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Information » Money » Money while you learn » Higher Education

Higher Education

Going on to higher education, like university, can be expensive. Many people will live on their own for the first time, paying for rent, bills and food, and then there is the cost of the course and the equipment to cover, as well.

However, there is support available to help you pay your way through higher education in Wales. Some of this is different for students from Wales compared to students from England.

Student loans

  • There are two types of student loan available: one to cover the cost of tuition fees for the course and one to cover your living expenses (maintenance)
  • Student loans are not commercial loans, like those from a bank. They are provided by the government with an interest rate linked to inflation

Student loan for fees

  • From 2006, no student has to pay a single penny towards their fees before or during their study
  • Instead, you can take out a student loan for up to the total amount that your course costs, if you so wish
  • As this is a loan, you will have to later pay it back. You only start to pay it back when you are earning over £21,000 a year

£9000 Fees and Tuition Fee Grants

  • UK universities now have the flexibility to charge up to £9000 for tuition fees, as long as they do more to encourage poor students to apply
  • According to Times Higher Education, more than 90 per cent of English universities will charge £9,000 for at least some courses in 2014-15
  • If you are a student from Wales, you can also apply for a Tuition Fee Grant from the Welsh Government to cover the first £5,315 of your tuition fees. This means that you don’t have to get a loan for this £5,315 of your fees, so you have far less to pay back later
  • You can apply irrespective of family income, as long as your course fees are greater than £3,685
  • It will be paid directly to your place of study and, to be clear, as it is a Grant, you do not have to pay it back
  • If you normally live elsewhere in the UK, but hope to study in Wales, you should seek advice from your local funding bodies about fee loans available to you

Student loan for maintenance

  • You can also apply for a loan to cover your general living expenses, like rent, bills and food, clothes, going out, transport and course equipment, such as books or field trips
  • If you don’t provide income details, you will only be eligible for a basic, non-means-tested maintenance loan of up to £5,466
  • If you provide details of your income, and it’s below a certain level, you can receive a higher means-tested maintenance loan. Up to £7,288 is available - the full table is here
  • Note: The ‘income’ figure they use is total taxable household income, which means that the student’s total income is counted as well as that of the parent(s) and/or partner that they live with
  • This loan is paid directly to you. Again, you will pay back this loan when you finish university and start earning over £21,000 per year

Applying and Repaying

  • To apply for a student loan of either type, visit Student Finance Wales before or after accepting a university or college place. The deadline is normally May for courses starting September/October
  • You will repay at nine per cent on the difference between £21,000 and the amount you are earning, not nine per cent of your earnings. For example, if you earn £25,000, you will repay £360 a year, which is £30 a month
  • The money owed will be taken automatically from your pay cheque each month at a rate linked to your income. If your income changes, your repayments will automatically change to reflect this
  • If you want to pay off your loan quicker, you can make extra payments to the Student Loans Company

For the very latest information on student grants and loans and how much you are entitled to, visit Student Finance Wales.

Help With Maintenance Costs

Welsh Government Learning Grant

  • A Welsh Government Learning Grant (formerly Assembly Learning Grant) provides extra money for students experiencing financial hardship while studying
  • It aims to help with the cost of books, travel and equipment. It does not have to be repaid
  • The maximum amount of support available is £5,161 per year. How much you get will depend on your household income
  • Up to £2,575 of the Welsh Government Learning Grant will be paid in substitution for an element of the Student Loan for Maintenance. This is because part of grant recipients' maintenance needs will be met by the non-repayable grant
  • To qualify, your combined total taxable annual household income must be £50,020 or less per year
  • If the household income is £18,370 or less, the student will be eligible for the full grant of £5,161. If the total household income is between £18,371 and £50,020, the student will only be eligible for a partial grant
  • It can be quite hard to find information on this grant and it is not to be confused with the Welsh Government Learning Grant for Further Education
  • To apply, contact the Student Finance Wales (LEA)

