a second maintenance loan to cover the cost of accommodation and living costs, which is paid into your account at the start of each term. The exact amount you can borrow depends on where you live, your household income, when you start your course and what year of study you're in. Students aged 60 and over can’t apply.

Repaying student loans

You now start to repay student loans when you get a job paying at least £21,000. Interest rates are set for one year and will increase each year alongside the rate of inflation. 

If you earn over £25,000 or over £30,000, you'll repay at higher rates. After 30 years, any outstanding debt you owe will be written off, even if you didn't pay anything during some of the time (because you weren't working or were earning under £21,000 a year). 

Read the Which? University guide to student finance for more details on when and how you repay student loans. 

Student grants and allowances 

Previously, students in England and Wales could apply for university maintenance grants worth up to £3,387 a year, but these will be scrapped from September 2016. 

There are a number of other funding options if you meet certain criteria – for example, if you are disabled, or if you have children or adults who depend on you for care. Medical, dentistry and healthcare students can also apply for NHS bursaries.

Universities and colleges also award their own bursaries and scholarships. Visit the individual website of your chosen institution for details about they offer and how to apply for funding. 

Read the Which? University guide to student finance to see what other grants, bursaries and scholarships are available. 

  • Last updated: July 2016
  • Updated by: Chiara Cavaglieri