Guide to Student Finance in Wales 2016
Baffled by Welsh Student Finance? No need to wing it: our bite-size guide can help you make sense of the funding on offer – and how to get your claws on it!
If you like the sound of studying in Wales (or are a Welsh student with broader horizons in mind), this guide can clue you in on what uni costs, as well as how to pay for it.
The short story is Student Finance rules 'n' regs vary. A lot. What you can get really comes down to which part of the UK handles your funding. This guide takes a look at what's available from the Welsh government for students from Wales and the EU.
What's on this page?
- Most first-time students can get help to pay for fees – you won’t need to cough up everything in one go!
- Students from Wales can get bumper bonuses (free cash!) which cap how much you’ll have to borrow
- There's other funding for living costs, special circumstances and emergencies, some of which doesn't have to be paid back
- If you opt for a Student Loan, you won’t need to start paying it back until you’ve left your course and are earning more than £21,000
- Any remaining Loan you haven’t repaid after 30 years is written off.
In line with the rest of the UK, Welsh universities can charge UK and EU students up to £9,000/year (unless they’re private institutions, which can charge what they like). In practice, Welsh and EU students won't have to pay more than £3,900 a year. See how it works below.
Either way, most first-time students needn't worry about paying the fees straight away. If you're eligible, you could get a Tuition Loan (a loan on special terms just for students) to cover the cost while you study.
International students can expect to pay more than UK and EU students – typically £13,000/year and up – and, unless you meet the nationality and residence requirements, you won't be in line for any grants or loans from UK Student Finance to help pay for it.
Living costs: we’re talking rent, ents, bills, buses, stationery, saucepans and pants. Plus you could have extra course costs on top, such as printing, presentations, specialist kit or field trips.
It’s worth planning ahead for potential spending and where you’ll get the money from (hint: Student Finance doesn’t always go as far as you think it will!). Not sure how to get started? Take a stab at it with our money planner.
How to pay for university
Each part of the UK sets its own criteria on who can get funding. At a pinch, to get the full monty of Welsh fees and maintenance swag you'll need to be a UK national, have lived in Wales for at least 3 years, and not previously started a degree.
EU students can also apply for the Tuition Loan, with limited support for others from the EEA or who have refugee status.
Contact Student Finance or ask your uni if you're not sure where you stand!
- If you're from Wales: Student Finance Wales
- If you're from Scotland: Student Awards Agency Scotland
- If you're from England: Student Finance England
- If you're from Northern Ireland: Student Finance Northern Ireland
- If you're from the EU: use the contact for the country you want to study in.
If you’re eligible for Student Finance in the UK you can choose to take out a Tuition Loan to pay for course fees. It’s not means tested, so getting it isn’t affected by how much you or your folks have coming in.
While in the rest of the UK full-time students can borrow up to £9k each year for fees, things works a little differently this side of Offa’s ditch.
Student Finance Wales forks over up to £3,900/year in a Tuition Loan, with Welsh/EU students getting a plum deal to pay for the rest: a non-repayable Tuition Fee Grant of up to £5,100 wherever you study in the UK. What that means is, if your fees are more than £3,900 a year, the government will pay the rest. The Grant’s on top of any Loan you get, isn’t means tested, and caps how much you’ll need to borrow for fees – so it’s a pretty good haul!
If you choose to study at a private uni or college, you can borrow up to £6,000/year to pay for course fees – but you won’t get the fees grant. There's also no grant for part-time students.
What's on offer in maintenance money depends on who stumps up the cash.
Funding from Student Finance Wales comes in two stripes: a Maintenance Loan, which is repayable, and a Welsh Government Learning Grant, which isn’t – you'll need to be a full-time student to get either.
They're paid directly into your bank account in termly chunks – so once you get it, you’ll need make it last!
How much is in the pot depends on whether you want your household income to be taken into consideration, as well as where you live during term. Here’s the maximum going – remember you could get less than this!
|Where you live during term||Max. Maintenance Loan (means tested)||Max. Maintenance Loan (not means tested)|
|At your parents home||£4,786||£3,590|
|Away from home, outside London||£6,183||£4,637|
|Away from home, in London||£8,662||£6,497|
This one’s just for students from Wales and is means tested – the more you, your parents or partner have coming in, the less funding you’ll get.
On the other hand, the more the Grant you get, the less Maintenance Loan you can apply for – you can’t max out both cash pots, unless you’re eligible for the Special Support Grant.
Here's a rough guide how household income affects the Grant:
|Your household income||Max learning Grant|
SSG pays out the same as the Welsh Government Learning Grant with a couple of crucial differences:
- It’s only for students who meet the criteria for extra help
- It won’t reduce the amount of Maintenance Loan you can apply for
- It won’t affect any income-related benefits you’re entitled to.
