The United Kingdom is made up of four nations and operates a system of devolved government. This means higher education policy is controlled by the separate governments in each of the four countries. In terms of grants and loans, those countries have distinct offerings, eligibility criteria and application processes. Except for the situation in Scotland, there is nothing significantly different but what is available will differ slightly depending on the location of the institution.
The types of grants and loans are similar in three of the four UK Nations – England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In those countries there are two main categories of support. The first is a tuition fee loan. Universities and higher education colleges in the UK can charge students up to £9,000 for tuition fees. A tuition fee loan covers some or all of this cost – in Wales students may qualify for a tuition fee grant as well.
The second main category of support is for maintenance, i.e. things like housing costs and living expenses. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland both maintenance loans and maintenance grants are available.
In Scotland the situation is slightly different. Firstly, tuition fees are lower and grants are available to cover the full cost. In addition to this, bursaries and loans are available depending on the household income of the student. And there are additional living support grants for those who qualify.
In all four countries additional funding is available in the form of bursaries, scholarships and awards. Other grants, credits and loans are also available for students in particular circumstances, e.g. financial help with childcare for students with dependent children.
There are specific conditions in each of the four UK countries but they are broadly similar. Firstly, the course must qualify and in some situations grants and loans are only available for those doing their first higher education course. There are also nationality and residency rules which usually means the support is only available for UK nationals and those living in the UK for at least three years. This is not a strict rule though and some EU nationals can qualify in some circumstances. Finally, some of the grants and loans are means tested. As a result, the level of support available depends on the household income of the student.
Grants and loans are available for foreign students in some circumstances. In particular, there is help and support for EU students as some qualify for the funding that is available to pay for the costs of tuition fees. In Scotland, students can get grants to cover the full tuition fee. Other support is available in some situations from the governments in each of the four countries. Finally, foreign students can qualify for grants, bursaries and other types of financial help directly from their college or university.
There is much less support available for students from outside the EU. Exceptions include Swiss migrant workers, family members of Swiss migrant workers, and children of Turkish migrant workers.
Universities can charge tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year. Loans for the full amount are available in England and Northern Ireland. In Wales, loans are only available for part of the costs but a grant is available to cover the rest. In Scotland, grants are available to cover the full costs of tuition fees.
Maintenance loans and grants are means tested so they vary greatly from student to student. It can range from nothing for students who come from higher income families to about £8,000 a year for those from the poorest backgrounds. This is made up of a combination of loans and grants. The support available is different if the course is part-time and those studying in London typically get higher amounts, particularly in relation to living costs.