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Higher education is usually considered to be courses above level three. It includes undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, National Health Service courses, Higher National Diplomas, teacher training and other professional courses. Usually, courses take place at a university or adult education college.
If your course is at level three or below, such as A-levels, GCSEs or NVQs, it is considered to be further education. If you are unsure whether the course you intend to study is considered further or higher education, contact your course provider.
For more information see our factsheet on money for further education
This is the name given to grants and loans available to help towards your living costs and other expenses while you are in higher education.
As a single parent you are classed as an independent student. This means that if you live with your parents, their income isn’t taken into consideration when working out your student finance.
Most of your income is ignored when calculating your entitlement to student finance. -Income from work isn’t taken into account and most single parents will qualify for the highest levels of support, unless you or your children have other sources of income.
Most students apply to Student Finance England or Wales. If you’re taking a course in health care or social work you may also need to apply elsewhere – see page four.
You can apply online. To make sure you get your money in time for the start of the course, you should apply several months before your course starts. You don’t need to wait until your place is confirmed. For new students the deadline for the application is the May before your course starts. You can make a late application, but it will probably mean your payments will be delayed.
Your application should be processed within six weeks. Most types of student finance are paid in three instalments, at the beginning of each term.
Some funding for students will be different depending on whether you come from England or Wales. This factsheet will state whether the funding is for English or Welsh students or both.
A Welsh student is someone who normally lives in Wales but is studying anywhere in the UK.
Some types of student finance are grants, which don’t have to be repaid. However, the main types of student finance are loans, which are repayable.
If you’re a full-time student and started your course in September 2012 or later, you will start repaying your loan once you have finished the course and are earning over £21,000 a year.
Part-time students who have been studying for three years will start paying back the loan if they start earning over £21,000 while they are studying.
Organisation: Student Finance England
Details: Information about student support in England. Use the website to calculate the amount of support you may be entitled to, apply online and monitor your application.
Phone: 0845 300 5090
Student loan for fees (England and Wales)
You aren’t expected to pay any of your fees upfront if you qualify for a tuition fee loan. The loan is paid directly to the university or college. In England the maximum loan is for £9,000.
Welsh students can get a tuition fee loan of up to £3,8106. If the fees are higher than this you can get a fee grant of up to £5,190 to cover the shortfall, which doesn’t have to be repaid.
Student loan for maintenance
The student loan for maintenance is to help pay for your living costs. The maximum loan is slightly lower for the final year of your course.
The maximum amount of the loan available is:
● £5,740 a year for independent students studying outside of London
● £8,009 a year for independent students studying in London.
The maximum amount of the loan is:
● £5,376 a year for independent students studying outside of London
● £7,532 a year for independent students studying in London.
Special support grant (England and Wales)
Single parents and other groups of people (including disabled people and carers) can qualify for a special support grant. This is in place of a maintenance grant, which is usually available to other students. Receiving this grant does not affect the amount of your student loan for maintenance.
Students starting in the 2015/16 academic year can get up to £3,387 (England) and £5,161 (Wales).
This helps towards the costs of childcare for children aged up to 15 (or 17 if the child has special educational needs). The childcare must be Ofsted registered or approved. It can cover childcare costs for the holidays as well as term-time.
You can get help with up to 85 per cent of your costs. The maximum amounts are:
Two or more children
Parents' learning allowance
You qualify for this if you study full-time and have a dependent child. It is up to £1,553 in England and £1,557 a year in Wales. It does not affect your benefits or tax credits.
Adult dependants’ grant
If an adult is financially dependent on you, for example an elderly or disabled relative, you may be eligible for the adult dependants’ grant. The maximum available is £2,757 a year in England and £2,732 in Wales.
Your university may offer additional bursaries and grants depending on your income and other circumstances. Most universities have an access to learning fund or a financial contingency fund to help students in times of financial difficulty. You might be able to apply for funding to cover any extra childcare costs, one-off emergency costs or exceptional costs.
