Student holding a credit card

Undergraduate Funding

Help and advice on applying for undergraduate loans

The UK Government gives eligible UK students a tuition fee loan, maintenance loan and, if necessary, additional grants for those needing extra support. This funding is provided through the Student Loans Company and most are processed by Student Finance England (SFE), though students from Wales and Northern Ireland will apply to their own versions.

If you are experiencing any problems with Student Finance you can get in touch with ASK.

Student Finance can still be contacted over the phone but have been asking students to use social media where possible during the pandemic. Information about contacting them is available on the Government website.

If you're having any problems with Student Finance and would like us to talk to them, we cannot call student finance on your behalf unless we have consent to share on your account. This can be set up by calling Student Finance England or by completing the consent to share form on your online account - this form is set up for an individual person, rather than an organisation, so ignore the date of birth question.

Contact details for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are available here:

Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

What happens with my tuition fees if I get the loan?

The tuition loan is paid directly to the University on your behalf and you won't start repaying the loan until you are earning over £27,0295 per year (as of April 2021). Under the current terms of the loan you will repay the loan to the Student Loans Company at a rate of 9% of any earnings over £27,095.  This threshold does change so check the government's website for current repayment rates.

 

How many years of funding do I get?

The normal tuition loan entitlement is the duration of your course plus one 'gift year', but minus any previous years of higher education study.

For example, if you studied on a previous course for two years then left and have now started a three year course at Keele, your entitlement would be:
3  (length of course) + 1 (gift year) - 2 (years of previous study) = 2 years

If you need to repeat more than one year, or if you have any previous years of study, you may need to self-fund. They will normally make sure you are paid for your final year, so if you don't have enough funding to cover the whole course you will usually be expected to self-fund either your first or second year.

Your maintenance loan is different, and you can still be eligible even if you have no tuition loan entitlement.

 

Can I get more years of funding?

If you failed to complete a year you may be able to claim Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR) to get extra funding. CPR is where you failed/had to leave an academic year because of personal reasons such as illness, bereavement, or other issues or responsibilities beyond your control. You can write a letter and send evidence to Student Finance explaining what happened and asking for an extra year of funding. Please see 'Compelling Personal Reasons' below for more information.

 

I have studied on a previous course (in part or completed), can I get funding for this one?

If you studied a previous course but didn't complete it, those years will count as previous study and will be deducted from your entitlement unless you can claim Compelling Personal Reasons (see How many years of funding do I get?).  Even if you were only enrolled for one day and didn't attend anything it will count as a full academic year when calculating your entitlement.

If you completed a previous course then you are not normally entitled to any more funding unless you are studying at a higher level or you're studying Nursing, Midwifery or some Allied Health courses such as Physiotherapy.

 

I'm studying a Foundation Year, can I get funding for this?

If you're studying a standalone Foundation Year - at Keele this is the General Foundation Year - then unfortunately you will not be eligible for Student Finance.

If you're studying a Foundation Year that leads directly into a course then you will be entitled to Student Finance. 

 

I'm taking a repeat year or a reassessment-only year, do I get funding?

Repeat years will be funded as normal and will go against your funding entitlement. Normal entitlement includes one extra year in case you need to repeat but if you have previous years of study or take more than one repeat year, please see our 'Compelling Personal Reasons' section for information about how to ask for more funding.

If you're just taking reassessments without any attendance you will not owe tuition fees this year and will not be eligible for the tuition loan. This year will also not count against your funding entitlement.

 

SFE told me I'd be entitled to their funding but now they're saying I'm not. Is there anything I can do?

First, make sure the latest assessment is correct. ASK can help you with this and we can also access a practitioners' line to talk to Student Finance advisers.

Unfortunately, if you're not eligible for any funding then there isn't much you can do. If you left a job because you were wrongly advised by Student Finance that you would get funding, this may be something you could argue.

 

I wasn't eligible for support at the start of my course due to my immigration status - can I become eligible and start claiming during the course?

You can only change your eligibility for Student Finance in very specific circumstances, known as 'events'. These events are:

  • Your course becomes a designated course;
  • You or your spouse, civil partner or parent is recognised as a refugee or becomes a person granted humanitarian protection;
  • You or a family member is are a citizen of a state that accedes to the EU; 
  • You a family member of an EU national;
  • You acquire the right of permanent residence;
  • You become the child of a Turkish worker;
  • You become a person described in paragraph 6(1)(a) of Schedule 1 - this means an EEA migrant worker or an EEA self-employed person; a Swiss employed person or a Swiss self-employed person; a family member of the two previous categories; an EEA frontier worker or an EEA frontier self-employed person; a Swiss frontier employed person or a Swiss frontier self-employed person; or (vi)a family member of the two previous categories.
  • You become the child of a Swiss national.

Please note, the EU categories will change soon due to Brexit - this will be updated when new legislation is announced.

The most common way we see students become eligibile during their course is when they are granted Permanent Residence. Note this is not the same as having indefinite leave to remain and you will not automatically become eligible for Student Finance after being in the UK for five years.

What is a maintenance loan and how is it calculated?