To be eligible for SSG you’ll need to have grounds for extra support, such as being single parent, having a disability or dependants, or already get certain state benefits – check the full list with Student Finance Wales.
There's less cash on offer for part-timers.
Tuition Loan: up to £2,625 if you’re at a Welsh university or college, £6,750 if you’re at a UK university or college outside Wales, and up to £4,500 at a privately funded university or college. There's no Fee Grant.
Course Grant: you won't need to repay this, but what you can get is means tested. As a rough guide, you'll need household income of less than £26k to grab the maximum Grant of £1,155. While that's no Lotto win, you may be able to get support for special circumstances, too.
While there's loads of other funding sources out there, getting your hands on them can be trickier than Derren Brown in stealth mode.
Look into our eyes Take a look at our full guide to grants, bursaries and scholarships, or ask your country’s Student Finance team about:
- Maintenance Loan top-up if your course lasts longer than 30 term-time weeks
- Childcare Grant
- Parents’ Learning Allowance
- Adult Dependants' Grant (if you're financially responsible for another adult you live with)
- Disabled Students’ Allowances
- Travel Grants.
Beyond Student Finance there's plenty in the pot – if you know where to look:
- NHS funding for eligible courses (a non-repayable grant and bursary on top of the Maintenance Loan)
- Social work bursary or support for teacher training
- Uni bursaries and scholarships
- Business sponsorships, government incentives and charity funds.
Once you take out a Student Loan, you don’t need to worry about repaying the money until you’ve left your course … or do you? Here’s what else counts.
First-up, you should know that the Loan starts brewing interest from day 1 and until you clear the final payment (or the Loan’s wiped off), so you’ll end up owing more than you actually borrowed. What interest you're charged, and when and how much you start repaying, depends on which part of the UK loans you the money.
The interest rate for Student Loans in Wales is calculated using the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus up to 3%. While that still beats the pants off most commercial loans, it’s worth remembering RPI essentially measures the rate of inflation – it can go up or down.
You don’t start repaying the Loan until you’ve left your course and earn more than £21,000/year (or £1,750 a month) in wages or other taxable income.
Once you hit the threshold, repayments are automatically docked from your wages before you get paid (unless you're self-employed, in which case it's calculated when you sort out your tax each year). Either way, you pay 9% on anything you earn above the threshold (not your whole salary!).
Crucially, if your income falls below the threshold at any time, repayments stop until you’re back over the line.
Here’s what your monthly repayments could look like (remember these are just guide figures!):
|Yearly salary||Plan 2 monthly repayments|
You can choose to pay extra towards your Loan, or pay it off in full at any time – but whether it’s worth it needs some sussing out! The way repayments work right now, the more you go on to earn, the more you’ll pay back towards your Loan. By the same token, the less you earn, the less you’ll pay back. That means there’s a chance you may not clear your full Loan amount through salary repayments – and then anything not paid back after 30 years gets written on.
Loan repayment can be a ‘mare to get your mind round, but we’ve made it as simple as possible in our Loans Lowdown. Take a look before you take one out (or turn your nose up!).
A bit of a mouthful for what’s actually a sweet deal: take out a Maintenance Loan in Wales and, when you make your first repayment, the Welsh Government will pay off up to £1,500 of your balance. Check with Student Finance Wales for the smallprint!
- Make a budget when you start applying for uni: it’ll give you an idea how much you need to get by and where you can cut costs if you need to.
- Apply for Student Finance sooner rather than later. It’ll give you time to chase paperwork, send in evidence and iron out any bungles.
- Know what counts as taxable income so you're not stiffed on Student Finance (bonus: it could also help you avoid unnecessary Loan repayments).
- You won’t get your first Loan/Grant instalment until you officially register on your course – keep some cash to hand for when you land on campus.
- If you can afford to, slice off a bit of every Loan or Grant payment you get and stick it in a high-interest savings account: you could turn it into no-effort extra income.
- Don't forget to reapply for Student Finance every year of your course!
- Exhaust all the other funding options – don’t just assume you won’t get anything. Loads of students miss out on scholarships and bursaries every year because they don’t know they're there or don't bother applying!
- However you get your money, learn how to make it last.
- If part-time work isn’t an option, don’t forget there are about a gazillion ways – give or take – to make extra cash.
- Find out where your uni’s hardship funds are stashed, what’s on offer and how to get at it. You’ll thank yourself later!
Got questions? We'll set you straight. Do your thing in the comments below – we read 'em all!