A maintenance loan helps pay for the day-to-day costs of life as a student. 

Here’s everything you need to know about:

  • What a student maintenance loan is
  • Who can get one
  • How much maintenance loan you can get
  • Applying for a maintenance loan
  • When you’ll receive your loan
  • Repaying your loan
  • What to do if your maintenance loan doesn’t cover your costs

What is a maintenance loan?

The maintenance loan is money given out to students by the government to help pay for living costs while studying. 

In 2021, 95% of students* eligible for a loan took one out.

You may work alongside your studies, or may also receive money from family members. But the maintenance loan will likely make up the bulk of the money you have while at uni.

It’s separate from a tuition fee loan - which is offered by the government to help you pay for the cost of your course.

There aren’t limits on what you can spend your maintenance loan on. Some of the things you’ll probably use it to pay for are:

  • Rent
  • Bills
  • Food shopping
  • Transport
  • Entertainment

Maintenance loan eligibility: who can get one?

At a basic level: if you were born in the UK and have lived here your whole life, you’ll almost certainly be eligible for a maintenance loan.

But there are other criteria that determine whether or not you’re eligible for a student maintenance loan.

One thing to know is that you can usually only get a maintenance loan for your first undergraduate degree. You’re able to receive a loan for the number of years your course lasts for, plus one.

Confused? We’ll explain.

If you’re studying a three-year course, you can apply for maintenance loans for four years in total.

Why would you need to do this? If you need to retake a year, or you drop out, this gives you an extra year of flexibility, so that you’re financially covered for the duration of your studies.

For a full list of eligibility criteria, check out the GOV.UK website.

Can you get a maintenance loan for Master’s?

Yes! In England, if your course started anytime from August 2023 onwards, you could receive a maximum of £12,167 from Student Finance England.

This figure differs for Master’s students from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

There are reasons you may not be able to get a Master’s maintenance loan. This could be because you already have a Master’s degree, or you’ve previously had a maintenance loan for another Master’s course.

Check out the GOV.UK website for more eligibility criteria.

Can you get a maintenance loan for Open University?

You probably won’t be able to get a maintenance loan if you’re studying for a distance learning degree from the Open University or another provider.

You’ll only be able to get a maintenance loan if a physical disability prevents you from attending in person.

How much maintenance loan will you get?

The average maintenance loan students in England received in the 2023/24 academic year is £7,590, according to HEPI.

But the amount you receive can vary greatly depending on four factors:

  • Household income - If you’ve got a lower annual household income (whether that’s your income or a partner’s or parent’s), you’ll usually receive more money
  • Where you’re planning to live - You’ll usually get more money if you plan to live away from home vs living at home
  • London living - Since London is more expensive and living costs are higher than in other places, you’ll get a bump in your maintenance loan if you’re heading there to study
  • Which country you usually live in - The size of your maintenance loan differs depending on whether you usually live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland

Let’s look at the maximum and minimum amounts of maintenance loan you could get for each country for the 2024/25 academic year.

How much maintenance loan will I get if I usually live in England?

The maximum maintenance loan you’ll receive if you’re from England is £13,348. This would be if you choose to study in London and decide to live away from home. Also, your total household income would have to be less than £25,000 to receive this.

The minimum you’ll get, as long as you’re eligible, is £3,790. This would be the amount you’d get if you lived at home and outside London. 

Use the government’s calculator to work out how much maintenance loan you might get if you’re from England. 

How much maintenance loan will I get if I usually live in Scotland?

In Scotland, the maximum you’ll receive is £11,400 and the minimum is £8,400.

In Scotland, the student funding to cover living costs might be made up of both a bursary and a loan - rather than just a maintenance loan.

The part you receive as a loan will have to be paid back, whereas the part provided as a bursary won’t ever have to be repaid.

The higher your household income, the lower the amount of your funding that will be provided as a bursary vs as a loan.

You can find more details here.

How much maintenance loan will I get if I usually live in Wales?

In Wales, the maximum you could receive would be £15,170, which could be given to those living away from home and studying in London. The minimum would be £10,315, for those who decide to live at home.

The funding you’ll receive to cover your living costs is made up of a loan and a grant for Welsh citizens. The loan part will have to be paid back - the grant won’t.

The amount given to you as a loan vs as a grant will depend on your household income. 

Get more info here.

How much maintenance loan will I get if I usually live in Northern Ireland?

The maximum funding you could receive if you’re from Northern Ireland would be £10,852, while the minimum would be £3,938.

The funding you receive will also be made up of both a maintenance loan and a maintenance grant. And you won’t have to pay back the chunk you receive as a grant.

The lower your household income, the more funding you’ll get. And the more of your maintenance funding you’re likely to receive as a grant vs as a loan.

Here’s more info about the Northern Ireland maintenance loan and maintenance grant

How do you apply for a maintenance loan?

