In the United Kingdom, student loans are primarily provided by the government through the Student Loans Company (SLC). SLC is a non-departmental public body.
- The SLC is responsible for Student Finance England.
- The SLC is a delivery partner of Student Finance Wales.
- The SLC is a delivery partner of Student Finance NI (Northern Ireland).
- The Student Awards Agency for Scotland assesses applications in Scotland.
Eligibility for a UK student loan
To be eligible for a UK student loan, you must meet the criteria for both personal eligibility and institution/course eligibility.
The criteria for personal eligibility chiefly concerns your residency status.
The institution/course eligibility has to do with which course you want to study and the institution that is offering that course. Generally speaking, the course must be a part of your undergraduate degree and provided by a UK degree-awarding institution or other approved higher educational establishment.
In addition to this, certain teacher, youth and community worker courses are eligible for a UK student loan, provided hat you fulfil the criteria for personal eligibility.
Types of UK student loans
When it comes to governmental UK student loans, there are two main loan types:
- Tuition fee loan
- Maintenance loan
The tuition loan covers the full cost of the tuition fee, but there is a limit for how much universities were allowed to charge per student. For courses that starts after the 1st of September in the academic year 2012/13 the upper limit is £9,000 per year for full time students and £6,750 per year for part time students. Residents of Wales and Scotland are entitled to free tuition in their own countries.
The maintenance loan is intended to help pay for a student’s living costs. How much you get depend on your living circumstances. There is a one amount for students living at home, a higher amount for students living at universities and an even higher amount for students living at universities in London.
Student loans for students from low-income households
Students from low-income households can apply for increased student loans. Even if you don’t qualify for the full extra amount, you may still qualify for a part of it. How low-income the household needs to be varies between the different countries within the United Kingdom.
Just as for the ordinary maintenance loan, the extra loan will vary in size depending on whether the student lives at home, lives at a university or lives at a university in London.
Students from low-income households may qualify for a maintenance grant. Unlike a student loan, this student grant does not have to be repaid.
How low-income the household need to be varies depending on which country it is located in within the United Kingdom.
Even if you don’t qualify for a full grant, you may still qualify for a part of the grant.
Special Support Grant
The Special Support Grant is, under certain circumstances, available for students on benefits.
Important student loan milestones in the UK
- The Education Act of 1962The Education Act 1962 made it a legal obligation for local educational authorities (LEAs) to provide full-time first degree (or comparable) university students with a maintenance grant. This was not a student loan and did not have to be repaid.
- Foundation of the Student Loans Company (SLC)The Student Loans Company (SLC) was formed for the 1990/91 academic year. The company was created by the government to provide students with low-interest student loans. During SLC:s first year, over 180,000 students borrowed money from the SLC. This was roughly 28% of all eligible students. The average student loan consisted of £390.
- Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998In the late 1990s, the Labour government passed the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998. Thereby, the introduced tuition fees of £1,000 to start in the 1998/99 academic year. Also, the maintenance grants were replaced with student loans for all students except the ones from households that met a certain low-income requirement. Unlike maintenance grants, students loans must be repaid.Since many students now had to borrow money to pay for tuition fees, the total amount of loans provided by the SLC rose from £941 million in the 1997/8 academic year to £1.23 billion in the 1998/99 academic year.
Welsh students studying at Welsh universities, as well as Scottish students studying at Scottish universities, receive free tuition.
- Higher Education Act of 2004The Higher Education Act 2004 increased the tuition fees from £1,000 to a maximum of £3,000. By the 2005/06 academic year, the SLC provided a total of £2.79 billion in loans to 1,080,000 students.