Whether you're currently enrolled in university or college, thinking about the idea of higher education, or simply exploring options, knowing how student finance and funding works is essential.
No matter your financial background, if you want to go to university or college, you can. The only caveat is that eventually you’ll have to pay back your student loan. And the government helps ease this burden through Student Finance (aka student loans).
If you have chosen to pursue higher education, here’s everything you need to know about student finance and funding in England 2024.
Student finance and funding 2024 at a glance
In this blog, we’re going to dive into what you need to know about student loans, additional funding, and opportunities to increase your income through part-time or freelance work.
But first, here’s a quick-fire list of everything you need to know about student finance and funding:
If you want to attend university or college, there are government-funded student loans to help cover both tuition fees and living expenses.
Depending on which student loan plan you’re on, there could be additional interest rates applied to your loan, linked to inflation and income.
There is a new Student Loan Plan 5 for those who started university or college on or after August 1, 2023.
Loan repayments are income-contingent, starting once you earn over a certain threshold, and can be written off after 30 years (or 40 years if you’re on Student Loan Plan 5).
For most undergraduate student loans, you won’t pay anything upfront for your tuition fees that come from Student Finance, the loans provided by the government.
Most universities in England charge £9,250 a year in tuition fees for home, undergraduate students - universities/colleges in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (where tuition is free) may charge less.
There is additional funding available in the form of scholarships, bursaries and grants.
If you have special circumstances, such as a disability or are a parent or carer, you can get additional funding help.
You can also look into part-time or freelance work opportunities to make additional money while studying, or look into paid research projects alongside your degree.
Some universities also have hardship funds to help those in unexpected financial difficulty.
We hope that this guide will help you better understand your finances as a student. Feel free to jump to whichever section best suits your needs!
Student loans 💰
First, Student Finance is a form of financial support provided by the government to help cover the costs of higher education.
They are the main source of student funding for university and college students in the UK. These loans are there to help with various areas of student life and expenses, from tuition fees to living costs to additional support for students with special circumstances.
Unlike traditional loans, you don’t have to pay student loans back until the following April after you graduate from university or college. And how much you pay back each year depends on your income once you start earning after your studies.
If you started university or college on or after August 1st, 2023, you will be on the new Student Loan Plan 5 - so the repayment terms will be slightly different than previous loan plans.
When you started uni/college
Repayment Plan in England
|If you started before 1 September 2012
|If you started between September 2012 - July 2023
|You started on or after 1 August 2023
If you’re not sure which loan plan you’re on, check out the government website for more information.
Student loans and interest rates
Interest rates on student loans are typically linked to inflation and can vary depending on your income. Interest rates often go up and down - so it's important to stay informed about these changes and their potential impact on your loan balance!
According to Gov.UK, interest rates are currently as follows:
6.25% if you’re on Plan 1
7.3% if you’re on Plan 2
6.25% if you’re on Plan 4
7.3% if you’re on Plan 5
7.3% if you’re on a Postgraduate Loan plan
Remember, the interest rate is set at the start of each academic year and is linked to the rate of inflation which is measured by the retail price index (RPI).
The repayment terms on your loan will depend on the type of loan you’re on and how much money you're earning once you graduate (or leave early).
And you'll only start repaying your loans once your income reaches a certain threshold, which is different for each plan.
Any remaining balance will be written off after a specific period, which is typically 30 years (or 40 if you’re on Plan 5) from the April you were first due to repay - or if you pass away. Unlike some other countries, loans in the UK don’t get passed onto your beneficiaries (family members or children) if you die.
Types of student loans
Tuition fee loans
Tuition fee loans cover the cost of your course fees. The amount you receive depends on your course and the tuition fees set by your university or college. In England, UK students generally pay around £9,250 per year.
These loans are paid directly to your university - meaning, you won't need to worry about managing the fee payments yourself.
Maintenance loans are there to help with day-to-day living costs, such as accommodation, food and transport. The amount you receive varies depending on factors like household income, where you study, and whether you live with your parents or by yourself. Maintenance loans are paid directly to students, in line with the term dates set by their university.
These loan repayments only begin once you hit a specific income threshold for each plan after graduation.
Here’s an example of what you can expect to repay after you graduate and begin earning on Plan 2 vs Plan 5:
Annual income (pre-tax)
Plan 2 approx. monthly repayment
Plan 5 approx. monthly repayment
Postgraduate loans are for students pursuing postgraduate studies, a master's degree or a PhD. The amount you can borrow is limited; however, postgraduate loans are not based on household income. So that means you can borrow up to the max, regardless of income or savings.