Maintenance loan applications are made through the government.

You apply for a maintenance loan from the country where you normally live, not where you’re planning to study.

Someone who lives in Edinburgh but is heading to study in Liverpool will apply for funding from Scotland, not England.

Here’s where you’ll apply depending on the country you’re from:

You’ll usually apply for your maintenance loan and tuition fee loan at the same time if you’re applying for both.

It’s also possible to apply for a maintenance loan by post, except if you’re from Scotland.

A couple of things you’ll need when applying:

  • Passport details
  • Your parents’ household income (if you live at home)

Will I need to reapply for a maintenance loan?

For undergraduate maintenance loans, you’ll need to reapply every year - whereas you don’t need to reapply each year for Master’s maintenance loans.

Payment dates: when do maintenance loans come in?

Maintenance loans are usually paid in three (roughly) equal instalments, one at the start of each academic term. The payment date depends on your university or college’s term start date - meaning students studying at different universities will get their loans at different times.

However, forget everything we’ve just said if you’re from Scotland: you’ll receive your maintenance loan in monthly instalments on the 7th of each month. 

You won’t get your first maintenance loan payment until you’ve registered at your university or college - so make sure to do that as soon as you can after arriving.

For the non-Scots, because there’s a large gap between payments (the payments will generally come in September, January and April), this makes budgeting responsibly very important.

The third instalment of your maintenance loan, which you’ll receive at the start of the third term, will need to last the summer, until you go back to uni in September or October for the new academic year.

Try to plan for this as early as possible and have a plan for how you’re going to cover any costs that come up over the summer.

To take full control of your finances and track your spending automatically, download the Blackbullion Money Manager app now.

How are maintenance loans paid?

Your maintenance loan money will be paid into the bank account you provided when you completed your online application. Unlike tuition fee loans, which are paid directly to your university or college. 

Can I get my maintenance loan early?

No, it’s not possible to receive your maintenance loan before your university or college’s term start date.

Repaying your student loan

Students often stress about repaying their student loans. They think they’ll have to start paying it back as soon as they graduate, regardless of their work situation.

Fortunately in the UK, this isn’t the case. 🙏

(When looking at repayments, your tuition fee loan and maintenance loan are bundled into one lump sum - so your repayments will be made towards the total, rather than just the maintenance loan.)

When do you start paying back student loans?

You won’t have to repay anything before the April after you graduate. For example, if you graduate in July 2024, the earliest you’ll make your first repayment is April 2025.

On top of that, you’ll only start making repayments once you’re earning a certain amount of money (before tax) - meaning student loans in the UK work more like a tax than a traditional loan.

This amount depends on the country you’re from and when your course started. As a quick summary: 

  • Scottish students - £27,660
  • Northern Irish students - £22,015
  • Welsh students - £27,295
  • English students whose course started before August 2023 (repayment plan 2) - £27,295
  • English students whose course started in or after August 2023 (repayment plan 5) - £25,000 

Learn more about student loan repayment plan 5.

How do you pay back student loans?

Your student loan repayments will be deducted directly from your salary each month. This will be taken care of by your employer, making it easy for you to make repayments.

You’ll repay 9% of everything you earn over the above-mentioned thresholds. For example, if you earn £1,000 more than the repayment threshold for your country and situation before tax, you’ll pay back £90 per year (9% of £1,000). 

Getting your student loan written off

Your student loan won’t be paid off indefinitely - it gets written off after a certain period of time.

When the loan gets written off depends on the country and when you began your studies:

  • Scotland - 30 years
  • Wales - 30 years
  • Northern Ireland - 25 years
  • England (started studying before August 2023) - 30 years
  • England (started in or after August 2023) - 40 years

This is regardless of how much of your loan you’ve paid off by that point. For example, if somebody has never earned enough to pay back any of their student loan, it will still be written off after this time.

What to do if your maintenance loan isn’t enough

Even though your maintenance loan is a sizable chunk of money, it still might not cover all your expenses as a student. You may have to look for extra sources of income to cover your costs and feel comfortable day to day.

There are many ways to make money as a student, ranging from working for your Students’ Union to tutoring online.

Also, make the most of other sources of funding. Aside from maintenance loans, there are millions of pounds of scholarships, grants and additional funding available for UK students. This extra money could help you feel at ease with your finances while at university or college.

Learn more about these extra sources of funding, then check out our Funding Hub, the largest collection of additional funding for UK students, to search for and apply for some of the scholarships, bursaries and grants out there.

But sometimes this still won’t be enough to make up your shortfall, especially not without impacting your studies. 

Read this for help if you're struggling financially, including information about hardship funding.

Learn more about student funding

We’ve got more info about tuition fee loans, interest rates and lots more to do with student loans in our ultimate guide to student funding.

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