How to fund your degree 101

Jiscon 31 March 2021
woman using laptop

Wondering how you can afford your degree, when studying is so expensive? Find out how much uni will cost you and what loans you're entitled to.

The government has confirmed that student finance applications from new and existing full-time undergraduate learners are being accepted as usual, despite the pandemic. Before we delve into the tips and tricks to funding your degree, it’s important to know your university outgoings.

Know your tuition fees

In England, universities can charge up to £9,250 per year. This applies to UK students, as well as students from within the European Union (EU).

Find out where you can study for free

Scottish universities don't charge tuition fees to students from Scotland or elsewhere in the EU. But students from other parts of the UK must pay up to a maximum of £9,250 per year.

Work out your living costs

Your most significant living cost is likely to be your rent, so research your student accommodation options thoroughly.

Remember, there are bills that aren't included in your rent, such as internet access, water and food. You’ll also need money for insurance, clothes, toiletries, books, course materials, printing, transport (both locally and to get back home) and social activities.

Now you know how much living and studying will cost you, here are the hacks for funding it:

1. Make the most of discounts

Being a student has its perks: discounts. You can get deals on almost anything, so make sure you conduct a quick Google search before buying.

  • For train fares, get a 16-25 Railcard for a third off your travel.
  • Grab a Totum card which gives you discounts from a variety of brands, such as Pizza Express and Co-op.
  • Check out student bus fares, cinema tickets and other student offers.

2. Know your exemptions

If you live in a student house and everyone is studying full time, you don't have to pay any council tax. Apply for this exemption by phoning your local council or visit its website. Trust us, council tax is expensive, so put off paying it until the end of your student status. 

3. Check out what financial support you’re entitled to

There are some degree programmes that offer additional funding. For most degrees, you can receive two loans: maintenance and tuition. For Masters courses, see funding postgraduate study.

Part-time students studying at least 25% of the equivalent full-time course across an academic year may also be entitled to support.

 Tuition fee loans

You can get up to £9,250 a year to cover your course fees. You don't receive this money – it's paid directly to the university running your course. Part-time students may be able to get a tuition fee loan of up to £6,935.

For those studying for an accelerated degree (a two-year course instead of the traditional three), you could get up to £11,100.

Maintenance loan 

This loan is to help you with your living costs and is paid directly into your own bank account at the start of the term. The student finance calculator at GOV.UK will help you estimate how much you're likely to receive if you're from England or the EU.

The level of maintenance loan you're entitled to is related to your household income and where you plan to study. The assessment takes into account your own income, whether you're under 25, live with at least one of your parents and your parents' income. If you've had no contact with your parents for over a year, there's the possibility of applying as an estranged student.

There's no upper age limit on student loans, but in most cases you cannot apply if you've studied at undergraduate level before. For full details on who qualifies for student finance, see the eligibility area at GOV.UK - Student Finance.

 4. Choose your university city wisely 

According to NatWest's Student Living Index 2020 report, the ten most affordable UK cities for students across 35 popular university cities are:

  • Manchester 
  • Cambridge 
  • Leicester 
  • Durham 
  • Belfast 
  • Liverpool 
  • York
  • Birmingham 
  • Oxford 
  • Norwich 

Find out if your maintenance loan will cover the cost of living in your chosen city.

5. Find out if you’re entitled to a hardship fund

Additional financial support is available for:

  • students on a low income
  • students with children or dependent adults
  • disabled students
  • medical, social work and teacher training students
  • students studying abroad.

To check your eligibility for extra help, visit GOV.UK - Student Finance.

You can also get help from your university, as well as charitable trusts. Non-repayable bursaries, scholarships and awards are available for students who would otherwise be unable to afford to study at this level. Contact your university to find out what's on offer, whether you're eligible and how to apply.

Meanwhile, if you find yourself in financial difficulty after your course has started, your university may be able to provide money from its hardship funds to assist you. Find out how to get financial support if you’re struggling during the pandemic.

Finally, do your research on Student Finance before applying to ensure you’re making the most out of your funding.

Thinking of going to university? Join our Student Panel and earn Amazon vouchers for your opinions on your lectures, social life and more. You’ll also get a £10 voucher just for signing up. 

Jiscon 31 March 2021