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Student Finance

Applying for Student Finance 2019/20

Don't get stumped by Student Finance – get funded! Our application walk-through has everything you need to know...

how to apply for student finance

While we can’t promise to put the 'fun' into funding (we’re money experts, not miracle workers) we can do our best to make it as painless as possible.

Here’s everything you need to know about applying for Student Finance without the drama.

Use this alongside our Big Fat Guide to Student Finance. We also cover part-time Student Finance, master's loans in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and PhD loans!

What is Student Finance?

Student Finance is the official government funding you apply for in order to pay for university tuition fees or living costs while studying.

The cash is bankrolled and regulated by the government, then doled out by an official student finance organisation – there’s one for each country in the UK.

Who can apply for Student Finance?

who can apply for student loans

Credit: BBC

Student Finance is open to UK and EU nationals who normally live in the UK. You may also be able to apply if you have refugee status, or if your folks are either Swiss nationals or Turkish workers.

There’s no upper age limit for Tuition Fee Loans, but if you're on the hunt for a Maintenance Loan to cover living costs, you’ll need to be a UK student aged under 60 to be eligible.

In Scotland, however, you'll need to be under 50 years old when your course starts, or aged between 50 and 54 and planning to return to employment after graduating.

There's also no lower age limit for any Student Finance funding, but if you're under 18, you'll need a parent or guardian to act as a guarantor until you can ratify the loan agreement yourself.

You’ll need to be studying a valid course at an approved institution (check with the uni if you’re not sure), and studying a higher education course for the first time.

If, for whatever reason, your circumstances aren’t that clear cut, your best bet is to head over to Student Finance for the full list of rules and regs!

What financial support is on offer for students?

funding for uk students

Credit: 20th Century Fox

  1. Student Loans

    Just like it says on the tin, this is borrowed cash that you’re expected to pay back at some point. The Tuition Fee Loan (for UK/EU students) covers your course fees and is paid directly to your university or college, so you never actually see, smell or touch any of it.

    UK students can also get a Maintenance Loan (click here to see how much you can get) which, like the mother of all tooth fairy payments, lands in your bank account at the start of each term (monthly in Scotland).

    You can use your Maintenance Loan for whatever you like, but the smart thing to do is put it towards your priority costs (rent, bills, food and savings) first.

  2. ‘Free money’

    Bursaries and grants are like food you've licked – they're yours to keep and they don't have to be repaid. It's well worth taking the time to see what's going and what you're eligible for, as there are loads of unusual funds out there!

    In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are grants or bursaries given by the government for living costs.

    In England, however, things have had a massive shake-up. Well, technically it's been more of a shakedown – students who started their course on or after 1st August 2016 are no longer eligible for Maintenance Grants.

    Crucially, the amount of money on offer hasn't gone down – it's just that the support is now entirely in the form of a loan, which not only has to be paid back, but also accumulates interest over time.

    If you got in before the big freeze and already receive a Maintenance Grant, don't panic! You'll be able to re-apply for it each year just as you do now. Make the most of that bad boy!

    UK students can also apply for extra support in the form of a Childcare Grant, Parents’ Learning Allowance, Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) or Adult Dependants’ Grant.

    Depending on what you’re studying, there may also be other bursaries and travel grants up for grabs – Student Finance will let you know if you’re eligible once they get your application.

Find out what happens to your Student Loan (and whether you can get funding in the future) if you drop out of uni. But before you quit, speak to your uni's welfare team or Student Money Adviser.

How much Student Finance support will you get?

If you’re eligible for the Tuition Fee Loan, you can ask for as much or as little as you like (up to the cost of the fees, obviously), no matter how much income you or your folks have coming in.

Maintenance Loans, on the other hand, are awarded on a sliding scale: the higher your household income, the less support you’ll get. How much you can apply for also varies by country.

All of this means we can’t give you precise figures, as it’s different for everybody. However, if you head to the following guides, you'll see how much you can get across the UK:

What other financial support is available?

There is more cash out there up for grabs – it's just a matter of digging it out.

Ask your uni about extra support for students from low-income backgrounds, or start sniffing out bursaries, grants and scholarships for yourself.

Applying for Student Finance

How to apply for a Student Loan

how to apply for student finance

Credit: Columbia Pictures

If you come from England, Northern Ireland or Wales, you can either apply online or by post. Scottish students can only apply online. But wherever you're from, we've got your Student Finance website and deadline listed.

Either way, you may need to send evidence in the post – things like your passport or birth certificate, or paperwork if you’re applying for extra support such as dependants’ grants or DSA.

How long does it take to apply for Student Finance?

The form has enough questions to rival University Challenge, so depending on your circumstances (and how organised you are with paperwork) allow a couple of hours to complete your application. And always double check it!

After that, the Student Finance bods reckon it can take at least six weeks to crunch the numbers and get back to you. That said, it could be longer if you leave it until peak time during the summer holidays.