Contact the student support department of the university and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Disabled students’ allowances
These help with any extra costs of studying due to disability. In addition to the amounts listed, disabled students can apply for any extra travel costs. Any other income you have does not affect the amount you receive.
Part-time students can apply as long as you are taking the equivalent of at least 25 per cent of the
One-off payment specialist equipment (for whole course)
up to £5,212 (England)
Non-medical personal helper’s allowance (a year)
up to £20,725 (England)
up to £15,543 (England)
Other disability-related expenses (a year) (maximum)
up to£1,741 (England)
up to £1,305 (England)
Example: Student finance for a single parent
Soraya has one child, aged three. She will be starting a full-time degree
course in September 2015 at Manchester University.
The course fees are £9,000 a year. She expects her childcare costs to
be about £170 a week.
Her income from part-time work will be about £3,000 in the 20115/16
academic year. She will receive the maximum amount of student finance.
Student loan for tutition fees
Special support grant
Parents’ learning allowance
£144.50 per week x 52
cent of costs paid)
apply to her university’s own access to learning funds if she needs
further help. She may also be eligible for benefits such as housing benefit
and child tax credit, especially during the university holidays.
If you are studying part-time you can apply for a loan of up to £6750 to pay for your tuition fees. There is no help available for living costs so you may also be able to claim means-tested benefits - see page five. Student finance for part-time students is available for a maximum of eight years.
As well as the funding listed below, part-time students can apply for the access to learning fund (England) and the financial contingency fund (Wales). Part-time students with a disability can also access disabled students’ allowances.
If you’re a new part-time student starting your course on or after 1 September 2015, you could get a tuition fee loan of up to £2,625 depending on the intensity of your course. You can also apply for a tuition fee loan of up to £6,750 if you’re studying elsewhere in the UK.
You can apply for a grant of up to £1,155 per year for course costs such as books and equipment. This is based on your household income and how many hours you spend studying for your course. Contact Student Finance Wales for more information. Part-time students in Wales can also apply for the parents’ learning allowance, childcare grant, adult dependants’ grant and disabled students’ allowance, which will be awarded as a reduced amount depending on the proportion of a full-time course you are studying.
Funding is made up of bursaries from the NHS which you don’t have to pay back and a student loan from Student Finance. If you have previously studied in higher education, you may still be eligible for a bursary and reduced rate loan; ask at the college where you hope to study. Reduced rates of bursary are available for part-time NHS funded courses. If you receive an NHS bursary, your tuition fees are paid in full.
The following grants are paid by the NHS: Students are entitled to a £1,000 NHS bursary.
In addition, students receive the following means-tested bursary:
● £2,643 (£3,191 in London) a year for a 30 week course
● £4,491 (£5,673 in London) a year for courses lasting 45 weeks or more a year.
Note: the exact amount of NHS Bursary that is payable only be worked out when you make your application and have been formally assessed.
If an adult or child is financially dependent on you, you may qualify for a means-tested non repayable allowance:
● £2,448 for the first child/adult dependant
● an additional amount for each additional dependant: for more details see the NHS bursary calculator (above).
All students studying full-time and with a dependent child can apply for this from the NHS. It is worth up to £1,192 a year and is means-tested.
You can apply to the NHS for a childcare grant which is paid at the same rate as those on page two.
Funding for disabled students
You can apply for funding as a disabled student. See the information on page two.
Non-means-tested student loan for maintenance (England and Wales)
Health care students can also apply for a student loan for living costs from Student Finance. This is not affected by your income:
● £2,324 a year (£1,811 in the final year) for independent students studying outside of London
● £3,263 a year (£2,498 in the final year) for independent students studying in London.
Undergraduate social work students can apply for the same student support as other undergraduates – see page two. Social work students may also get extra funding through the social work bursary scheme. Contact your university directly for details. See more about the scheme at www.gov.uk/social-work-bursaries/overview.
