Student Loans – What You Need To Know

Student Loans

What you need to know about university debts

Since September 2012, when tuition fees for UK students in England were raised to a maximum of £9000 per year, taking on a large debt to pay for tertiary education has become the norm. This change has worried many students but taking out student loans to cover your tuition and living expenses is not a reason to avoid university.

It’s important to know three facts:

  • You do not have to pay your tuition fees and your accommodation expenses up front. All student loans are re-payable, but only after you graduate and when you are earning over £21,000 per year.
  • The repayments will never be that tough– you repay 9% of your earnings over £21,000. The more you earn, the higher your payments, but the rate of payback will never exceed that 9%. As an example, if your earnings rise to £30,000.00 per year, you will take home £2,500 per month, before tax and your student loan repayments will be just £67.00 per month.
  • You have 30 years to pay back your student loans– if you have any outstanding loan by the end of that period, your remaining debt is cancelled.
Your income per year Monthly repayments
£21,000 and under No repayments
£25,000 £30.00
£30,000 £67.00
£40,000 £142.00
£50,000 £217.00
£60,000 £292.00

 Further Information

Types of student loan

When you go to university, you will have tuition fees to pay to your institution and living expenses, which include accommodation, food, clothes, books, gadgets, travelling and all expenses related to your social life.

Tuition fee loans

Tuition fee loans are available to cover the whole of your tuition costs. You apply to student finance in the months before you expect to start your course, usually online. It is important to apply in good time and certainly before the end of May. Any delay can mean a delay in your tuition fees being paid.

Student Finance pays your tuition fees direct to your university. This loan never goes into your bank account and you have to pay the loan back.

Full-time student Tuition fee loan
Full-time Up to £9,000
Full-time at a private university or college Up to £6,000
Part-time student Tuition fee loan
Part-time Up to £6,750
Part-time at private university or college Up to £4,500

Maintenance loans

Student Loan RepaymentsIf you are resident in the UK, you are eligible to apply for a maintenance loan. The size of the loan depends partly on your household income and partly on where you choose to study:

  • In London, the maximum maintenance available for a student living away from home is £7,675.00 per year.
  • Outside London, a student living away from home is eligible for £5,500.00 per year.
  • All students living at home are eligible for a maximum of £4375.00 per year.

All eligible students can receive 65% of the maximum maintenance loan available, no matter what their household income. Students from households with lower incomes may be eligible for up to 100%. To obtain the maintenance loan that you are entitled to, make sure your parent/s provide their information and documentary evidence on time.

How your maintenance loan is paid

You will receive your maintenance loan in three instalments, one in each term. This can help you budget but many students find that most of their maintenance loan goes on their accommodation.

Surviving on a maintenance loan

Even the maximum amount is not a huge amount of money for all that it has to cover. It is possible to top-up your money for living expenses by parental contributions or by getting a part-time job during your time at university, or during the holidays. In cases of real hardship – if you have no money from other sources and you run out way before the end of term – go to your university to ask for advice and help.

What if my money doesn’t come through?

If you apply late, your money may not come through in time. You need to go to your university and explain the situation and follow their advice. Universities are used to this happening and will be sympatheticif you tell them.

Chase up student finance to find out the cause of the problem. They should be able to give you an idea of when the money will be available. That may mean having an overdraft with your bank until your money comes through and your university accepting your accommodation payments late.  

Maintenance grants and bursaries

Students from families with a lower income are also eligible for maintenance grants and bursaries. These differ from student loans in thatthey do not have to be paid back.

Maintenance grants

Student finance provides a maintenance grant of £3,250 per year for students whose household income is £25,000 or less. If you household income is between £25,001.00 and £42,600.00, you will get a partial grant.

Special support grants

These are awarded as a replacement to the maintenance grant for students in special circumstances, such as being a single parent or living with a disability. The maximum amount is again £3,250.00 per year and also depends on your household income.

Other grants

Student Loans & RepaymentsThese are available for students with children, responsibility for caring for dependants and disabled students:

  • Childcare Grant: this helps you with the cost of childcare for children under 15, or under 17 if they have special needs.
  • Disabled Students Allowances: this is an additional grant to cover your individual needs such as special equipment, help from a carer or special accommodation needs. It is not means tested but is assessed on the basis of your disability and your needs.
  • Adult Dependants’ Grant: if you have a financial dependant who is an adult, you can receive up to £2,642.00 per year. This is assessed on your household income and circumstances.
  • Parent’s Learning Allowance: this provides up to £1,508.00 per year to assist with costs related to your study, if you have dependent children.


Bursaries are non-repayable grants provided by individual universities. Many have a budget to help students who are from very low income families, who are single parents or who have dependent children, or who are disabled. There is no central information source of what is available – you need to check the website of the universities you are thinking of applying to, or phone their helpdesk.

Applying for student finance

The funding body you apply to depends on where you live, not where you are intending to study:

Find out more in our Definitive guide to Student Finance