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Other financial support for higher education

In addition to loans for tuition fees and living costs, there are other sources of financial support. These often depend on your circumstances, course and particular needs.

Support for certain students

Extra financial support may be available if you have a particular need or responsibilities. 

  • If you have children, you may be entitled to help with your childcare costs.
  • If you are a full-time student who cares for an adult, you may be entitled to the Adult Dependants' Grant.
  • If you have a disability, specific learning difficulty or long-term health condition, you may be able to get the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA). This should cover the extra costs you will incur when studying, such as specialist equipment, travel expenses and non-medical helpers. You may also be entitled to disability-related benefits.

Support for students on particular courses

  • Extra funding may be available for those on professional healthcare courses for dual accommodation and other expenses during placements. You can find out more on the Health Careers website.
  • Medicine and dentistry students may be entitled to NHS bursary support in the latter stages of their course.
  • Certain undergraduate and postgraduate social work students may be eligible for a Social Work Bursary.
  • Funding is available for those doing certain teacher training programmes and there are additional financial incentives for those training to teach shortage subjects.
  • If you study abroad as part of your course, you may be able to get a grant to cover your travel costs and other support.

Financial support from universities and colleges

Universities and colleges that charge over £6,000 per year for tuition have to meet certain conditions on widening participation. This means that they have to take steps to encourage people from under-represented groups to enter higher education; this can include mature students. 

Each university or college decides what support it will provide, but it may include:

  • reduced tuition fees
  • no fees for a year of a course
  • a bursary

Bursaries are usually based on personal circumstances whereas scholarships are usually competitive and based on merit. Find out what support a university or college offers, the eligibility criteria and how to apply by viewing their access and participation plan (English universities only); alternatively, check the institution's website or contact their student support service.

The Which? University website and The Complete University Guide have information on bursaries and scholarships.

Once on a course, if you experience particular financial hardship, you can try approaching your university or college for extra money. Funds are paid at their discretion and priority is normally given to certain students such as lone parents or mature students with existing financial commitments. 

Other sources of funding

  • Employer sponsorships/scholarships – some employers are prepared to sponsor their employees through higher education. In addition, certain large employers, such as the Armed Forces and engineering companies, offer formal sponsorships/scholarship schemes in order to attract high-calibre students to work with them. Financial awards may be combined with paid vacation work. Find out what your obligations are, e.g. do you have to work for the employer for a certain number of years if you receive sponsorship?
  • Higher or Degree Apprenticeship can enable you to gain a vocational higher education qualification without paying fees.
  • Charitable trusts sometimes provide small grants, loans and other support to certain categories of students, e.g. those who live in a particular area. Use the Turn2us grant search to find out whether you qualify for funding.
  • Professional bodies sometimes offer scholarships and other awards to students, usually based on achievement in their area of work.

Claiming state benefits whilst studying

Many students don’t qualify for out-of-work benefits but there are exceptions. 

  • If you receive state benefits, inform the Jobcentre Plus (preferably in writing) as soon as possible that you are becoming a student; provide details on any student funding you will receive.
  • Get your benefit figures checked by your university/college or Citizens Advice Bureau as mistakes can happen!
  • Always notify the Jobcentre Plus of any changes to your circumstances. 
  • The benefits system can be complicated, but make sure you get the support to which you’re entitled.

You can find information on benefits including Universal Credit through GOV.UK. The Turn2us website has lots of useful information and advice.

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