UK students will also be eligible for a maintenance loan. This loan is paid directly to you in three instalments on a termly basis and is to help with basic living costs.

The amount of maintenance loan you will receive will be calculated based on your family or household income, so your parents will usually need to fill in their own form so their income can be assessed. Your parents are expected to contribute to your daily living costs; those on a higher income are expected to give you more money and therefore your loan will be smaller than those whose parents are on a lower income. You will also get a slightly smaller loan if you're living at home.

You can view a guide to maintenance loan and 2021/22 calculations here. 

There is also a calculator that you can use to work out how much you might get.

 

What can I do if I think they've calculated my loan wrong?

You can call Student Finance to find out more information, or if you set up a consent to share for us to call on your behalf we can use the practitioners' line.

If you still believe there has been a mistake you can appeal to ask for them to reconsider.

Information about appealing Student Finance decisions is in this leaflet.

 

Are there any circumstances where they won't assess my parents' income?

You will be classed as independent if:

  • You are a care leaver or irreconcilably estranged from both of your parents, or only living parent. For estrangement, you would normally need to have had no verbal or written contract with your parents for at least a year but Student Finance will consider all your circumstances when making a decision. To apply for estrangement you need to fill in a Student Finance form and get an independent third party, who is aware of your situation, to sign it.
  • You have supported yourself financially for a total of 3 years (this doesn't have to be consecutive) before the start of your course. You must show evidence that you have been earning enough to be financially independent. 
  • You are 25 years old on the first day of the academic year (1st September).
  • You are currently married or in a civil partnership or have been married or in a civil partnership in the past but are now separated.
  • You have a child under the age of 18 or a dependent.

If Student Finance classes you as independent, only your own household income will be assessed - this would be your own income and, if you have one, your partner's income.

More information about applying as an independent student is available of the UCAS website.

 

Is there any income that's not counted for the maintenance calculation?

You should not include:

  • Earnings from full or part-time work such as holiday work or work you do during term-time;
  • Maintenance Loan or grant payments;
  • Payments you receive from your parents under a covenant;
  • Teacher Training Bursaries;
  • Higher Education Bursary (for care leavers);
  • Bounties paid by the armed services to reservists or disablement or invalidity pensions; 
  • ISAs
  • Some benefits, such as Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, child element of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment.

The application form has guidance that can help you work out what income to declare.

 

I claim benefits - do I have to declare my maintenance loan?

If you are claiming an income-assessed benefit such as Universal Credit, you will need to declare this loan as income. However, if you are a lone parent or have a disability, some of your maintenance loan will be classed as 'special support; and will not be included in your benefits calculation; your Student Finance entitlement letter should make this clear.

The grants mentioned under the 'Grants' heading below do not count as income for benefit calculations.

Please note, Personal Independence Payment is not an income-assessed benefit so will not be affected by your loan.

If you have children or an adult dependant and are eligible for Student Finance you may be able to claim additional money. These grants are paid in addition to your maintenance loan and do not need to be paid back.

 

Parents' Learning Allowance

This allowance is intended to help you pay for books, study materials, and travel. Full-time undergraduate students with children can apply for this grant when you make your main Student Finance application. You can read more about Parents' Learning Allowance here.

 

Childcare Grant

Full-time students can apply for this grant to help with childcare costs for children up to the age of 15. You cannot claim this at the same time claiming childcare costs through benefits so you would need to choose which to receive. Your grant will depend on your income and how many children you have in childcare. You can read more about the Childcare Grant, including how much of your childcare could be covered, here.

 

Adult Dependants’ Grant

You can apply for this grant if you are a full-time student and you have an adult who depends on you financially. Information about the Adult Dependants' Grant is here.

DSA is a grant for UK students with a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition, or a learning difficulty such as dyslexia. This condition must affect your ability to study and the amount you can get will depend on your individual needs. You can get money to help you pay for extra costs of your disability, such as helpers (e.g. note takers), software, equipment, or special printing needs

You can get this allowance on top of other student finance and you don’t need to pay it back. You will need to send a DSA1 form to Student Finance England.

This grant is available for both undergraduates and postgraduates, though postgraduates are not entitled to as much money. It is also available for part-time students – the amount you can get depends on how spread out your part-time course is.

For more information about DSA you can visit the government's website.

If you don't have enough years of Student Finance tuition loans to cover your course you may be able to apply for Compelling Personal Reasons.

Compelling Personal Reasons (CPR) are when a personal situation has meant you haven't been able to complete a year, causing you to take a Leave of Absence, leave a former course, or fail your assessments. Student Finance has the discretion to give you another year of funding if they accept your application.

 

What might be considered a Compelling Personal Reason?

Similar to Keele's Exceptional Circumstances, any circumstances that affected your ability to study could potentially be CPR. Some examples are:

  • Bereavement
  • Mental health issues
  • Health issues
  • Family crisis
  • Caring responsibilities
  • Pregnancy

They will not accept:

  • Financial hardship
  • Not liking your course
  • Reasons within your control

 

What happens if I failed more than one year because of my circumstances?

You can apply for CPR for more than one year, if you have suitable evidence that your personal circumstances affected your work for each year.