It’s also important to note that you can only take out one postgraduate loan for your entire course (for example, you can’t reapply if your course takes longer than a year).
These loans are intended to be a contribution towards the overall cost of studying. They’re paid directly to you, the student, not your university or college.
Be sure to check for any specific eligibility criteria or changes to the loan terms for postgraduate programs, as these can vary.
There are two types of postgraduate loans:
Postgraduate Master's Loan
It’s important to note you can’t get a Postgraduate Master's Loan if you’re already receiving other financial support from Student Finance England.
View the full eligibility criteria here.
In England, you can receive a loan of up to £12,167. And you only have to start repaying your loan when your income reaches £21,000 a year. Repaying your loan depends on which repayment plan you’re on.
For more information, visit this resource on Postgraduate Master's loans.
Doctoral Loans are financial support for those undertaking PhD studies. The loan amount is subject to specific criteria.
According to Gov.UK, you can get up to:
£28,673 if your course started on or after 1 August 2023
£27,892 if your course started between 1 August 2022 and 31 July 2023
£27,265 if your course started between 1 August 2021 and 31 July 2022
For Doctoral Loans, the loan is paid directly to you, divided equally across each year of your course. You can use the loan to help towards PhD fees, research expenses and living costs if you wish.
Similar to other student loans, you only start repaying your loan after you reach a certain income threshold.
For more information, visit this resource on Doctoral Loans.
Scholarships, bursaries and grants 🎓
If student loans aren’t enough to cover your cost of living while studying, you can also apply for additional funding. These will come in the form of scholarships, bursaries and grants.
What are scholarships, bursaries and grants?
Unlike loans or overdrafts, these types of additional funding differ slightly, and are available under certain conditions/eligibility criteria, but have one key thing in common: they’re free money that you don’t have to pay back! 💰
Scholarships: usually awarded for something you’ve achieved, whether academic or extracurricular (for example, excelling in a STEM program).
Grants: usually awarded based on personal circumstances or financial need (if you’re from an underprivileged background, or have a disability, for example). In some cases, they can also be given for achievement.
Bursaries: always awarded based on financial need (for those from low-income families or people who have refugee status). Likely to be means-tested (based on your household income).
Where to look 🔎
So, where can you find scholarships, bursaries and grants?
The Funding Hub
You can also find additional funding on Blackbullion’s Funding Hub. It’s a centralised place for you to find tens of millions of pounds worth of supplementary funds.
The Funding Hub makes it easier than ever to find additional funding. The simplified application process ensures equal opportunities for all students with new scholarships opening throughout the year to help fund your education.
Sign up for The Funding Hub newsletter to get updates on new scholarships and additional funding opportunities.
Your university or college website
Check on your university or college’s website to see if they have a hub of additional funding or a page with all the scholarships they offer.
How much money is out there?
There’s over £20 million of additional funding available in the UK every year. Funds vary a lot but most of them allow you to get between £1,000 and £3,000 in additional funding.
Remember, this isn’t an alternative to student finance – it’s extra money that you can get on top of your maintenance loan!
Some scholarships are a one-off payment, whereas other funds give you money every year until your course ends, or even every term.
Who is eligible
Eligibility will depend on the type of scholarship, grant or bursary. Be sure to read the specific requirements of each application.
Eligibility may include:
If you’re receiving other additional funding
Tips for writing applications ✍️
Scholarship applications are a critical part of the funding process - in fact, this is what may determine whether your application is successful or not.
To stand out and increase your chances of securing financial support, follow these tips when writing your scholarship application:
1. Start early
Begin the application process well in advance. Give yourself lots of time to research scholarships, gather necessary documents, and draft a well-written essay that’s typo-free.
2. Stick to the guidelines
Not following guidelines or instructions is a surefire way to get disqualified before the reviewer gets to your application. So it’s important to make sure you know what they’re asking and that you meet all eligibility criteria for the application.
3. Tailor your application
Each scholarship is unique, so tailor your application to match the scholarship's specific criteria and focus. Highlight the aspects of your background, experiences, and goals that align with the scholarship's mission or requirements.
4. Be personal and authentic
What’s going to make you stand out from the crowd? There are often hundreds of other applications - so try to write in a way that highlights your unique qualifications and attributes. Share your story, goals, and how the scholarship will help you achieve them; don’t just write what you think the reviewer wants to hear.
5. Showcase your achievements
Highlight your achievements, whether that’s academic, extracurricular or community-based. You can also include evidence of your qualifications, such as academic transcripts, awards or recommendation letters if you have them.
