Tuition fee loans
Studying in the UK
If you live in Northern Ireland and are applying to university in the UK you may be able to borrow money to cover the cost of your tuition fees.
The money will be paid directly to the university or college.
If you are not sure if a course qualifies for student finance, check with the university or college.
How much can I borrow?
If you live in Northern Ireland and study in Northern Ireland, you can borrow up to £4,275 for each year of full-time study.
If you study in England, Scotland or Wales you can borrow up to £9,250 if you study at a public university or college, and if you are studying part-time, you can borrow up to £6,935. This is because the maximum fee they can charge is higher than in Northern Ireland. You can borrow up to £4,275 if you study at a private university or college.
If you are doing an accelerated degree in England you can apply for up to £11,100.
Studying in the Republic of Ireland
If you study at a public university or college in the Republic of Ireland you won’t pay a tuition fee. You will need to pay an annual student contribution fee of €3,000 and you can take out a Student Contribution Loan for this.
How to find out more about tuition fee loans
Student Finance Northern Ireland has more information about tuition fee loans.
You can also find advice and tips on MoneySavingExpert.
Grants and loans for living costs
You don’t have to pay back a grant unless you have been paid too much. This can happen if you leave the course early or drop out.
The grant will be paid directly into your bank account.
This is a grant to help you with your living costs while you are studying.
It is only available if your household income is £41,065 or less.
You can apply for a maintenance grant as well as a maintenance loan.
Special Support Grant
A Special Support Grant may be available if your household income is £41,065 or less and you meet the other eligibility criteria.
There are also loans to help you pay for accommodation and other living costs. They are known as maintenance loans.
Maintenance loans are partially ‘means tested’ and are based on either your parents’ income or your own, depending on your circumstances. The more you or your parents earn, the less you’ll receive.
The loan will be paid directly into your bank account at the start of each term. Your university or college needs to confirm your attendance before payment is made.
Maintenance loans are only available if you are under 60 in the first day of the first academic year of your course.
How much can I get?
The Student Finance NI website provides an up-to-date list of the support that is available.
Repaying your loan
You will need to pay back your Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Loan. You do not need to pay back other student finance, for example grants and bursaries, unless you’ve been paid too much.
You’ll only start repaying when your income is over the threshold amount for your repayment plan. The threshold amounts change on 6 April every year.
The earliest you’ll start repaying is either:
- the April after you leave your course
- the April 4 years after the course started, if you’re studying part-time
Your repayments automatically stop if either:
- you stop working
- your income goes below the threshold.
For detailed information on how and when to repay, visit the Student Loans Company website for repayment information.
Bursaries, grants and scholarships
You don’t need to pay back a bursary, grant or scholarship.
Scholarships are generally for those who do very well academically, or excel in sport or music.
Bursaries and grants are usually awarded to students based on their personal circumstances. This could be having a low income or being from a background where fewer people go to uni.
How to find out more about bursaries and scholarships
University and college websites will have information about bursaries and scholarships. They will tell you what criteria you need to meet. If you’re not sure if you’re eligible then you can contact them.
You can find links to bursary and scholarship information on our course pages.
There is extra help available for:
- Care leavers or students who are estranged from their parents
- Students who have dependent children, or who are caring for an adult
- Disabled students
- Students who have a low household income.
A fee waiver is when a university of college pays part, and occasionally all, of a student’s tuition fee. This means you will need to borrow less money.
This is an option that might be offered to you if you’re on a low income.
If you are disabled or have additional needs, you may be able to get Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) to cover any extra study costs. This can include mental health conditions, epilepsy or dyslexia.
You will need to be assessed or provide evidence, but there’s money available to pay for:
- specialist equipment or software
- a non-medical helper
- other things that help your studies such as travel, books, or printing.
Disabled Students’ Allowances do not depend on your household income and do not need to be paid back.
Student Finance NI has more information about eligibility and maximum amounts for DSA.
Disability Rights UK has factsheets about DSA and other useful information.
In addition to the bursaries and grants available to many other students, care leavers might be able to get extra help.
There are charities and foundations that can provide support.
Propel has been set up by Become, the charity for children in care and young care leavers, and has a wealth of information around financial support across the UK.
The Unite Foundation works in partnership with 27 universities across the UK and offers bursaries and scholarships. You will need to apply for these and they are not guaranteed.
University or college bursaries
Universities and colleges often have grants and bursaries for care experienced students. These may include:
- fee waivers
- fee reductions
- reduced accommodation fees
You can check what you may be entitled to with your chosen university or college.
If you are estranged from your family, your parents’ income is not taken into account for student finance. You can also sometimes get extra help from other sources.
StandAlone is a charity that offers extra support for young people (18–25 years old for student finance) who become estranged from their family.
Students caring for children or for an adult
You may be able to get help in the form of a grant. This does not have to be paid back and is on top of other student finance.
Childcare Grant (full-time students only)
Parents’ Learning Allowance (full-time students only)
Adult Dependants’ Grant (full-time students only)
Travel Grant (available to students on eligible courses)
Students experiencing financial hardship
Your university or college may give you extra money if you’re experiencing financial hardship. They will decide if you’re eligible and how much you will get. Check with them to see if you can apply.
Other things to consider
Working while studying
Working while studying can help. You can work part-time while studying, as well as working during summer holidays.
If you do a degree or higher level apprenticeship, you will work alongside studying and be paid for it.
Your employer will also pay your tuition fees.
You may be receiving larger amounts of money than you are used to managing. It’s important to budget so that you can make it last.
You can find advice on budgeting at:
Applying for student finance
If you’re thinking of attending university or college this year, you should apply for student finance now. Just use your first choice of course and then change your application if you need to. Student Finance NI has published guidance on how to apply.
If you apply for a higher amount of student finance based on your household income, make sure to ask your parents or partner to provide their financial information as soon as possible to avoid delays to your application.
It usually takes 6 to 8 weeks to process an application, there’s no need to call SFNI for an update while they do this. While you’re waiting for an update you should check your ‘to-do list’ in your online account in case they need more information or evidence from you. If you do not complete the actions on your ‘to-do list’, your application will not be able to be progressed.
For general information on student finance, visit the Student Finance NI website.
You will need a bank account to apply for student finance. There are a number of student bank accounts that offer a range of incentives. To be accepted you will need a confirmation letter from UCAS or from university.
For more information visit MoneySavingExpert - student bank accounts.