Student finance in the UK is not the easiest subject and there is ongoing discussion on the fairness of the system.
At the time of writing, Scottish students don't have to pay tuition fees. English students studying in Scotland will have to acquire the normal student loan, as they would if they stayed in England. No need to say that not everyone is happy with that arrangement. On the other hand, if university study in Scotland becomes free for English students as well there possibly will be a stampede of sorts on places in Scotland.
Basically, there are several funding streams students can access, linked to different kinds of expenses. These are broadly divided up into:
- Loans, which you have to pay back, such as the normal Student Loan offered by the government through the Student Loans Company.
- Grants, which generally don’t have to be paid back but which are dependent upon certain circumstances and/or conditions. Grants may be offered for either student fees or living costs. examples are the Maintenance Grant and the Special Support Grant.
- Scholarships and burseries which are linked to student fees, books and other expenses directly linked to your studies, mainly offered direct from universities but also from charities and companies. If your family earns below £25.000 then there is also the National Scholarship Programme which a university can offer you a bursary through.
- Student fees
- Bursaries and scholarships
- Student loans
- Living costs
- Studying with the Open University
As a European student you are entitled to be charged the same and to be subject to the same funding options as the other students living from that country.
This means that (for the time being at least!) you will be subject to a different fee structure and funding options in England, Scotland and Wales.
If you decide to study in England:
- Your student fees may be up to £9250 per year, depending on the course and the university you study with.
- You can get a student loan which will be repayable after you finished your studies and once you earn the equivalent of £25000 (adapted to index) per year.
- You can get other support in the form of a maintenance loan.
- Further information can be found on: Student Finance England
If you decide to study in Scotland:
- You will most likely not have to pay tuition fees as local students don’t pay any either. The Scottish government is looking into this however. Surprisingly, students from England who are studying in Scotland will have to pay tuition fees and will be subject to the same regulations as they would be in England.
- Further information can be found on: Student Awards Agency for Scotland
If you decide to study in Wales:
- The system here is very broadly the same as in England.
- More information can be found on: Student Finance Wales
Bursaries and scholarships:
- For many courses there are bursaries and scholarships available which don’t normally need to be paid back.
- These bursaries and scholarships are dependent upon you adhering to certain conditions, or falling into certain groups of the population.
- These can be different from university to university and from course to course.
- Details can be found in the information about each course on the UCAS website.
- Many banks offer student loans to students.
- These are commercial loans which are subject to a commercial, albeit often lower, interest rate.
- It may be useful to talk to your bank to see what the options are.
Studying with the Open University:
In the UK, more and more students seem to opt for the Open University as their first choice of study and they are doing so for a number of reasons:
- The Open University can work out a lot cheaper than a mainstream university, even though the OU is raising their fees as well from this year onwards.
- Student funding is available for part time students as well; a lower fee means a lower student loan.
There are some 'risks' attached to OU study as well:
- There is no immediate support network available in the form of your fellow students. There is an online system available for student to student communication however.
- Since you are studying from home, student life will look very different compared to that at a mainstream university.
- You need a lot of determination to succeed. You are mainly studying from home.
Each of the websites for the three regions have a calculator to help you assess how much support you will be able to get:
- England: studentfinance-yourfuture.direct.gov.uk or on the direct.gov.uk website
- Scotland: www.saas.gov.uk
- Wales: www.studentfinancewales.co.uk
www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/: excellent additional information on student finance and finance in the UK in general. Here you'll find lots of common sense advice and they have a fantastic student loan calculator as well. You can try out different scenarios to see how it's all going to work out.