6. Proofread and edit
Small (or big) mistakes in your application could harm your chances of success. Spend some time carefully proofreading all documents, including your personal statement and CV (if one is required). It’s also always a good idea to have a second pair of eyes on your application to help with proofreading.
7. Submit early
Don't wait until the last minute to submit your application - you never know what could go wrong. Laptops have a way of choosing to do a reboot right when something’s due. 🙄 So, it’s best to try to submit well before the deadline to avoid any technical issues or last-minute complications.
Remember that scholarship applications are not just about your qualifications but also about your personal story and unique qualities that make you stand out!
AI and scholarship applications
It might be tempting to rely on AI to write your scholarship application. But many reviewers nowadays have systems that can tell if a submission is solely written by AI.
AI is a great tool for getting those bullet-point ideas down onto paper, and even helping with a rough outline that you can then personalise, but it should not be used to write an entire draft.
Here are some tips for using AI as a tool for scholarship applications:
1. Utilise AI to spark bullet-point ideas
AI can be used as a good starting point for your scholarship application responses, especially if you’ve got writer’s block or are feeling stuck with where to begin. You can type into ChatGPT something along the lines of ‘Can you generate an outline for X scholarship question based on X criteria’.
2. Incorporate personal story
A personal story is the cornerstone of a good scholarship application. And this is where AI can’t help.
Spend some time digging into your own ‘why’ for needing this scholarship and create a compelling narrative that will help the reader understand what motivated you to apply in the first place. This personal touch will set your application apart from generic AI-generated content.
3. Edit & proofread
Once you’ve written your essays, dedicate some time to editing and proofreading. Grammar and spelling checkers, such as Grammarly, can help you catch errors and enhance the clarity of your writing.
While AI tools can assist in identifying errors, they may not catch everything. So, read your essays aloud to identify awkward phrasing or confusing passages.
4. Get feedback from real people
At the end of the day, human feedback is invaluable. Share your essays with trusted teachers, mentors, family members or peers who can provide constructive criticism and help you polish your work.
Part-time / freelance work opportunities 💼
So, you’ve got your tuition and/or maintenance loan, maybe you’ve also applied for a scholarship or grant. But you’re still worried about money while studying, or in need of more income.
There are plenty of options for working while studying, but here are a few ideas that will help you earn and stay on track with your studies:
1. On-campus jobs
Many universities and colleges offer part-time job opportunities right on campus. These can include positions at the library, Students’ Union, Student Services or as a research assistant.
Get in touch with your Student’s Union, ask Student Services or search your university’s career services page to find out what jobs are available on your campus. These jobs can be a great starting point if you haven’t had much work experience, but can also be a good match for those who already have some jobs on their CV.
2. Hospitality or retail work
Retail, hospitality and customer service roles are always good options for working while studying. While these jobs may not be directly related to your field of study, they can help you develop a lot of transferable skills you will be able to leverage later in your career. ‘Soft skills’ like time management, interpersonal skills, commitment and teamwork are invaluable in the long run, no matter your career choice.
Check out websites like Indeed or pop into workplaces in person. When you decide to visit potential workplaces, make sure you look presentable and know what to say in advance, as though it were an interview.
If you have skills in writing, graphic design, programming or any other marketable skill, freelancing is a great way to earn on the side. The freelancer market is popular and, therefore, saturated, so looking for ways to make you stand out is a good idea.
For more on how to make money while studying, read our blog ‘Best tips for how to make money as a student’.
Internships, apprenticeships and work placements
Another option for how to make money while studying is to look for paid internships, apprenticeship programmes or work placements.
Note: This is primarily for students with little or no experience, so feel free to skip to the ‘Paid research opportunities’ section below if you’ve got some jobs already under your belt!
Apprenticeships are formal, employer-led schemes that involve working for the business while they also pay for an educational qualification.
In general, you’ll get 80% on-the-job learning led by the employer, and then 20% off-the-job learning led by an approved and accredited training provider. It's a great way to earn while you learn and achieve diploma qualifications, from level 2 all the way up to level 7.
Apprenticeships typically last between one and five years (depending on the level).
You can also apply for apprenticeship programs if you’ve chosen not to attend university, such as Degree Apprenticeships or Trainee Apprenticeships.
Work placements are typically completed during a ‘sandwich’ year as part of your university or college degree. Work placements are a great way to dip your toes in the water of the company or industry.
If your course or program includes a work placement, typically you’ll be assigned an employer when you start. If not, you will have to arrange your own placement. Speak to your university career centre as a starting point!
