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I’m a student carer – what extra higher education funding can I get?

By David Malcolm

Wednesday 27 March 2019 Higher education

If you’re a student in higher education in the UK and you have an adult who depends on you financially, you can apply for extra funding, depending on the kind of main funding you get and who provides it. Here’s an overview, with links to more information.

Dependent adults are usually family members, e.g. your spouse, civil partner, or (if you’re over 25 years old) your cohabiting partner. Grown up children don’t usually count as dependant adults, though, unless you get a healthcare bursary.

Am I eligible for extra funding?

To get any higher education support from the government, you and your course must be eligible for it. To be eligible for the extra funding detailed here, you must be studying either:

  • full-or part-time for an undergraduate or equivalent qualification
  • full-time for a postgraduate initial teacher training qualification (or part-time if you get your funding from Student Finance NI, in which case you get the same funding as full-time students)
  • on a healthcare course and eligible for an NHS, DHSSPS or Scottish Government Health Directorate healthcare bursary
  • on a postgraduate social work course and eligible for a social work bursary from the NHS, Care Council for Wales
  • full-time on a postgraduate course for which you get undergraduate funding from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).

What extra help can I get for dependants?

If you’re studying for an undergraduate or equivalent level qualification, or taking a postgraduate course for which you can get the undergraduate package of student support, you can get extra help for dependants, depending on who provides your funding.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland: if you get your funding from Student Finance England, Wales or NI, you can apply for an Adult Dependants’ Grant. The amount you get depends on your income and any income your dependent adult receives. If you’re studying on a part-time course, the amount you get also depends on your ‘course intensity’ – the percentage of time that you’re studying compared to a student taking an equivalent full-time course (you can’t get the allowance if you’re studying part-time and get your funding from Student Finance England or NI).

You can apply for an Adult Dependants’ Grant on top of any other student finance you get from the government, and you don’t have to pay it back – however, it does affect other income-related benefits and tax credits you might get. The money is paid directly into your bank account each term. For more information, including how to apply, see:

Scotland: if you get your funding from SAAS, you can apply for a Dependants' Grant. The amount you get depends on your income and any income your dependent adult receives. You can apply for the grant on top of any other student finance you get, and you don’t have to pay it back. You can also claim this grant if you’re studying for a qualification in one of the allied health professions.

I’ve got a bursary to study medicine, dentistry, healthcare or social work – what extra funding can I get?

If you get a bursary from the NHS, DHSSPS, Care Council for Wales or the Scottish Government Health Directorate to study for a qualification in medicine, dentistry, healthcare or social work, you can get extra help as part of your bursary. 

For more information, see:

If you get an allowance as part of your bursary, you can’t also claim the same allowance (e.g. Dependants' Grant) that’s available as part of the standard student finance package.

Northern Ireland: if you’re studying for a healthcare qualification in Northern Ireland and you get a bursary from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), you may get a similar allowance. Contact your local Student Finance NI office for advice.

Wales: if you’re studying for a postgraduate masters degree in social work and get a social work bursary from the Care Council for Wales, you can get an Adult Dependants’ Grant of up to £2,645 a year, depending on your income. For more information, see Additional Grants and Allowances for postgraduate students.

This information was updated in June 2019. 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.