Student Finance: loans, budgeting, and support

Student Finance can be a very overwhelming thing when you start university. Getting everything sorted in time and working out how you are going to be able to afford to live can be stressful. I have covered below the main facts about student loans, how to budget your loan and where to go if you are struggling financially.

Sign up to student finance

Student Finance is where you can apply to get a maintenance loan and a tuition loan. For undergrad students the amount of loan you get is based off your parents’ income. This means that if you get the lowest loan, it is because your parents are on a high salary This means your parents are meant to make up the extra money from their income and help you fund university. For postgrad students, you can apply for however much you want, and it is not based on anyone’s income. However, there are certain requirements so you will need to check these out.

The deadline for undergrad students is usually in May, so 4 months before your course starts (usually end of September). For returning students the date is a bit later, usually in June. If you miss the deadline, you should still apply, it just means your loan will not come out at the same time as everyone else’s.

Student finance normally opens in January for courses starting in September for undergrad students. For masters’ students, student finance opens end of July/ start of august.

Who can get a loan?

You will need to check if you are eligible for a student loan. This can depend on your age, your nationality, whether you have already done a degree and a few other factors:

  1. Your university – your university should be offering a qualifying course
  2. Your course – your course needs to be recognised
  3. If you are studying full-time, you will be eligible if you are studying a BA, BSc or BEd, a foundation degree, a certificate of higher education, a DipHE, a HND, a HNC, a master’s degree, a pre-registration postgrad healthcare course
  4. OR if you are studying a part-time course, you need a course intensity of 25% or more to be eligible
  5. To be eligible for a maintenance loan your course needs to be BA, BSc or Bed, a teacher training course, a master’s degree, a foundation degree in dental hygiene, a DipHE in dental hygiene
  6. If you have previously done an undergrad degree, you won’t get student finance for the next degree. There may be some exemptions.
  7. If you have changed course or are redoing a year you should still be eligible.
  8. If you are over 60 you may get limited maintenance loan
  9. Nationality – you can apply for a tuition loan if you have lived in UK, the EU, Gibraltar, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland for the past 3 years

Check out the Student Finance website for more information as rules can change.

Tuition fees

For undergrad students, the tuition fee gets paid directly to the university. So, all you must do is pay back the student loan company when you start earning over the threshold.

For postgrad students, you will receive one loan that needs to cover your tuition fees and any maintenance costs. So, you will personally need to pay the university for your course.

Maintenance loan

The maintenance loan is meant to cover any accommodation and living costs for undergrad students. For postgrad students you are left with your one loan minus the cost of your living fees and that’s what you have left to spend on any accommodation/ food/ free time.

Sometimes it’s the case that your maintenance loan will hardly even cover your accommodation. If this is the case, then your parents are supposed to help you out if you are on an undergrad course due to the loan being based of their income. I know a lot of the time parents choose not to help out, meaning students need to find a way to get more money or get better at making their money last.

What if I don’t live in university accommodation?

So, your maintenance loan is to cover your accommodation when living at university. If you have chosen to commute and live from home, then you will be offered a lower loan.

Your maintenance loan also needs to cover your food, nights out and anything else you want to do in your free time, so effectively your living costs.

Budgeting your loan

If you have quite a tight loan, then you may need to work on your budgeting skills. One choice is to give yourself a weekly budget and record your outgoing so that you do not go over your set budget. Alternatively, if that sounds like too much maths then you can take the other route and find the cheaper ways to live.

Buy second had books

When your course starts you will be expected to buy a range of books. You may need 1 or you may need 6. Of course, the latter can make it quite expensive. These books brand new can sometimes come to £100 per book. The best thing to do is buy them second hand so they are cheaper. Check out eBay and amazon, they usually have all the books on there. I manged to get mine second hand through the university bookstore where old students had handed there’s in. I was able to sell my books when I was finished through the University Facebook page so you could also check if anyone in the year above is selling them online.

Student discount sites

I cannot stress this point enough! Sign up to the student discount sites! The main ones include Student Beans and UNIdays. They have offers ranging from clothing to restaurants to hotels for weekends away, so it is well worth checking them out before you do things.

Home cooked meals

Learn how to cook!! The number of takeaways you will go through after nights out is crazy so the best thing to do is get learning how to cook so you can start saving on takeaways,

2 for 1 happy hour

Paying £10 for a single cocktail is outrageous! So, make sure you find out when the happy hours are. Google all your favourite places, or new places you want to check out and see when it is cheapest to go. With your student timetable giving you plenty of free time you will always be able to work in a happy hour.

Train pass

The train is how the majority of students get back home to see family or friends. The train can be extremely expensive depending on where you live. Even some 1 hour journey’s can cost £30 and more.

So, a good thing to invest in is a student train pass that lasts 3 years. It currently costs £70 (28/01/2022) for the 3 years and it gives you a 1/3 off all your train tickets, so it is well worth it in the long run.

You can also gain a student train pass when you sign up to certain student bank accounts so make sure you check this out before you purchase one.

How to get extra money

If you do not get as much student loan as others and you are struggling a little for cash, then there are a few things you can do.


The first thing you can try is to gain a scholarship. Some universities award them to people without have to apply. Some universities ask you to apply for a scholarship, so make sure you read the guidance, so you do not miss out.

You don’t just have to be sporty to gain a scholarship. You can get them for things like you academic results, you attitude towards university and you past experience.

Some scholarships offer free tuition, and some will offer money off your tuition so if you get a chance to apply then you’ve got nothing to lose.


Bursaries are given by the university to help you with living costs. For most bursaries you do not need to apply 0 but do check! Student finance will have the information they need to offer you a bursary if you meet the requirements. This bursary for university students is usually around £500-800 for the year to help you out.

There are a few requirements you need to meet which usually include (28/01/2022):

  • Be a full-time home undergrad or foundation degree student
  • Be eligible for a tuition fee
  • Have a household income of less than £25,000


Part time jobs

There will be a number of part-time jobs available to you in the city you are in. This can include little café jobs, nightclub shifts, waitressing, retail, etc. Try looking on websites like to see what’s available.

You can also speak to your employability team to help you find somewhere.

Student jobs

Additionally, you can get a part-time job where you work at your university. This can include things like working the open days, being a mentor for younger students, working on the receptions, or working in the university cafes.


This is not a recommended option, but lots of student bank accounts can let you apply for an overdraft that is interest-free for a certain amount of time.

You should only really use this option if you know you will be able to pay this off asap.

Student Services

If you are still struggling to pay off your rent and live comfortably then you need to reach out to student services who can point you in the right direction to get financial help. You university is always willing to help so if you need it make sure you do reach out.

Final Thoughts

So, Student Finance can be quite a lot to get your head around! I hope this guide has covered everything you were looking for. My main tips would be to apply as early as you can so your money will arrive as soon as you start your course and there are no delays. If you know you will be getting the minimum loan it may be a good shout to start looking for part-time jobs before you get there so you can see who is hiring and what is available.

Another thing is to remember that your money needs to last you a whole term so it is so important that you do not spend it in the first two weeks on university as you will not be able to get an early loan.

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