Special Support Grant

  • Like the Welsh Government Learning Grant (WGLG), the Special Support Grant provides extra money for students experiencing financial hardship while studying and aims to help with the cost of books, travel, childcare and equipment. It also does not have to be repaid
  • However, unlike the WGLG, it will not affect the amount of Maintenance Loan that you can get. Also, it won’t affect the amount of income-related benefits nor Tax Credits to which you are entitled
  • Note: you’re only entitled to either Welsh Government Learning Grant or Special Support Grant. If you’re unsure which one, contact Student Finance Wales
  • Those most likely to be eligible are lone parents, other student parents and students with disabilities
  • If your combined total taxable annual household income is £18,370 or less, the student will be eligible for the full grant of £5,161. If the total household income is between £18,371 and £50,020, the student will only be eligible for a partial grant

Help For Those With Dependents

Childcare Grant

  • Depending on your total income, you can receive a Childcare Grant towards the cost of childcare, as long as your children are in registered and approved childcare
  • The maximum grant is £161.50 per week for one child or £274.55 per week for more than one child and/or is up to 85% of your childcare costs
  • You aren’t eligible for this grant if you or your partner receives the childcare element of Working Tax Credits, Universal Credit or NHS-funded childcare grants
  • To apply, indicate on your student finance application that you’d like a Childcare Grant Application Form (CCG1) and they’ll send one to you
  • You have to provide various details on the form and different evidence throughout the year. More information can be found here

Parents’ Learning Allowance

  • Depending on your total income, you can receive a Parents’ Learning Allowance to help cover some of the additional costs incurred by students who have children
  • You can apply regardless of your child(ren)’s age, as long as they are financially-dependent on you
  • The maximum allowance is £1,557 for the whole year
  • You’ll need to provide evidence of your child dependents and proof that they are dependent on you. The important details and considerations are here

Adult Dependents' Grant

  • If you have an adult who depends on you financially, you might be able to apply for an Adult Dependants’ Grant
  • The amount you can get depends on your household income. The maximum grant available is £2,732 per year
  • Any undergraduate student or postgraduate Initial Teacher Training student can apply
  • An ‘adult dependant’ can be your husband, wife or civil partner but can’t be a partner you live with if you’re under 25, nor can it be a grown-up child nor another adult who gets student finance
  • Please note: An Adult Dependants’ Grant counts as income when working out what benefits or Universal Credit you can get

Financial Contingency Fund

  • Financial Contingency Fund (FCF) is available to part-time or full-time students in higher or further education in Wales who are experiencing financial hardship and, without help, might leave their course
  • Students must have first explored and applied for all alternative sources of funding, including public funding. Full-time undergraduates must have taken out the maximum student loan available to them to be able to apply for FCF
  • The fund is given by the Welsh Government to your educational institution. You must apply directly to your educational institution
  • If you are successful in applying for FCF, it may be paid to you as a loan, a grant that you don't have to pay back or in the form of a service or equipment, such as childcare or a computer
  • It is not there to aid your lifestyle choices, for example, to help you buy a car, games console or gym membership!
  • There are many other criteria that may also be taken into consideration, which can be found here and on your institution’s website. For example, here are the FAQs for the University of South Wales

Hardship Bursaries and Loans

  • If you’re in financial hardship, further help may be available to you directly from your university or college. Usually, you will not be expected to repay anything, but, in some instances, you’ll get a loan that you will have to pay back
  • Talk to your university or college about what is available to you. They make the decisions. You may be interested if you
    • Are from a low-income family
    • Have children
    • Have a disability
    • Are a ‘care leaver’
    • Are homeless
  • You may be paid in instalments or a one-off lump sum
  • This money is unlikely to affect your entitlement to benefits or tax credits
  • More details on how to apply here

Getting Help and More Details

  • If you are worried about financing your higher education course, the cost of living or want more information about what you are entitled to, please visit the links on this page or talk to someone at your university or college who can help, such as student services or the National Students Union
  • For full details of what is available in your area of study, contact the Local Education Authority in that region or visit The Office of Fair Access at www.offa.org.uk, searching for where you normally live


The key to financing your higher education is planning. Before you start university or college, find out as much as you can about the costs you will face, such as:

  • Costs of the course (tuition fees)
  • Rent
  • Water, gas, electricity and telephone bills
  • Mobile phone bills
  • Clothes
  • Books and other course equipment, such as stationary
  • Food
  • Transport
  • Socialising

Also see our Budgeting pages.

Talk to your parents about what they expect you to pay for and work out a budget for you to live by, according to what financial support you can get.

Although higher education may seem expensive, it is an investment in your future and financial support is always available if you need it.

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