Student loans explained. Easy to understand guide to student loans system in the UK


Education in the UK is expensive but it does not mean it is unaffordable. One of the easiest ways to finance your education is to take a student loan.

Student loans system in the UK is well developed and available for many young people living in the UK and those coming from the EU countries. However, majority of students do not have enough information about student loans. That is why today we would like to give you an easy to understand guide to student loan options available in the UK.

First of all, let us start with mentioning that student loans system is not uniform for the entire United Kingdom, and it does have some differences depending on the country of student’s residence. Today, for the sake of keeping it simple, we will focus on student loans in England.

Do you live in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland? Check the official websites for student loans in these countries:


Student finance - loans for undergraduate programmes

If you are looking to fund your bachelor’s degree, you need to apply for so-called ‘student finance’. And the place for you to look for money is Student Loans Company (SLC).

You can apply for a loan at SLC for a programme taught at any university anywhere in the UK.


What are the loan types I can get?

  • Tuition fee loan,
  • Maintenance loan.

Tuition fee loans

Tuition fee loans cover the cost of your education only. In case you are eligible for this type of loan, it is going to be paid directly to the university where you study at the beginning of each term.

How much can I get as a tuition fee loan?

Usually if you study in a public university, the student finance will cover your tuition fees in full. However, there is a maximum amount, which you can get. You can compare your tuition fees with the table below to be sure:

Tuition fee loans in England
Study mode Type of education provider Loan amount
Full time Public University/College £9,000
Full time Private University/College £6,000
Part time Public University/College £6,750
Part time Private University/College £4,500
  • Please note that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have different rates for student loans

Maintenance loans

Maintenance loans are supposed to cover the cost of living as a student. It is available to full-time undergraduate students only and paid directly into student’s bank account at the beginning of each term. How much can I get as maintenance loan?

The size of maintenance loan you can get depends on your household income and other factors such as:

  • Which student loans system you are applying through (England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland);
  • Your living conditions (living in or away from your parental home);
  • Your year of study (initial application or continuing student).

If you want to get an estimate of maintenance loan available to you, you can use Student Finance Calculator 

We put together a simple table where you can see maintenance loan options offered depending on your living situation:

Maintenance Loans in England

Living conditions 1st time applicants Continuing students
Student living with parents £6904 £4675
Student living away from parents in London £10702 £8202
Student living away from parents outside London £8200 £5878
Student living and studying abroad for at least 1 academic term £9391 £6984
  • Please note that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have different rates for student loans

Who is eligible for student loans in England?

Your eligibility for a student loan depends on many different factors, such as:  
  1. Your nationality/residency status.
To be eligible for both tuition fee and maintenance loans in England:
  • You must be a UK citizen, or
  • You must hold settled status, be a resident in England and you must have been living in the UK for 3 years before you start your course, or
  • You must be a EU national/family member of a EU national, be a resident in England and you must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years before you start your course, or
  • You must be recognized as a refugee by UK Government and be a resident in England. Family members of refugees are eligible for student loans in the UK.
  • Please not that:
    • if you are a EU national but not have been living in the UK for the last 3 years, you can apply for a tuition fee loan only;
    1. Your chosen education provider.

    It must be a recognized education provider. You can check if your institution is officially recognised.

    1. Your chosen course. Eligible courses are:
    • a first degree,
    • a Foundation Degree,
    • a Certificate of Higher Education,
    • a Diploma of Higher Education,
    • a Higher National Certificate,
    • a Higher National Diploma,
    • a Postgraduate Certificate of Education,
    • Initial Teacher Training.
    1. Course study mode

    Tuition loans are available for both full and part time studies. Maintenance loans are available for full-time students only.

    1. Your previous qualifications

    You are allowed to take a student loan only for your first time degree.


    How do I repay my student loan?

    Student loans repayment will start automatically through the UK tax system as soon as you start earning £21000 or over per year. More information on student loan repayments and interest rates you can find here.

    You can also use this loan repayment calculator tool.


    Student loans for postgraduate programmes

    Up till recently there was no government backed loan scheme available for a postgraduate student in the UK. However, be ready for the biggest changes coming your way! Starting from 2016 the UK government is introducing a new postgraduate loan system, which will offer Postgraduate Loans for master’s students. Unfortunately, unlike Student Loans Company, this scheme will be available only for those studying in English universities.


    Professional and Career Development Loans

    Before this new loans system for postgraduate studies comes into force, you have an option of taking a study loan from a bank. So called Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDLs) provided by some of UK banks. The repayment conditions might be less attractive, but it is definitely easier to get.

    You can take between £300 to £10000 as a PCDL. Unlike undergraduate loans provided by Student Loans Company that you repay only when you reach a certain level of income, you must start repaying your PCDL one month after graduation, regardless of your income level.


    Who is eligible for PCDLs in the UK?

    In order to be considered for this type of loan:
    • You must be 18 year old or over; and
    • You have been living in the UK for a minimum of 3 years prior to your application; and
    • You must intend to work in the UK, EU or EEA after you graduate.

    For more information on PCDL, please visit the official government page  or ask for help from National Career Service.

    You can also check PCDL conditions offered by:

    We hope that this article answered at least some of your student loans related questions.

    If you would like to find out about one more option you have to finance your studies, why don’t you read our article on UK scholarships for international students.

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