Life Moments - Students & Graduates

An introduction to student finance and budgeting

Student finance

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

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

The tuition fee loan is paid 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 parents 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.


Student finance applications can take up to six weeks to process, so make sure you apply early enough. 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 the course.

Make sure to have your accounts set up and organised before you set up the application.

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


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.


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. 

Student budgeting

Planning your budget isn’t always easy, but it’s an important part of student life. Seeing a big figure landing in your bank account for the first time can be misleading. 

Once you know how much you'll have to spend, you can start looking at what you need to spend it on. Try to work out what your expenditure will be over the same period – weekly or monthly. The key trick now is to make sure that your income is either more or the same as your expenditure. If expenditure is higher you’re going to run out of money!

Ever wonder how much it will cost? Wonder no more.

For the fifth year in a row, we’ve published data to help you understand what it’s really like to be a student at university. We’ve asked 3,419 students across 35 popular university cities how much they spend on essentials like food, rent and bills, and how they juggle their time across studying, part-time work and socialising.

Tools to help you plan ahead

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Savings goal tool

Set up a savings goal to help you save for a house, car or holiday.
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Salary calculator

Work out what your take home pay is each month after tax.
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Budget calculator

Use our calculator to help you budget at university.

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