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I’m a student from a low income household – what extra higher education funding can I get?

By David Malcolm

Friday 15 March 2013 Higher education

If you get funding from the government in the UK to study on a higher education course in the UK or Republic of Ireland, you may be entitled to extra support if your household income (your parents’ or partner’s income plus yours) is very low. Here’s an overview of what’s available.

Is extra government funding available for full-time students from low income households?

England, Wales and Northern Ireland: if you’re studying full-time for an undergraduate or equivalent level qualification, or a postgraduate level initial teacher training qualification, you can apply for the standard package of student funding from Student Finance England, Wales or NI – but depending on your circumstances you may be able to apply for a special support grant instead of a regular maintenance grant or assembly learning grant.

You may get a special support grant if you’re eligible to receive income support or housing benefit. The amount you get is the same as the maintenance grant or assembly learning grant, but it won’t reduce the amount of maintenance loan or loan for living costs you can borrow, and isn’t taken into account when calculating the means-tested benefits you’re entitled to.

For more information, see:

Scotland: if you get your funding from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and you’re studying full-time for an undergraduate or equivalent level qualification, or a postgraduate qualification for which you can get the undergraduate package of support, you can get a higher bursary and an extra loan if your household income is low. See What funding is available in Scotland for full-time undergraduates (or equivalent) studying in the UK? for more information. And if you’re studying part-time, you can get a grant for your tuition fees if your household income is low. See What funding is available in Scotland for part-time undergraduates (or equivalent) studying in the UK?

Is extra government funding available for part-time students from low income households?

England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland: if you’re studying part-time for an undergraduate or equivalent level qualification (or a postgraduate level initial teacher training qualification for England and Wales only), you can get higher grants from SAAS, Student Finance England, Wales or NI if your household income is low. However, if you get your funding from Student Finance England, you can only get grants for part-time study if your course began before 1 September 2012.

For more information, see:

What extra support can I get?

You may be entitled to support from your university or college, eg you may get a bursary as part of the National Scholarship Programme. 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?

What other support can I get?

You may be entitled to income support or other benefits from the government. For more information, see Alternative sources of student funding overview.

Northern Ireland: if you live in Northern Ireland and want to take an undergraduate degree course at a university in the UK or Republic of Ireland, you may be able to get financial support from All Ireland Scholarship Scheme. Scholarships of £5,500 a year are awarded to high achieving students from challenging economic backgrounds – however, only 25 students can get a scholarship each year. For more information, see All Ireland Scholarships.

What if I’m in financial difficulty?

All colleges and universities run a discretionary hardship fund, and you may be able to get help from these funds if you’re facing financial difficulties. You may be able to get help in the form grants or short-term loans.

The funds are called different things depending on where you study:

Whatever the name, they might be able to help you with grants or short-term loans. You’ll need to apply – ask your institution advice centre about how to do it – and no funding is guaranteed, but most institutions will be as sympathetic as possible.

See Where do I go for help if I’m in financial difficulty? for more.

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.