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I’ve undertaken a higher education course before – can I get funding again?

By David Malcolm

Friday 22 March 2013 Higher education

If you began a course of higher education in the UK but didn’t finish it, or you completed a course that resulted in a qualification other than a UK honours degree, you may be eligible for more higher education funding from the government. Here’s a brief overview.

What am I eligible for if I suspended my previous course because of illness or other compelling circumstances?

If you started but didn’t complete a previous course in the UK, the support you can get for any new course may be reduced, but this depends on your reason for leaving the previous course.

If you couldn’t complete the previous course because of compelling personal circumstances (eg illness or caring responsibilities) then you should be as eligible for funding as if you hadn’t taken the earlier course. However, you’ll need to provide evidence of your circumstances to whoever provides your funding (eg Student Finance England).

However, if you get your funding from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), from the start of the 2013/2014 academic year you don’t need to provide evidence – you can claim one extra year of full funding (but you only get one extra year, so if you need to repeat a year later on you can’t also get funding for that).

What am I eligible for if I suspended my course because of other reasons?

If you didn’t complete your course for reasons other than compelling personal circumstances, the funding you can get for further study depends on where you get your funding:

  • England, Wales and Northern Ireland: you can get funding for the ordinary duration of your new course plus one year, but less any years of funded study you’ve undertaken already (partial years of previous study count as full years when calculating what you’re entitled to). For example, if you dropped out of your previous funded course after half a year, and your new course is three years long, you can apply for full funding for the whole three years of your new course (three years for the ordinary course duration, plus one year but minus a whole year for your previous study). If you get your funding in Northern Ireland from Student Finance NI, previous part-time study that didn’t lead to a qualification isn’t taken into account.
  • Scotland: if you get your funding from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), you can get support for the minimum length of either your old or new course – whichever is longer – minus the period of support you’ve already received. From the start of the 2013/2014 academic year, you can also get up to one year’s extra full funding if you need it.

In the years that aren’t covered by full support you can only apply for a loan for living costs and any supplementary grants that apply to you.

The years of full support are applied to the last year of your course first, then worked back – so if your course is longer than the number of years of full funding you’re entitled to, you won’t get full support during the earlier years of your new course.

What am I eligible for if I’ve completed a higher education course other than an honours degree?

If you’ve completed a higher education course that leads on to an honours degree or other ‘end-on’ course (eg you’ve completed a Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND), Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) or foundation degree course), you can apply for funding for the duration of your end-on course. However, if you get your funding in:

  • Northern Ireland from Student Finance NI, you don’t get support for the first year of a degree course if you’ve already attained a higher education qualification at a lower level. Full financial support is available for your second and later years of study only. You can’t get any funding to top up an ordinary degree to honours degree level.
  • England from Student Finance England and you started your ‘end-on’ course on or after 1 September 2012, both courses must be either full-time or part-time, and you must begin the end-on course no later than five months after completing your previous course, but not necessarily at the same university or college. You can only get a tuition fee loan for one year of your ‘end-on’ course.
  • Scotland from SAAS, from the start of the 2013/2014 academic year if you have an HNC you don’t automatically get funding for the first year of an HND course – you must use your ‘plus one’ extra year of full funding to fund the first year. If you have an HND you don’t get support for the first year of a degree – full financial support is available for your second and later years of study only.

Check with whoever provides your funding (eg Student Finance England) to find out what you’re entitled to.

You may also be able to get funding if you want to study medicine, dentistry, healthcare or social work, or become a teacher. For more information, see:

Related topics

Can I get higher education funding in the UK?

I’ve already got a UK honours degree – can I get funding for more higher education?

I’m changing my course – how does this affect my higher education funding?

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.