Student finance… the boring stuff, but also super-duper important on the practical side of things when it comes to starting university in the UK. Grants, bursaries, loans and scholarships, what do they all mean? Here’s a mini guide from my own experience to get you started.
UK maintenance grants
Basically, this is money given to students who are UK citizens to partially cover university life,if their household annual income is below £25,000. Sadly, this was scrapped by the UK government in 2015 and even before that, not everyone was eligible. The only exception now is if your course started before 1 August 2016 and you are still studying, then you can apply for this grant besides any loan you have taken out to reduce future debts. For in-depth and official information and updates, the Home Office page for student finance is where you would want to be checking out before weighing your options. In addition, if you are under 25, no longer in contact with your parents and are supporting yourself, you might be eligible to apply as ‘estranged student’ to receive further advice and support.
This is the most common form of financial support used by most UK or EU students at the moment; and is divided into two types: tuition and maintenance loans. It works slightly differently depending on, again, your household income and where you are from; however, generally, you will start paying back any loan once you earn more than £25,000. 30 years on from graduation and still unable to pay this off? No worries, you will be forgiven and all this debt will be written off! However, for those who are ‘Welsh domiciled’ students, a better (and not very well-known) way to clear your debt righteously is to make an early repayment of just £5 (or any more if you feel capable) to knock off up to £1500 from your total loan.
Bursaries & Scholarships
Usually created to help high-achieving students financially, bursaries and scholarships are often divided into a few categories: research funding, global or country-specific scholarships, and ones offered by universities. Research funding, as its name suggests, is for research-based study, which would most likely be post-graduate courses. Global scholarships are the most competitive and prestigious ones, like the Chevening Award, but it would be an amazing boost to your profile! On the other hand, country-specific scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, are slightly more ‘approachable’; however, they rely exclusively on partnerships between UK organisations and certain countries. Finally, the easiest ones to achieve are scholarships from whatever university you apply to; because they are very much inclusive, for both international and UK/EU students. What matters is simply your academic ability; or skill-specific if you are applying to an art, music or sports scholarship. Most of the time, you can only be awarded one scholarship/bursary at a time; but using this in combination with a loan could help reduce your debt majorly.
In the end, it is about putting in the time to dig deeper into your university’s website, or to, as we all say nowadays, ‘just Google it!’ To sum things up, if you are a UK/EU student, all three options above are readily available to you. For international students, grants and loans are limited as your nationality would mainly decide what’s on offer; but there are plenty of scholarships and bursaries out there that you can find with just a bit of searching. Either way, get your grades ready because they are the ultimate ticket to make higher education more affordable for yourself!
Here’s a summarised list of useful links to kick-start your seemingly boring search
https://www.ucas.com/sfe (UCAS info on student finance)
https://www.gov.uk/student-finance (Official Home Office student finance)
https://www.slc.co.uk/students-and-customers.aspx (Student Loans Company official page)
https://study-uk.britishcouncil.org/options/scholarships-financial-support (British Council’s information on scholarships & financial support)
https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/how-fiver-can-knock-1500-12627990 (Get £1500 deducted from student loan Wales)
http://www.studentloanrepayment.co.uk/portal/page?_pageid=93,6886489&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL (Get £1500 deducted from student loan Wales)
https://www.ukcisa.org.uk/Information–Advice/Fees-and-Money/Scholarships-and-funding-your-studies (International student finance)