Student Finance In the UK: How it Works & Where To Find It 

Some students might worry about the affordability of studying at university in the UK. We explore UK financial support and where students can look for scholarships.

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Student finance. 

Whisper it, but a lot of university decisions will often be heavily influenced by student finance. We love to talk about personal ambition, best-fit universities and career aspirations on our blog. 

But it’s also ok to admit that affordability is often at the front of students’ minds (not to mention that of their parents). 

What’s more, university study can often appear more prohibitively expensive for international students. 

When it comes to international university application, the UK is one of the most popular destinations in the world. But with recent rises in tuition fees and living costs frequently making the news, both nationally and internationally, your students might be understandably concerned about how they can support themselves when studying in the UK. 

Top Tip – Ensure that students make the most out of university visits to your school – university reps can answer a lot of student’s questions about financial aid. Learn more about how BridgeU can help students make the most of university visits by booking your free demo. Book my free demo

Students and parents may approach you and/or your counseling team with questions about student finance in the UK, and may even want to know about access to scholarships and additional financial aid. 

For some counselors, it can be difficult to have conversations about university fit without mentioning student finance. Ultimately, it may not be in students’ best interests to go through the application process for an institution that feels financially out of their reach. It’s important to have conversations about affordability and budget early on in the guidance process if necessary.

Equally, students shouldn’t feel deterred from applying to a particular destination because it feels very far out of their reach. 

So in the first of a series of articles focusing on financial aid, we’re going to look at student finance in the UK, and give you some insights that will help you and your students navigate it successfully. 

Student finance in the UK: EU/EEA students 

The most important thing to remember for EU/EEA students is this: they will essentially pay the same as domestic UK students. 

What does this mean? EU/EEA applicants to a UK university will pay fees capped at £9,250. EU/EEA students applying to the UK are also entitled to student loans to help them with the associated cost of study. 

How do I know if my students are eligible for financial support? 

This is a good question. Luckily, there’s a fairly straightforward answer. 

EU/EEA students applying to the UK will qualify for financial support if they meet any of the following criteria. 

  • A student is an EU national, or the family member of an EU national. 
  • They have been offered a place on an eligible course. 
  • They have been living permanently in an EEA country for three years or more. 

What support is available for my students? 

Tuition Fee Loans 

EU/EEA students applying to university in the UK are eligible for a tuition fee loan, which, as you may have guessed, helps to cover the cost of their tuition. 

Maintenance Loans 

EU/EEA students won’t qualify for maintenance loans (the only exception is if students have been living permanently in the UK before starting their UK university degree). 

What UK degree courses are eligible for student finance? 

The good news is that many academic and vocational courses will be eligible for student finance. These include a bachelor’s degree, an integrated masters’ degree, a teacher training degree, as well as vocational qualifications such as Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs). 

What student finance is available for Scotland? 

As we’ve covered in our other guides to the UK, some aspects of university study in Scotland work differently from other regions of the country. 

If you’re working with students who are preparing an application in Scotland, it’s worth noting that EU undergraduates studying in Scotland don’t have to pay any tuition fees at all. All £1,820 of their tuition fees will be covered by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (or SAAS for short). 

However, it’s worth noting that your EU applicants to Scotland will still have to pay for their cost of living while they are studying. 

What effect will Brexit have on student finance for EU applicants?

There is much uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with the EU in the aftermath of Brexit. This includes the impact on student finance for EU applicants to UK universities. The UK government has said that financial aid will remain the same for students starting university in the 2020/21 academic year. 

In the long-term, it remains to see if EU students will be charged the higher fees of their non-EU counterparts. If you have younger/middle year students already interested in the UK as a destination, then it’s worth continuing to check the UK government’s website for more developments post-2021. 

Student finance in the UK: applicants from outside the EU 

If you’re a counselor, teacher or adviser for students outside the EU/EEA, then student finance works a little bit differently. 

We should probably deliver the more difficult news first. Students applying to a UK university from outside the EU/EEA can expect to pay more money for their tuition. They must also be prepared to prove their ability to support themselves when studying in the UK. 

But, at the same time, some students and parents may mistakenly believe that they will be paying sky-high tuition fees compared to their domestic counterparts in the UK. So it’s worth looking at the cost of tuition fees in more detail. 

International student finance in the UK will vary depending on the course your students are thinking of applying for. UK university degrees start at £9,000 and can go up to nearly £26,000 for degrees such as Medicine. There are a few things worth bearing in mind for students thinking of applying to the UK. 

  • Lecture based degrees in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences will often cost less than degrees such as science or medical degrees, which will often involve the use of laboratories and more expensive equipment. 
  • Longer degrees (Medicine & Architecture for example) are likely to take longer to complete, and as such the cost of study will be higher. 

What are living costs like for non-EU international students? 

For your non-EU students applying to university in the UK, they will need to prove that they are able to support themselves when studying as an undergraduate. 

Specifically, in order to qualify for a tier 4 student visa, UK university applicants will need to prove that they have £1,015 per month in their bank account when studying. Because an academic year in the UK lasts for about 9 months, your UK applicants will need over £9,000 to support themselves through their course. 

