Introduction to student finance | NatWest

Introduction to student finance

Looking for student finance but getting confused? From tuition fees to grants, scholarships and bursaries, we’ve got the answers.

Student loans

Most students will be entitled to two loans – one for tuition fees and another for maintenance costs.


The tuition fee loan is payed directly to your university. It covers course costs of up to £9,000 per year, and isn’t dependent on your household income. If you’re going to a private university or college, the maximum loan available will be £6,000.


The student maintenance loan is meant to cover you for living costs while you’re at university, including things like accommodation, food, transport and socialising. Your household income, where you study and where you live will all affect how much you’re entitled to. 


Some students use their savings or get help from their folks to pay their way. You can get a part-time job to boost your bank balance if this isn’t an option. But with a well thought-out budget you can make your money go further – this is where our budget calculator will come in handy.


If you've got children or any other dependents, or you have disabilities, learning difficulties or ongoing medical conditions, you might be able to get some additional financial help. The student finance calculator can give you an idea of what you could be entitled to.

How to apply

If you get yourself organised and apply in good time, your student loan should be paid into your account in time for the start of your course – just make sure you have a student bank account set up to make the process as smooth as possible.


Student finance applications can take up to six weeks to process, so make sure you apply early. Your first step is to visit your country’s student finance body:


Student Finance England

Student Awards Agency Scotland

Student Finance Wales

Student Finance NI

Student loan repayments

Graduate repayments are based on your income after you leave university. You won’t make any repayments until you start earning over £21,000 - this amount is called the threshold. When your earnings pass the threshold you’ll be charged 9% on everything you make over that £21,000 mark. If your earnings change, or you lose your job, the amount you’ll be expected to pay will change accordingly.


Despite rumours you might have heard, moving abroad doesn’t write off your student loan debt. After 30 years though, any remaining debt from your student loan will be wiped.

Bursaries, grants and scholarships

Millions of pounds in grants, bursaries and scholarships goes unclaimed every year, partly because new students don’t even know it’s available. 


Student bursaries: Bursaries are lump sums of money paid directly to students who meet certain criteria, like studying for a particular course or those who come from a low income background.

Bursaries are awarded on an annual basis, so you’ll need to re-apply each year. Some are available from the government as part of your loan application, others through your university, so it's a good idea to check and ask your university for details of their bursaries and scholarships too. 


Some bursaries are given on the condition that the money is used for certain things, like books or food. You might have to provide receipts for your expenses, so check the fine print. 


Student grants: Similar to bursaries, and sometimes part of bursary packages, you can apply for a free student finance grant. A student grant is a lump sum on top of your loans. Some are awarded on the basis of achievement, others for financial need. If you’re a student in England, you can’t apply for maintenance grants any more, but you can apply for grants to cover course costs.

You can find a list of some of the student grants and bursaries available, along with further details on


Scholarships: Undergraduate scholarships reward students for strong grades, excellence in sports, music or other subjects. Check your grades or skills and interests against the criteria of the scholarship you are interested in – your university website will usually have details on any scholarships they offer. 

Sites like Scholarship Search let you search and select from thousands of scholarships, from universities, charities and trusts, based on your subject or related keywords. 

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