Campus Life

Finance at university

How does it all add up?

Managing your finances is a major part of student life. On this page you will find invaluable advice on how the new student finance system works. Please note that the information below is only correct for UK students (and even then, the situation varies between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). If you are from abroad, some of the below will not apply to you.

Useful websites

Tuition fees and loans - what are they?

Universities are allowed to charge up to £9,250 for tuition in 2017/18; you will need to check with the universities themselves for how much your particular course might cost. All full-time students are entitled to a Student Fee Loan, sometimes called a Tuition Fee Loan, in order to cover the costs. You will receive information from Student Finance England after April of Year 13 with information about how to apply for the loan, and your school or college can also offer advice. 

The money that you have loaned from the government will gradually increase with interest too; this is set at RPI (inflation) or RPI plus 3%, depending on how much you earn (check the Martin Lewis link above for the full information).

When do you have to pay back the loan?

Once you’ve taken out a student loan, you do not have to pay it back until you have left the course and are earning over £21,000 a year. When your salary is above £21,000, your repayments will be 9% of your earnings. This will come off your salary via the PAYE tax system; the money will be automatically deducted by your employer. In this sense, the 'loan' is much more like a tax.

Here’s an example to help you: The average starting salary for graduate students is £18,000. If you were earning this amount, your repayments would be zero. If you earned £25,000, you would repay about £6.90 a week.

What if you earn below £21,000?

If your earnings are less than £21,000 a year, or if at anytime your salary falls below £21,000, your repayments will stop until you are earning over this amount. Also, if you have not repaid the debt after 30 years, it will be written off.

Student Loan for maintenance

It is also possible to apply for a Living Cost Loan (also known as a Maintenance Loan.) This helps to cover the cost of living expenses. The amount you receive depends on your household income. Everyone is entitled to 65% of the maximum amount, with the remainder being available to those with low family incomes (putting a precise figure on how low is complex - the definition is what is called "residual family income", but roughly if your family income is under £42,500, you will be entitled to some.)

In 2016/17, the maximum annual loan is:
  • £6,904 if you live with your parents
  • £8,200 if you live away from home (this is most students)
  • £10,702 if you go to university in London and live away from home
  • £9,391 if you go to university abroad and live away from home
How do you repay this one? The repayment system for this loan is exactly the same as for the tuition fee loan. You will only start to repay the loan once your earnings are above £21,000 a year. The Living Cost Loan is combined with the Tuition Fee Loan, so there is only one repayment.

What if I come from a low-earning family?

In essence, there are three additional forms of financial help:
  • Universities might choose to reduce your fees
  • The government operates a system of additional loans (which you have to pay back) and grants (which you don't) to help you with living costs
  • Universities themselves offer some scholarships and bursaries

More information on these can be found on Martin Lewis' website (see above), the Student Finance England website or universities themselves.

How will the fees reduction work?

This will vary from university to university; you need to get in touch with them individually to find out if they might be operating a fees reduction scheme.

What about the government grants and additional loans system?

The government offers non-repayable grants to those on low incomes; these are paid automatically and regardless of course or university. These can be a maximum of £3,250 a year. You can find out more here. There is also a grant called the Special Support Grant for those who receive means-tested benefit, such as income support.

Information about the additional loan that those from low income families will be entitled to can be found here.

How will the money from universities themselves work?

Obviously a lot of this will be dependent on the individual universities (although some, such as the National Scholarship programme, will be the same for all universities), but a good place to start is here.

Extra financial help

UJS, in partnership with The Anglo-Jewish Association (AJA) offers extra means-tested grants (AJA UJS Student Welfare Fund) to assist Jewish students with the costs of further education. To find out more or apply in confidence, please see here

The AJA UJS Student Welfare fund aims to assist those students who, often through no fault of their own, have met with financial difficulties and require extra support whilst studying. The Fund is operated in complete discretion with formalities being kept to a minimum.  Applicants, however, are required to complete a form in which the financial statement section is an integral part. Only students studying at recognised tertiary educational establishments in the UK can be considered. 


You should have insurance for your belongings no matter where you are living. On average, it is likely that you will have approximately £3,000 worth of possessions with you, so it is important to insure your things. One of the most popular insurers, who are also approved by NUS, is Endsleigh.


Find out about securityhealthaccommodation and kashrut (keeping kosher) at university on our website. For further information on starting university, visit the National Union of Students website, and remember you can always get in touch with us directly.

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