Top Tip – BridgeU has a host of tools and resources to help your students with UK university application planning. Schedule your free demo to find out how we can help. Book my free demo

Scholarships & Other Financial Support 

As we’ve seen, international students do face a slightly more expensive university experience in the UK. Students who are preparing for their university applications might come to you with concerns about supporting themselves in another country. 

But whilst there may appear to be a number of notable financial barriers to studying at a university in the UK, students shouldn’t discount applying for a scholarship or financial aid by some other means. 

The sheer diversity of UK university scholarships and financial aid means that we can’t summarise them all here. But it’s perhaps useful to get an overview of the different kinds of scholarships out there, and how your students can go about finding them. 

If your students are looking at financial support for university in the UK, then there are two main types of scholarship that it’s worth knowing about. 

Merit-based scholarships 

These are scholarships or financial support for students who may excel academically or, in some cases, demonstrate a talent for a particular sport. It’s worth looking to see what different individual universities have on offer. 

Needs-based scholarships

These are scholarships that will be awarded based on a student’s financial need. Again, many universities will offer these so it’s worth students checking the websites of their shortlisted UK universities. 

A number of different organisations, including the UK government, will award scholarships and financial assistant to students. 

University Scholarships [Examples] 

Many individual universities will offer scholarships for international students. It’s worth students researching their preferred UK university. Many will have information about scholarships and financial aid on their own website. But a few examples of these kinds of scholarship include: 

Bristol University – Think Big! Scholarships 

Bristol University offers these scholarships to overseas students. Bristol applicants can apply for bursaries worth between £5,000 and £20,000. 

President’s Undergraduate Scholarships – Imperial College London 

This is an example of a university scholarship awarded to someone who can demonstrate academic excellence. Imperial College awards 112 of these scholarships a year. 

This is one example of a scholarship that has no formal application process – instead, students are nominated by the university’s academic department if they believe the applicant has demonstrated sufficient ability. 

The University of Manchester 

The University of Manchester is an example of a university where students would have to check with an individual faculty or school within the university. Because Manchester is one of the largest universities in the UK, different departments and faculties will treat scholarships slightly differently

The University of Westminster Undergraduate Scholarships for Developing Country Students 

This is a very specific scholarship for students of specific nationalities. As you may have guessed, these are full scholarships for international students from developing countries. If you visit the university’s website, they will give you a list of developed countries. If your students’ country is not on this list, they would be considered eligible. 

University of Liverpool Vice-Chancellor’s International Attainment Scholarship

This is a good example of a scholarship for non-EU international students. It’s worth noting that this scholarship is only available to students who are applying for non-clinical undergraduate degrees. This scholarship is only available in the first year of study and students will receive the following financial support. 

  • £2,500 deducted from their fees if they achieve a minimum A*AA grades in their A-levels (or the equivalent grade in an international qualification)
  • £2,000 deducted from their fees if they achieve AAB grades or above in their A-levels or equivalent international qualification. 

Note: For students looking for university-specific scholarships, it’s worth checking the individual university’s website directly. Almost every UK university will have some kind of financial aid/scholarship information and how to apply for it. 

Government-Funded Scholarships & Bursaries 

GREAT Scholarships 

These scholarships are jointly funded by the UK government and certain UK institutions. GREAT scholarships are aimed at students in six countries: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey

Note: Some countries in the GREAT scholarship scheme will only offer postgraduate financial aid to international students. If your students are applying as a citizen of any of these countries, they should check the requirements carefully. 

The British Council

If your students are thinking of studying in the UK, it’s worth checking the British Council website for their country of origin. Each website will have scholarship and student finance information for students wishing to take up a university place in the UK. 

Student finance in the UK: tips for your students

Start early 

If you’re exploring UK university options with your students and they come to you about scholarships and/or student finance, it’s helpful that they start early, and start researching student finance alongside their existing university research. 

Indeed, as we’ve seen, a number of UK universities will offer scholarship information on their website – meaning that students can factor scholarship deadlines into the wider university application process. 

Don’t limit your horizons 

We understand that discussions about university pathways with your students will, in turn, include conversations about how students can support themselves whilst abroad. For some, affordability may even be a barrier to applying abroad at all. 

It’s useful to stress that there are plenty of opportunities out there. Not only does the UK offer bespoke student finance support for EU students, but many universities have their own scholarships for international applicants from multiple countries. 

Take it from us –  UK universities really want to hear from international students! There are a lot of awards and bursaries out there. 

Be prepared

We’re always talking about how important it is for students to be organised and proactive during the course of the university application process. 

Scholarships will require an extra layer of university preparation. It will involve writing more essays and preparing more paperwork. That’s why we stress (again) the importance of getting started early. 

But most importantly of all – have the conversation with students about finance. Some students may not want to bring up the issue of financial aid, or the affordability of studying abroad; some may also feel unsure about how to have the conversation with their parents and family. 

We hope some of the resources we’ve listed here will help you if students do come to you with questions about financial aid. If you’re keen to learn more about how BridgeU can help students more effectively research universities in the UK, book your free demo with us. 

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