Internships are when you’re employed by a business to learn entry-level skills and get exposure to the industry. These programmes are short-term (almost always under a year, but usually only a few months or weeks).
Internships can be part-time or full-time, regardless of the working arrangement. While doing the internship, you become a temporary employee of the business and the idea is that you integrate fully into their specific team or your role.
Internships, apprenticeships and work placements are all highly competitive, so it’s important to find ways to stand out before applying - whether that’s through volunteering, work experience, extracurriculars or side gigs.
Paid research opportunities
If you're studying in a research-intensive field, ask your lecturer or department head about paid research opportunities. These positions can offer both income and help deepen your understanding of your subject.
These are especially good opportunities if you’re a mature student or a few years into your degree. There are often participation criteria, so be sure to check out the requirements in advance and apply early.
You can also look into paid research opportunities outside of your university or college. But always check that the company is legitimate before agreeing to take part in something.
Additional funding (specific circumstances)
If you have a specific circumstance, you may also be eligible for additional funding beyond maintenance and tuition loans. These can range from childcare grants to disability grants to hardship funds.
So, you might be eligible for additional funding, under the following circumstances:
Students with children or adult dependants
If you're a student with children, the government's Childcare Grant can provide financial support to help cover the cost of registered childcare services, such as nurseries or childminders.
Eligibility criteria and the amount you can receive depend on factors like your household income and the number of children you have.
Parents' learning allowance
This allowance is designed for students with dependent children, providing financial support to help with course-related expenses. It's intended to help you meet the costs associated with studying, such as books, equipment or travel.
Adult dependants' grant
If you have an adult dependent, such as a partner or elderly relative, who relies on you financially, you may be eligible for the Adult Dependants' Grant. This grant can help with the additional financial responsibility you may have while studying.
Many universities and colleges in the UK have their own hardship funds. These funds are designed to support students who are experiencing financial difficulties due to unforeseen circumstances.
No one wants to think about the worst-case scenario, especially when you’re excited about starting university. Or even when you’re halfway through with deadlines left-right-and-centre.
But hardship funds shouldn’t be seen as a monster in the closet - more like a safety net when things take an unexpected turn.
Note: The specific eligibility criteria and the amount of support available vary between institutions.
Here are some key things you should know about hardship funds:
What is a hardship fund?
If something unexpected happens, or if you’re in a specific situation where you may receive additional financial assistance, like if you’re:
A student parent
A mature student with a mortgage
A disabled student
From a low-income household and your funding cannot cover your basic expenses
Hardship funding is for those in genuine need and can be a huge help if you’re struggling financially. 🙏
Who is eligible for hardship funding?
Hardship funds are means-tested, which means they’re based on your income and expenditure. The conditions are determined by your university.
They can be either a one-off payment or might be paid in instalments. And, the good news is, they’re usually non-repayable.
Different universities also offer additional support if you meet certain criteria. Make sure you check the university website or talk to someone at Student Services to see if you can get any of this additional funding.
How do you apply for a hardship fund?
To check your eligibility, speak to your Funding Office or Student Services at your university. They'll talk you through the process and show you how to apply. Or, you can check eligibility on Blackbullion if your university’s hardship fund is listed on the Funding Hub.
Ensure you have a copy of your Student Finance entitlement letter as the university will need to see how much government funding you receive. You’ll need to provide bank statements to show that you’re in financial hardship. They may also ask for rent details as this is often the biggest expenditure for students and is where most people struggle.
If you’re looking for additional financial support, check out the following resources:
Students with a disability
Disabled students' allowance (DSA)
If you have a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition, or specific learning difficulty, you can apply for DSA to help cover the extra costs associated with your studies.
DSA can provide support for various needs, including specialist equipment, non-medical helpers and travel expenses.
University disability services
Most UK universities and colleges offer disability services, which provide tailored support and accommodations to help students with disabilities succeed in their studies.
These services can include accessible facilities, exam accommodations and additional assistance. Speak to your course provider or student support services.
1. Estranged student bursary
Estranged students - those who are separated from their families due to complex or strained relationships - often have dedicated financial support. Many universities offer estranged student bursaries or scholarships to help with living costs and ease the financial burden.
2. Educational grants and scholarships
Estranged students may also be eligible for additional grants and scholarships from charitable organisations and institutions. It's worth researching specific programs and funds tailored to estranged students.
We hope this guide on student finance and funding has helped give you a better understanding of what to expect when studying in the UK!
For a full list of scholarships, bursaries and grants in the UK, visit The Funding Hub.
If you have any questions about Blackbullion or what funding is available on our website, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find more information about scholarships, grants and bursaries here: