If you plan to study for a degree, you will most likely be expected to pay for your tuition and to help with this, you may be entitled to borrow the money from Student Finance England (SFE). Any amount you borrow in this way to cover your tuition fees is called a Student Loan, any amount you borrow to help you with your living costs (mainly your rent) is called a Maintenance Loan and, collectively with various grants, this sort of funding is called Student Finance.

To try to keep it as simple as possible, we’ll concentrate this article on the Student Loan for your tuition fees and look at living costs separately in another blog very soon. We’ve listed at the end of the blog some key websites and telephone numbers which can help with all this and explain the exceptions to the rule and any eligibility criteria, but here is a very simple overview to get you started.

Step (1) – Use the Student Finance Calculator

This is a free online tool (details below) to help you work out how much you are entitled to borrow from Student Finance England (SFE). It is based on your household income and (still trying to keep it simple), this will typically include your parents’ income as well.

As they should already know what their income is, it should be fairly easy to work out how much Student Finance you are entitled to, even before you have made your Firm choice on Track (see: bit.ly/2mcijmo) or actually applied for the funding.

Knowing how much you can then afford to pay for your tuition fees could well be an important factor when finalising your choice of Uni and course anyway!

Step (2) – Research the Uni website

Now you know how much you are likely to receive, check the amount of tuition fees charged by the Uni that you are considering as they are not all the same. It is also a great time to look at studying for your degree at one of the Colleges or University Centres because they may not charge the same as a university offering a similar course.

Next take a look at the fees for individual course(s) as these can vary where, for example, a Foundation degree followed by a top-up course may charge different fees to a single Bachelor’s degree.

All of this could be worth taking into consideration at a time when those in Year 12 are choosing what they might want to do after sixth form and those in Year 13 are receiving offers and deciding who to put as their First Choice.

Step (3) – No need to wait

So far you have matched the amount you can afford with the amount you’ll be charged for tuition by your chosen Uni. It shouldn’t be the sole factor influencing your preferred course, but it could be important and is certainly worth consideration.

If you are planning to study full-time at Uni from September, you can apply now for Student Finance even if you haven’t finally decided which Uni you want to go to. To actually apply for funding, you’ll need to set up a Student Finance account (details below) and complete an online application form simply based on your current choice of Uni. Just make sure you’ve familiarised yourself with the detailed websites (below).

Base your application on the Uni that you are hoping to go to and you can get started. There’s no need to wait until you have received all your offers and made your Firm choice because it can take several weeks to arrange your funding and you can always switch your choice of Uni in the application relatively quickly at a later date. This could happen (a) if you apply before you finally decide on your Firm choice and it is then different to the one you put in your finance application – or (b) if you don’t make the grades in the summer and need to switch to either your Insurance choice Uni or to one via Clearing (see future Blog for more on this). Either way, it is relatively easy to update SFE on your final choice of Uni at a later date.

What happens next?

By the time you start your course, the Student Loan moneys will have been sent directly to the Uni listed in your online application so it is important to ensure that this remains accurate and that you update SFE with any changes over the coming months as required.

The funds are only applicable for one year and so you will need to reapply to SFE every year until you complete your course, but take care if you are currently a Fresher, in your first year, and thinking of switching to a different degree course in September: check first with your Uni finance office for any impact on the amount of Student Finance you can apply for.

And remember, they attract interest because they are loans – like a bank loan – rather than grants.

And after I graduate…?

Depending on how many years you study for, you could well have a sizeable amount of Student Loan owing when you graduate. However, try not to think of it as a single amount. Instead, visualise it as another type of ‘tax’ – a tax on graduates which you just have to pay every month and which is automatically taken off your payslip just like income tax and national insurance.

And you may not even have to pay it all back because (a) it doesn’t even start until you earn more than £21,000 gross taxable income (b) repayments are linked to your income so you don’t have to pay any more of this ‘tax’ until you are earning more, and (c) after 30 years any remaining debt is literally wiped clean away.


There are lots of exceptions to the rule so it is important to check the websites that specialise in Student Finance to ensure you understand your personal entitlements. And there is also a helpline: 0871 976 2170

Important – some of the websites where you can find more of the detail:

  • Student Finance England
  • Student Finance – the Government website
  • Student Finance Zone on The Student Room website
  • Student Finance Calculator
  • You Tube video overview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaHKUvHQXVc

And if you have applied to UWE, there is a Pre-entry Money Advice Line available where you can speak to someone at the University in the UWE Money Advice and Finance Service anytime from November to August between 2.00-4.00pm on 0117 328 5432 or email them on [email protected]

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