Money for higher education students

Date last updated: 30 June 2019

Financial support for studying as a single parent

On this page, you can find out more about the types of financial support available to single parents who are starting higher education from September 2019.

Higher education is usually considered to be courses above level three. It includes foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, National Health Service courses, Higher National Diplomas, teacher training and other professional courses. Courses usually take place at a university or adult education college.

How to apply to Student Finance

Student Finance  is the name given to grants and loans available to help towards your living costs and other expenses while you are in higher education.

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.

Financial support you can receive while studying

Depending on your location and studying status, there are different grants and loans you may be entitled to. Click on the description below which best fits your situation to see what payments you may be eligible to receive.

It’s also important to check how applying for student finance may affect your benefits.

Full-time undergraduate student (England)

Student loan for fees

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 £9,250.

Maximum loan for living costs

If you are a single parent and have a child under the age of 20 in full-time education or training, you will be entitled to a maintenance loan and an additional special support loan to help pay for living costs. The maximum loan is slightly lower for the final year of your course.

Note: If you are a single parent with a child under 20 who is not in full-time education, the amount you will receive may be different. Please contact Student Finance England for more information.

Maintenance loan

The maximum amount of maintenance loan available to eligible single parents for 2019/20 is:

  • £8,944 a year for students studying outside of London
  • £11,672 for students studying in London.

Special support element

Single parents and other groups of people (including disabled people and carers) can qualify for an additional special support element. This is added to your overall student loan and is included in the amounts above.

The special support element should be marked separately from your maintenance loan so you can see how much you are receiving. This special support element is not classed as income for means-tested benefits.

You will start paying this additional amount back along with the rest of your student loan once you are earning over £21,000.

Full-time undergraduate student (Wales)

Student loan for fees

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. If you are studying in Wales the maximum loan is for £9,000. If you are studying in  England, Northern Ireland or Scotland the maximum loan is £9,250.

Welsh students can get a tuition fee loan of up to £9,250 to cover the cost of tuition fees. The Tuition Fee Loan isn’t income-assessed, and is only repaid once you’ve graduated and you’re earning over £25,725 a year.

Maintenance loans for living costs

The maximum amount of maintenance loan available for students in 2018/19:

  • £8,100 a year for students studying outside of London
  • £10,124 a year for students studying in London.

Special support grant

Single parents and other groups of people (including disabled people and carers) can qualify for a special support grant which doesn’t have to be repaid. This is in place of the Welsh Assembly Learning Grant, which is sometimes available to other students.

Receiving this grant does not affect the amount of your student loan for maintenance. Students starting in the 2018/19 academic year can get up to £5,161.

See Student Finance Wales for more information.

Part-time undergraduate student (England)

If you are studying part-time you can apply for a loan of up to £6,935 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. Student finance for part-time students is available for a maximum of eight years.

Part-time students can also apply to their university or college hardship fund. Part-time students with a disability can also access disabled students’ allowances.

Part-time undergraduate student (Wales)

Tuition fee loan

If you’re a new part-time student starting your course on or after 1 September 2016, you could get a tuition fee loan. If you are part-time studying in Wales the maximum loan is for £2,625. If you are part-time studying in  England, Northern Ireland or Scotland the maximum loan is £6,935.

Course grant

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. Part-time students can also apply to their university financial contingency fund. Part-time students with a disability can also access disabled students’ allowances.

See Student Finance Wales for more information.

Postgraduate student (England & Wales)

If you’re a new postgraduate student starting a masters course on or after 1 August 2019, you could get a student loan up to a maximum value of £10,906.

If you live in Wales, you can apply for Postgraduate Master’s Finance, which offers up to £17,000 as a combination of grant and loan.

Visit the Prospects funding postgraduate study webpage to find out if your postgraduate course will be eligible for a masters loan. You can also find information about other possible sources of postgraduate funding on the Prospects website.

For PhD students, new loans of up to £25,000 are being introduced for the 2018/19 academic year. More information is available on the Prospects website.

For PhD students studying before these loans are available, there are number of other possible sources of funding. Information on these is also on the Prospects website.

Additional funding options

Childcare grant

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 do not have to repay this money as it is a grant. You can get help with up to 85% of your costs. The maximum amounts are:

Parents’ learning allowance

You qualify for this if you study full-time and have a dependent child. It is up to £1,716 in England and £1,167.75 a year in Wales. It does not affect your benefits or tax credits. You do not have to repay this grant.