 

How do I apply for CPR?

You need to send a letter to SFE, along with appropriate evidence. Ideally you would do this when you submit your funding application so you can have your case considered as quickly as possible.

You should include the following in the letter:

  • Your details – name, date of birth, Customer Reference Number, and course title / university name
  • An explanation that you are asking for Compelling Personal Reasons to be considered in order to get another year of funding.
  • Which academic year was affected by your CPR (along with details of the course/university, if it was while you were studying somewhere else).
  • Dates of a Leave of Absence or withdrawal, if applicable.
  • A description of the reasons why you are asking for more funding (e.g. if you have already used your gift year or had previously studied somewhere else and had to leave).
  • What happened and how your studies were affected - you need to give enough information for SFE to be able to understand what your situation was and how and when it impacted on your studies. For health issues, talk about your symptoms (both physical and mental) and how they affected your ability to study.  For personal issues, try to explain what has happened and how it has affected you - include any practical impact it had on you, such as whether you were unable to attend classes, as well as any emotional impact.
  • What has changed about the circumstances - have you taken any steps to get support with the problem, and do you feel you will be able to get better results next year?

You could begin your letter by saying something like : "I am writing to apply for compelling personal reasons to be taken into account, and ask that discretion be applied to my funding entitlement so that I can receive an extra year of funding. Due to circumstances beyond my control I was prevented from successfully completing my studies during (relevant academic year)".

 

What evidence should I include?

Appropriate evidence will vary depending on your circumstances, but the most useful would be:

  • A letter from a health professional like a GP or counsellor confirming an illness or mental health problems and how this would have impacted on your studies.
  • A letter from another professional person (ideally with a letterhead) confirming the difficulties you had, when you had them, and the effect they have had on your studies.
  • A letter from Student Support, ASK or a tutor if you spoke to them about your problems and they are able to confirm what your situation was, when this was, and that you were having difficulties with your studies. If your CPR happened at a previous university try to get a letter from them.
  • Any official documents, such as a death certificate, a University decision letter or a benefits entitlement letter.

 

Where do I send my letter and evidence to?

Send your letter and evidence all together by recorded or special delivery. The address is:

The Discretionary Payments Team
Student Finance England
PO Box 210
Darlington
DL1 9HJ

Keep photocopies of any original documents.

 

How long does it take to get a decision?

CPR applications generally take between 6 - 8 weeks but they can take longer and you may be contacted for more information or evidence.

What happens to my tuition loan if I take a Leave of Absence?

If you are finishing the year early then, depending on when you go on leave, your fees may be reduced. The University would give back any overpayment to Student Finance.

However, the incomplete year would still count as one year of funding so you may need to apply for Compelling Personal Reasons to get enough funding to complete your course - see Tuition Loans section for more information.

 

What happens to my maintenance loan if I take a Leave of Absence?

Student Finance will disregard any absence of up to 60 days if you took time off for health reasons - if this applies to you, you will keep your normal entitlement during this period.

If you take time off for another reason, or your illness lasts longer than 60 days, your loans and grants will not normally continue while your studies are suspended unless SFE uses its discretion. In deciding whether to use this discretion Student Finance will consider:

  • The reasons for your absence,
  • The length of the absence,
  • The financial hardship caused by not paying all or part of the support,
  • Whether you have any dependants,
  • The likelihood of you returning to the course,
  • Whether the University gave you permission to be absent,
  • Whether you are in prison (no support will be paid in these circumstances).

It is worth making a case to Student Finance to try to keep your payments but be aware that many students are not successful, so don't rely on getting Student Finance if you're considering a Leave of Absence.

Student Finance will affect any income-assessed benefits, including Universal Credit and older benefits such as Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support, income-related ESA, income-related Jobseekers' Allowance, Income Support and tax credits. The maximum amount of available loan is taken into account as income, even if you do not apply for a loan or for the maximum amount; this means you can't decide not to apply for the loan in order to keep your benefits.

Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance, Child Benefit, Carer's Allowance, contribution-based ESA, and contribution-based Jobseekers' Allowance will not be affected because they are not based on your income.

 

What is included in the benefits calculation?

This is a complex calculation but we are including some general information to give you an idea of what is/isn't classed as income.

Your maintenance loan will be classed as income but there are some elements that will be ignored. The following will not be included in your benefits assessment:

  • Tuition loan.
  • £10 a week is ignored for each week.
  • A fixed amount for books and equipment. For 2020/21, this was £390. 
  • A fixed amount  for the cost of travel. For 2020/21, this was £303. 
  • The special support element (which you may get if you have a disability or are a lone parent) in a maintenance loan – you may need to get a statement from Student Finance England showing the breakdown of your loan entitlement.
  • DSA.
  • Dependants' Grants such such as Parents' Living Allowance and the childcare grant.

Universal Credit is usually paid once a month and is based on your circumstances during that month. This is called your ‘assessment period’ and any assessment period that includes the summer vacation will not include your loan in the income assessment.

You can appeal against a Student Finance decision by emailing, writing to them, or filling in an appeal form.

You can visit their website for information about appealing and if you'd like to use the official form you can find it here.