In the meantime, do the following three things in order to stay on top of your finances:

  1. Estimate how much money you’ll need and, crucially, how much of it will be covered by Student Finance. Use your budget to see how the numbers pan out, and get a back-up plan in place for any shortfall
  2. Scout out scholarships, uni bursaries and charity grants
  3. Start making some cash to tide you over when you first land on campus. You won’t get your first instalment from Student Finance until you've registered at your uni, so you may need to get by until your Student Loan lands.
If you change university, make sure to update Student Finance online via the 'change your application' link.

What documents do you need when you're applying for Student Finance?

what do you need to apply for student finance

Credit: 20th Century Fox

In short, you'll need paperwork, parents and steely-eyed determination to hand.

More specifically, you'll need:

  • A working email address if you're applying online. When you first register with Student Finance, they'll email you a reference number – keep hold of it! You'll need it to get official funding for the duration of your course
  • A bank account in your own name. Any maintenance money you get will be paid directly into your bank account, so set one up before you apply and make a note of the account number and sort code
  • School, uni and course details. If you don’t have a confirmed place, use the one you’re most likely to get and update it later
  • An in-date UK passport. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to send original documents (passport or birth certificate) to Student Finance. Just make sure you allow a few weeks to get them back!
  • Information about the income of your parents or parents (including National Insurance numbers and details about any savings or pensions), or for yourself if you’re applying as an independent student, or for one of the dependants’ grants. And before you do, find out what income doesn't need to be declared to avoid being short-changed on funding
  • Information about any support you’re already getting, as well as health evidence if you’re applying for DSA.
It's likely your parents will be heavily involved in your Student Finance application, as it's their income which determines how much you get! Make sure they read our parents' guide to university so they understand how it all works.

Student Finance application deadlines 2019/20

student finance deadlines

We've listed the deadlines to ensure you hit them if you want to get paid on time for courses starting or continuing in 2019.

You can still apply after this time (up to nine months after the start of the academic year) so if you go through Clearing don't worry! Just be aware that this might mean you get your Student Loan late – so always get in ASAP!

As for when you can start applying, the process tends to open in February/March each year.

Student Finance England

England student finance application

New university students: 25th May 2020

Returning students: 22nd June 2020

Apply online »


Student Finance Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland student finance application

New university students: 12th April 2019

Returning students: 28th June 2019

Apply online »


Student Awards Agency Scotland

Scotland student finance deadline

New university students: 30th June 2019

Returning students: 30th June 2019

Apply online »


Student Finance Wales

Wales student finance application

New university students: 15th May 2020

Returning students: 12th June 2020

Apply online »

5 tips for applying for Student Finance

  1. Apply early as the sooner you get your application rolling, the better. Plus you’ll have extra time to sort out any teething troubles before your course starts
  2. Do your research and ask for everything you think you’ll need (and are eligible for) up front
  3. Double-check everything before you submit! Any mistakes now will only delay when you get paid
  4. Don’t forget to re-apply for Student Finance each year!
  5. Don't panic if you miss the deadline. You can apply for Student Finance up to nine months after the start of the academic year, but the longer you leave it, the more of your own cash you’ll have to shell out in the meantime.

How to make the most of your Student Loan

We can’t say this enough: make the most of the money you get. Whether that’s making it go further or turning it into an income, you need to be proactive to make it pay!

Take a look around Save the Student to get some serious schooling in the art of student thrift, including our huge list of easy ways to save money.

Left it late to apply for funding? Check out our guide to surviving if your Student Loan is late.


Mike gaskin

Hi my son is due to start university this academic year on a three or four year course.

I am due to retire from work in February 2019 so after this date our household income will reduce.

1. When will my son need to apply for living student loan which is based on family income.

2. What income number will be used to calculate his loan . My salary pre February 2019 or post 2019.

3. When my son re applies for his second year will the loan be based on my income in 2019 or on my future income in 2020

Jake Butler

Hi Mike, thanks for getting in touch.

1. The student finance deadline is usually towards the end of May.

2. Household income is usually based on earnings for the previous tax years

3. If and when your financial situation changes you can apply for a change of circumstances.

My advice would be to further consult the student loans company themselves as to what you should do in this situation.

I hope that helps.

Viktor Pécsi

Hi, I wanted to apply today for the second academic year of my BA course. I got the error message, that I don't live in the UK long enough to do it online. I've came to live here on 9th May 2013 and the course Starts in sept 2018. So more than 5 years here, before the academic year starts. What could be the problem? I was working full time from my arrival until the start of Uni (sept 2017). Since that I'm self employed and still working continuously.

Jake Butler

Hi Viktor, I would contact student finance and/or your university about this as they should be able to advise you on what to do.

Rachel Mitchell

My son wants to apply for student finance, but he doesn't turn 18 until the end of August. The form requires a current account, but he cannot open one of those until he is 18. He has a young saver type account, but cannot use a debit card on that account. any advice?

Jake Butler

Hi Rachel, I'm not actually sure on this one. I would suggest contacting student finance to see what they would suggest as a course of action.

A Crooks

Am I eligible for a maintenance loan? UK passport holder, British parents, lived in EU from age of 1, but not born in EU.

Jake Butler

Hi, you must have lived in the UK for at least 3 years before the start of your course.

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