Adult dependents’ 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 £2,834 a year in England and £2,732 in Wales. You do not have to repay this grant.

Additional bursaries and grants

Your university may offer additional bursaries and grants depending on your income and other circumstances. The money does not have to be repaid. Most universities have a hardship or 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 advise you.

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 get. These allowances do not have to be repaid.

Part-time students can apply as long as you are taking the equivalent of at least 25% of the full-time course. To find out the rates for eligible part-time students, please contact Student Finance England or Student Finance Wales for more information.

Study in UK’s guide provides additional information about studying in the UK as a disabled student, including information on scholarships and loans.

Single parent Jacquie chats to Gingerbread about the financial support she received while studying for her degree (2014-2017), as well as the value of her journey through higher education.

Considerations when applying for Student Finance

Most students who want funding for their studies 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.

Will applying for Student Finance affect my benefits?

Certain types of student finance are counted as income when calculating your benefit entitlements. Find out how your benefits may be affected when studying.

Will my income or my family’s income be taken into account?

As a single parent you are classed as an independent student. This means that your parents’ income isn’t taken into consideration when working out your student finance. This applies even if you live with your parents.

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 have other sources of income.

Is funding the same whether I live in England or Wales?

Some funding for students will be different depending on whether you come from England or Wales. An English student is someone who normally lives in England but is studying anywhere in the UK.

A Welsh student is someone who normally lives in Wales but is studying anywhere in the UK.

Do I have to repay the student finance I get?

Some types of student finance are grants and bursaries, 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 start repaying their loan once they are earning over £21,000 a year, starting from the April four years after the start of your course or the April after you leave your course, whichever comes first.

Financial help if you want to be a health professional, social worker or teacher

Financial help if you are training to be a health professional

From 1 August 2017 onward new nursing, midwifery, and most allied health students will no longer receive NHS bursaries. Instead, they will have access to the same student loans system as other students. You can visit the NHS Business Services Authority website to see if you should apply for a student loan or for a bursary.

NHS Bursaries are still available if you are studying to be a doctor, dentist, dental hygienist or dental therapist. 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.

NHS bursary

Students who are eligible for a NHS bursary can apply for a £1,000 non-means-tested grant. In addition, students receive a means-tested bursary depending on the length of their course per year.

For more details on how much you may be entitled to, read the Gov.uk website here. You can estimate what you could be entitled to by using the online NHS bursary calculator. Visit the Gov.uk website to make your bursary application.

Note: the exact amount of NHS Bursary that is payable can only be worked out when you make your application and have been formally assessed.

Dependants’ allowance

If an adult or child is financially dependent on you, you may qualify for a means-tested non-repayable allowance. You can apply for this when you make your NHS bursary application.

Parents’ learning allowance

All students studying full-time and with a dependent child can apply for this from the NHS. You must apply for dependants’ allowance first and if you have a dependent child, you’re automatically assessed for Parent Learning Allowance.

You can claim up to £1,669 of allowance for each academic year, dependent on your household income.

Childcare Allowance

You can apply to the NHS for childcare allowance. You must apply for dependants’ allowance first. For more details see the Gov.uk website.

Funding for disabled students

You can apply for funding as a disabled student. Additional support (England and Wales) Health care students can also apply for a reduced student loan for living costs from Student Finance. Please contact Student Finance England for more information.

Financial help if you are training to be a social worker

Undergraduate social work students can apply for the same student support as other undergraduates. Social work students may also get extra funding through the social work bursary scheme. Contact your university directly for details.

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.

Financial help if you are training to be a teacher

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.

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.

Training grants of up to £7,000 to cover course fees are available for graduates wanting to become early years teachers. Bursaries are also available for graduates studying for early years teaching full-time. See the Gov.uk site for more information.

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.

If you are a full-time or part-time PGCE student you may be eligible for a bursary from the National College for Teaching and Leadership. The amount you receive will depend on the subject you teach and your degree result.

For more information on training to be a teacher, bursaries and student finance available, visit the Department for Education get into teaching website (England) or the Welsh Assembly (Wales).

Benefits while you're studying

If you are claiming benefits, these may be affected by your student finance.

Find out more

Studying as a single parent

Understand your childcare options as a single parent and how studying may affect your work and tax credits in our education guide.

Education