Undergraduate and postgraduate students can also apply to Student Finance for the adult dependants’ allowance, parents’ learning allowance and childcare allowance, which are all means-tested.
In Wales, students apply for different bursaries through the Care Council for Wales.
There are several routes you can take to train to become a teacher. The student finance you can receive depends on the training you choose. Financial help for some courses, such as undergraduate or Bachelor of Education (BEd) courses, is the same as other full-time undergraduate student finance – see page two.
If you choose an employment-based initial teacher training scheme where you are placed in a school and receive a wage; you will not have to pay tuition fees. As a result, you are not eligible for student finance.
PGCE students (England and Wales).
Funding for postgraduate initial teacher training courses is different to other postgraduate courses. Usually postgraduate students are not eligible for Student Finance, but for PGCE students much of the student finance for undergraduates is available – see page two.
If you are a full-time or part-time PGCE student you may be eligible for a bursary. The amount you receive will depend on the subject you teach and your degree result. The maximum bursary available in England is £25,000 and £20,000 in Wales.
For more information on training to be a teacher
and student finance available, contact the Department for Education get into teaching website or the Welsh Assembly: http://teachertrainingcymru.org/node/16
Organisation: Care Council Wales
Details: Provides information on financial support available to social work students in Wales.
Phone: 029 2022 6257
Organisation: National Health Service Business Services Authority
Details: Administers the NHS bursary scheme and social work bursary scheme. Information about the scheme including how to apply.
Phone: 0845 358 6655 (NHS bursaries), 0845 610 1122 (social work bursaries)
Organisation: Training and Development Agency for Schools
Details: Advice and information about becoming a teacher and financial support available.
Phone: 0800 389 2500, 0800 085 0971 (Welsh speaking)
You can combine benefits and student finance in order to support yourself financially during your studies. It’s important to note that you cannot choose to claim benefits instead of applying for student finance if you are entitled to it. If you don’t apply for student finance, you are treated as receiving it when your entitlement to benefits is calculated. You must tell the offices that pay your benefits and tax credits that you are a student and about the changes to your income.
Certain types of student finance are counted as income when calculating your entitlement to income support, income-related employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit. The list below covers the main types of student finance that will reduce your benefit entitlement. To calculate the correct amount specific to your situation, you will need to seek further advice.
● The maximum amount of maintenance loan you are entitled to (even if you do not apply for it), less:
– The amount of the loan that is for books and equipment
– A fixed amount for travel costs
– £10 a week general disregard.
● Any part of a professional and career development loan that is for your living costs. If you receive lump sum payments from the access to learning funds (England) or financial contingency funds (Wales) for day-to-day living costs, it is treated as savings rather than income. If the amount you receive is for course-related costs, it is ignored completely
● NHS bursaries
● Teacher training bursaries.
Single parents with a child below the age of five can claim income support, but your student finance income may mean that you can only receive income support during the summer break (as your loan is spread over term-time, i.e. September to June). An important exception to this is if you are receiving support for mortgage interest payments as part of your income support claim. If this is the case you should get advice as you may continue to receive help with your mortgage interest payments during term-time.
You may also qualify for income support if you cannot get student finance, for example, if it is your second degree or a postgraduate qualification.
You cannot claim jobseeker’s allowance if you are a full-time student, other than exceptions for the summer holidays (see below).
If you take a part-time course of less than 16 hours of guided learning a week, you may be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance. You must continue to look for work and show that the course does not affect the hours you have agreed you are available for work. If a suitable job becomes available, you should be willing to take it.
During the summer break, the student loan for living costs is not normally counted as income. If your child is under the age of five or you are a full-time carer for someone with a disability, you may be able to claim income support during these months.
If your children are not young enough for you to claim income support you can claim jobseeker’s allowance. This is the same amount as income support, but you must be able to meet the work-seeking conditions.
There are special rules for single parents claiming jobseeker’s allowance and looking for work. See our factsheet on claiming jobseeker’s allowance for more information.
