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

By David Malcolm

Friday 22 March 2013 Higher education

If you start a higher education course and then decide to transfer to a different higher education course (at the same or another university or college) your funding from the government may be affected. Here's a brief overview.

If you’re a postgraduate student, the following details don’t apply to you unless you’re getting government funding, eg you’re studying for a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). See What funding is available for postgraduates studying in the UK? for more information.

What am I entitled to?

Once you’ve started a course you may decide to transfer to a different one because of personal or educational reasons. When you do this you should still be entitled to funding when you change to the new course, but it depends on who provides your funding. If you get your funding from:

  • Student Finance England, you should still be entitled to funding (eg for full-time students, a loan for tuition fees and a grant for living costs), but the amounts you get may be reassessed. However, your maintenance loan (if you get one) isn’t affected. The university or college you’re transferring to must consent to your transfer by notifying Student Finance England.
  • Student Finance Wales or Student Finance NI, your entitlement to a maintenance and tuition fee loan for the whole of your new course is reassessed, but you only get continuing financial support if you change courses before the start of the second year of your initial course, and you haven’t changed course before.
  • Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS): your entitlement to student finance for your new course may be reassessed. 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 (but if you use this extra year to cover your funding shortfall when changing courses, you can’t use it to repeat a year later on). Before the start of the 2013/2014 academic year you can get the full support package again if you change from one Higher National Diploma (HND), degree or equivalent level course to another before the start of your second year – but if you start studying for a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or similar level course, you can only apply for a student loan and any supplementary grants when you change to a different course.

The rules around this are very complicated and you should seek advice from an adviser in your students’ union or academic institution to find out how your student support will be affected – particularly if the transfer requires you to go back a year or more. They’ll also be able to advise you about how the transfer will affect any bursary you’ve received from your university or college.

What if my new course is longer or more expensive?

The funding you can get if your new course is longer than the old course depends on where you get your funding:

  • England, Wales and Northern Ireland: if you’re a full-time student and get your funding from Student Finance England, Wales or NI you can get funding for the ordinary duration of the new course plus one year, but less any years of funded study you’ve undertaken already. If you’ve studied for part of a year already, you’re treated as if you studied for the whole year. If you’re a part-time student you can get a total of 16 years’ support in England, or eight years’ support in Wales or Northern Ireland.
  • Scotland: if you get your funding from 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 (but if you use this extra year to cover your funding shortfall when changing courses, you can’t use it to repeat a year later on).

Whoever provides your funding, if you transfer from a full-time course onto a part-time course (or vice versa) your eligibility for funding is reassessed and you may no longer eligible for the same support for your subsequent years of study.

If the tuition fees for your new course are higher than for the old course, you can increase your tuition fee loan (if you get one) to the new amount.

What if I transfer part-way through the year?

If you transfer from one institution to another part of the way through an academic year, both the institutions could in theory charge the maximum tuition fees for the year. However, the government expects that the institutions involved don’t charge you more than the fee loan you’re entitled to.

Nevertheless, depending on when you transfer, your tuition fee loan or funding might not cover the tuition fees for your new institution, so seek advice from an adviser in your students’ union about how your funding may be affected.

Related topics

I have to leave my course before the end – what do I do about my higher education funding?

Can I get higher education funding in the UK?

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.