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I’m a mature student – what extra higher education funding can I get?
By David Malcolm
If you’re over 25 years old or independent from your parents, you can get government funding to study for a higher education qualification in the UK, but what you can get depends on where you live, what you want to study and whether you’ve studied before. Here’s an overview.
What funding is available from the government?
England, Wales and Northern Ireland: if you’re a resident in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and you want to study full-time for your first undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification (or a postgraduate level initial teacher training qualification), you can get the same package of student support from Student Finance England, Wales or NI as all other undergraduates if you’re aged between 18 and 59 – but if you’re 60 or older at the start of your course you can’t get a maintenance loan / loan for living costs. You can get a loan for tuition fees.
However, if you’re 60 years old or older you can apply for a special support grant instead of a regular maintenance grant or assembly learning grant. The amount you get is the same as the maintenance grant or assembly learning grant, and isn’t taken into account when calculating the means-tested benefits you’re entitled to.
The amounts you can get for your maintenance loan / loan for living costs and maintenance grant / assembly learning grant depend on your income (and/or your partner’s income if you’ve had one for the last complete tax year), but any money you pay into a pension doesn’t count, and if you get a part-time job while you study, this doesn’t count towards the income that’s assessed for student finance. For more information, see:
Scotland: if you’re a resident in Scotland and you get your funding from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS ), there’s no upper age limit for most of the grants, loans or bursaries you can get to study full-time for your first undergraduate or equivalent level qualification, or a postgraduate qualification for which you can get the undergraduate package of support. However, to apply for a Student Loan for living costs you must either be under 50 years old when your course starts, or aged between 50 and 54 when your course starts and plan to return to employment after completing the course. See What funding is available in Scotland for full-time undergraduates (or equivalent) studying in the UK?
Is there any extra government funding specifically for mature students?
There’s no special funding for mature students, but you may be entitled to funding associated with other circumstances. For example, see I’m a student with children or other dependants – what extra higher education funding can I get? and I’m a disabled student – what extra higher education funding can I get?
The Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information has a useful booklet for mature students in England: You can afford to go to uni.
What if I’ve received higher education funding before?
If you’ve received government funding for higher education before (eg to complete an undergraduate degree), you may not be entitled to very much further funding. For more information, see:
But if you want to be a teacher, or study social work, medicine, dentistry or healthcare, you may be able to get a lot more funding even if you’re received funding before. For more information, see:
What about medicine, dentistry and healthcare students?
England and Wales: if you get a healthcare bursary from the NHS in England or Wales to study for a medicine, dentistry or healthcare qualification, and your course started before 1 September 2007, you may be able to get an Older Students’ Allowance (OSA).
If you were 26 years old or older before the beginning of the first academic year of your course, you can get up to £1,524 a year, depending on your course and your age when you started the course (this figure is for 2012/2013).
You can apply for this allowance as part of your NHS bursary. See part two of Financial Help for Healthcare Students for more information.
What other funding is available?
You may be entitled to extra support from your university or college. Each institution has its own rules about who qualifies for their funding, and how much you get, but if you’re undertaking a full-time undergraduate or equivalent course you may be automatically entitled to receive funding.
For more information, see Can I get higher education funding from my university or college?
If you’re studying dance, drama or production, see Can I get higher education funding to study dance and drama?
This information was updated in March 2013. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.