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What funding is available in England for part-time undergraduates (or equivalent) studying in the UK?

By David Malcolm

Thursday 21 March 2013 Higher education

If you want study part-time for your first undergraduate or equivalent course in the UK, the funding that’s available from the government in England is different to what’s available for full-time students. Undergraduate or equivalent courses include honours degrees, Higher National Diploma (HND), initial teacher training and also Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). The funding that’s available depends on how much of your time you spend studying, when your course began or will begin, the course you’re taking and your personal circumstances.

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Can I get higher education funding in England for a part-time course?

If you normally live in England, regardless of where you’re studying in the UK, you may be eligible for funding from Student Finance England – part of the Student Loans Company, which provides funding on behalf of the UK government. To get the funding, you and your course must be eligible for it.

The eligibility rules for part-time study are the same as for full-time, except that for part-time students ‘course intensity’ determines what you’re entitled to. This means the percentage of time that you’re studying compared to a student taking an equivalent full-time course.

If your part-time course began:

  • On 1 September 2012 or later, you need to study at a rate of at least 25 per cent of an equivalent full-time course in each academic year in order to get funding.
  • Before 1 September 2012, you need to study at a rate of at least 50 per cent of an equivalent full-time course in each academic year in order to get funding.

You can check course intensity with your university or college.

The funding is available for your first undergraduate or equivalent course only – if you already have a UK qualification at the same or a higher level, you’re not eligible.

For more details about eligibility, see Can I get higher education funding in the UK?

Where can I study?

Funding from Student Finance England is available if you’re undertaking a course at a UK institution. If you study in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, you can get the same funding as if you were studying in England. For students starting on or after 1 September 2012 who get their funding in England, all UK universities and colleges (including Scotland) can charge tuition fees up to £6,750 a year.

However, if you want to take your entire course at a university or college outside the UK, you can’t get the funding outlined here. See I want to study outside the UK – what higher education funding can I get?

I started my course on or after 1 September 2012 – what government support can I get?

If you started your part-time course on or after 1 September 2012 you can get a tuition fee loan from Student Finance England. Each year you can borrow the cost of your course fees, up to £6,750 a year. If you’re studying at a private institution, you can only borrow up to £4,500 a year, which may not cover the cost of your course. The money is paid directly to your university or college, and you must pay back the loan when you’ve finished your course and you’re earning enough.

You can’t get funding for living costs when you study part-time.

Here’s the government’s information on student finance. There’s also a calculator to help you get an idea of what you’re entitled to. Also, have a look at How and when do I repay my student loan?

The Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information has a useful booklet for part-time students: You can afford to go to uni.

I started my course before 1 September 2012 – what government support can I get?

If you started your course before 1 September 2012, you get the same package of support from Student Finance England that was available the year you started your course. This still applies if you’ve taken time out from your studies or changed your course. For more information, see:

To fund your part-time course you can get the following (these figures are for 2013/2014):

  • Grant for tuition fees: each year you can get a grant to help with your tuition fees. The amount you get depends on your income and course intensity – up to £1,270 if your course intensity is 75 per cent or more, and £845 if it’s less than 60 per cent.
  • Grant for course costs: each year you get a grant to help with the cost of books, equipment and travel. The amount you get depends on your income – up to £275 for low incomes.

If you started your course before 1 September 2006, the funding you’re entitled to may be different to this. Speak to an adviser at your students’ union for more information.

To assess how much you get for these grants, Student Finance England takes into account your income and your partner’s income (if you have one). Your parents’ income doesn’t matter, regardless of your age or if you still live with them. If your income is:

  • Below £16,845 you get the maximum tuition fee grant available for your course intensity, and the maximum grant for course costs.
  • Between £16,845 and £25,420 you get a percentage of both grants, based on your income and course intensity.
  • Between £25,421 and £28,065 you don’t get a tuition fee grant, but you do get a percentage of the grant for course costs, based on your income.
  • £28,066 or more you get a £50 grant for course costs only.

However, if you’re married, in a civil partnership, over 25 years old and living with your partner, and/or you have children, Student Finance England deducts the following amounts from your annual income:

  • £2,000 for your partner
  • £2,000 for your eldest child
  • £1,000 for every other child

If your grant for tuition fees doesn’t cover the fees you need to pay, you may be able to get more support as part of the Additional Fee Support Scheme (AFSS). See Can I get higher education funding from my university or college?

What other government support is available?

As well as the standard packages of support from Student Finance England outlined above, lots of other funding options are available, depending on your circumstances and the kind of course you’re taking. Find out more here:

How do I apply for government funding?

You apply for funding through Student Finance England. For more information, see How do I apply for higher education funding in England?

Where else can I get funding?

As well as government funding, you may be able to get funding from your academic institution, charities or other sources. To find out more, see Can I get higher education funding from my university or college? and other sources of funding.

If you work, your employer might sponsor you to take a part-time course, especially if the qualification will help advance you in your role. Ask your employer whether this is an option, or whether they’ll help by giving you study leave or flexible working arrangements. They might pay all or part of the fees, but remember that if you take a loan, it’s your responsibility to pay it back.

If you’re not eligible for any funding, or don’t want to take out a loan, find out whether your university or college will let you pay the tuition fees in instalments to help you spread the cost over the duration of your course. If they do, make sure the repayment scheme is interest-free, so you don’t end up paying more than you need to.

Related topics

What higher education funding is available in England?

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

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

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.