If you claim benefits during term time, tell Jobcentre Plus about your change in circumstances and ask that benefits are re-calculated in the holidays.
You cannot claim carer’s allowance if you are in full-time education of 21 hours or more a week. This includes individual study time as well as attending classes or lectures.
If you are a part time student you should check with your college to find out how many hours per week your course requires in study and attendance time. If it is less than 21 hours per week you will be able to continue claiming carer’s allowance.
There are two types of employment and support allowance – contribution-based and income-related. Each has different rules for receiving the benefit while studying. If you are entitled to contribution-based employment and support allowance, this should not be affected if you become a student.
You can only usually claim income-related employment and support allowance while studying full-time if you also receive disability living allowance or a personal independence payment.
If you do not receive disability living allowance or a personal independence payment you should be able to study part-time while claiming income-related employment and support allowance. Get advice before starting your course.
Apart from the adult dependants’ grant, student support is not taken into account when calculating tax credits. Unless you have other income you should get the maximum amount of child tax credit. If you study and work, you have to work 16 hours a week or more to get working tax credit. If you receive the childcare element of working tax credit, you cannot get a childcare grant as well.
Full-time students do not usually have to pay council tax. You will need to inform your local council that you are a student and claim the exemption.
You can apply to your local authority’s council tax reduction scheme if you are a part-time student and claiming benefits or on a low income.. The scheme allows residents on low incomes to pay a smaller proportion of their council tax bill. The reduction varies from area to area so you will need to contact your council to get the correct figure.
If you rent your home and have a low income you can claim housing benefit while you study. Your student finance income and capital will be taken into account. You are likely to receive a higher amount outside of term time as your student loan income is not taken into account then.
Universal credit is a new benefit system that will replace many of the current benefits and tax credits. A small number of single parents can claim universal credit in selected jobcentres. For more information on universal credit and how it may affect your family you can visit our universal credit webpage.
Organisation: Jobcentre Plus
Details: To claim welfare benefits including jobseekers allowance and employment and support allowance.
Phone: Telephone: 0800 055 6688 - claim line ; 0800 012 1888 - Claim line Welsh language
Organisation: Disability Rights UK
Details: Runs the former Skill
helpline providing information and advice for disabled students.
Phone: 0800 328 5050 (Disabled Students Helpline)
Organisation: Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline
Details: Free information on a range of issues including maintenance, benefits, tax credits, debt, employment, education, legal rights and holidays. Open Mondays 10am to 6pm, Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 10am to 4pm and Wednesdays 10am-1pm and 5pm to 7pm
Phone: Freephone 0808 802 0925
Organisation: National Union of Students (NUS)
Details: Offers information on a range of issues such as money, housing and health.
Phone: 0845 5210 262 (England) 02920 435 390 (Wales)
Organisation: One Parent Families Scotland Lone Parent Helpline
Details: Run by our partner organisation, the Lone Parent Helpline provides confidential advice and information for single parents in Scotland.
Phone: 0808 801 0323
Organisation: Student Finance Wales
Details: For information about the education maintenance allowance and the Welsh Assembly learning grant.
Phone: 0845 602 8845
Organisation: The Department for Education
Details: Advice and information about becoming a teacher and financial support available.
Phone: 0800 389 2500 (Teaching Information Line)
Organisation: UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs)
Details: Independent advice for students from overseas on a range of issues, including fees and Student Support.
Phone: 0207 788 9214
This factsheet covers the main types of financial support available to single parents who are starting higher education from September 2015.
If your course started before September 2015 or if you want more advice, call our helpline on 0808 802 0925. Calls are free.
Note: If you have recently come to the United Kingdom, have limited right to be here, or are from the European Union, you should get advice before applying for student finance or claiming benefits. See page six for organisations that can help.
Money for higher education students.pdf
Read our step by step guide for single parents on returning to education. We cover all the things you will need to consider, and provide some real life examples of single parents and how they completed their studies.
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