Student Finance can seem like rocket science, and it’s even more complicated for part-time students. Let us guide you through what funding you can get, and how you can get it!
Up until recently, there was a real lack of funding for part-time students. Fortunately, the tide is turning, and in 2019/20, England and Wales are offering significant maintenance support for part-time students.
Scotland and Northern Ireland also offer financial support, meaning that this year there’s more funding on offer to part-time students than ever before!
Hold tight, as we’re about to explain everything you need to know about part-time Student Loans.
Eligibility criteria for part-time Student Loans
As with most aspects of part-time Student Loans, eligibility criteria vary depending on where you live in the UK. That said, there are some conditions that you must meet no matter where you live:
Now, we say you ‘must’ meet these conditions, but really these are just the residency criteria you need to meet if you want to be sure of receiving funding.
Part-time Tuition Fee Loans and Grants
Part-time tuition fees are normally calculated based on the number of modules that you’ll be studying compared to a full-time student. For instance, if the full-time equivalent of your course contains eight modules per semester, and you’re studying four per semester, you’ll be charged 50% of the full-time fees per year.
Financial support to help you cover your tuition fees will vary drastically depending on where in the UK you live. However, wherever you live, the funding will always be paid directly to your university, and not to you.
Scroll down to find out what funding you can apply for, based on whereabouts in the UK you permanently live (don’t worry, we’ve ordered the countries alphabetically to be helpful).
Part-time Tuition Fee Loans in England
In England the annual cost of tuition for part-time students at a public university is, at most, £6,935 – in other words, your loan will cover your tuition fees in full. Remember that if your fees are lower than £6,935, you will only receive a loan for as much as your fees are.
At private unis, the annual cost of tuition could exceed the maximum Tuition Fee Loan available. If that’s the case, it’ll be down to you to make up the difference.
If you’re unsure whether your university if public or private, worry not – most UK universities are publicly funded! However, if you want to be doubly sure, we’d recommend contacting your university to check.
Part-time tuition fee support in Northern Ireland
If you’re a part-time student in Northern Ireland, you have the option of applying for two different types of tuition fee support – but only if your course meets the intensity requirements (how much longer it takes to complete compared to the full-time equivalent).
To be eligible for a part-time Tuition Fee Loan in Northern Ireland, you must be studying at at least 25% of the intensity of the full-time equivalent course. However, to apply for a part-time Tuition Fee Grant the requirements are much stricter – you must be studying at at least 50% intensity.
Part-time Tuition Fee Loans in Northern Ireland
Assuming your course meets the intensity requirements outlined above, you can apply for a Tuition Fee Loan of up to £3,120, or however much your annual fees are – whichever is lower.
If you’re also receiving a Tuition Fee Grant, this will reduce the size of Tuition Fee Loan that you’re eligible for (but don’t let this put you off applying for a grant – grants don’t need to be repaid, so you should apply for as large a grant as possible!).
Bear in mind that full-time Northern Irish tuition fees are capped at £4,275/year, so it’s unlikely that your part-time tuition fees will exceed £3,120 – and if they do, it shouldn’t be by much.
That said, tuition fees in the rest of the UK can be much, much higher than £3,120, so if you study outside of Northern Ireland you may end up having to cover the remaining amount yourself.
Part-time Tuition Fee Grants in Northern Ireland
As well as needing to meet the course intensity requirements, you must also meet some household income requirements if you want to apply for a Tuition Fee Grant in Northern Ireland.
If your household income is below £16,843/year, you’ll be eligible for the highest possible grant for a student on a course of your intensity. However, if you have a household income above £25,420, you won’t be eligible for any Fee Grant – regardless of your course intensity.
If your household income is between the lower and upper thresholds, you’ll receive a partial Tuition Fee Grant based on a sliding scale, down to a minimum grant of £50.
Part-time Tuition Fee Grants in Scotland
Unlike the rest of the UK, Scotland doesn’t offer part-time students Tuition Fee Loans – it only offers Tuition Fee Grants, which don’t have to be repaid.
How much you’re eligible for depends on the type of course that you’re studying, and how intense your studies are. The SAAS (Student Awards Agency Scotland) measures intensity by the number of credits you do each year compared to a full-time course.
To save you having to do the maths yourself, the SAAS provide a handy spreadsheet calculator on their site. All you need to do is select your qualification type and enter the number of credits you’ll be doing, and the calculator will tell you the level of Tuition Fee Grant you’re eligible for. Simple as!
As tuition fees in Scotland are capped at £1,820/year, your part-time Tuition Fee Grant should cover the cost of your tuition in full.
Part-time Tuition Fee Loans in Wales
Part-time Tuition Fee Loans in Wales vary depending on the type of institution that you’re studying at, as well as where that institution is. What’s more, to be eligible you’ll need to be studying at at least 25% of the intensity of the full-time equivalent course.
In the case of students of Welsh universities and colleges, the Open University and publicly funded universities in the rest of the UK, your Tuition Fee Loan is intended to cover your fees in full.
If you’re studying at a privately funded UK university or college outside of Wales, your part-time Tuition Fee Loan may amount to less than your total fees for the year. In this case, you’d need to fund the remaining amount yourself.
Maintenance Loans and Grants for part-time students
While all parts of the UK offer some kind of tuition fee support for part-time students, the maintenance support (designed to cover student living costs like rent and food) on offer are far more inconsistent.
The following details the maintenance support available for part-time students in the UK who started their course on or after 1st August 2018. Again we’ll run through the provisions country by country, ordered alphabetically to make your life just that little bit easier.
Maintenance Loans for part-time students in England
Part-time Maintenance Loans in England are calculated as a percentage of the amount that a full-time student in the same circumstances (where you live and study) would receive.
For context, here’s how much Maintenance Loan full-time students receive based on their individual circumstances (note: the household incomes are just examples – the amount you receive is on a sliding scale based on income, not by bands of income):
Part-time Maintenance Loans are calculated as a percentage of the full-time loan, based on the intensity of your studies. However, it’s not an exact percentage. Instead, intensities of study are grouped into bands, and the lower end of the band determines how big a loan you receive.
This table explains how big a Maintenance Loan you can expect, based upon the intensity of your studies:
So, to calculate roughly how large a part-time Maintenance Loan you’re entitled to, look at the top table and find the living/studying situation relevant to you, and the household income closest to yours. Use the second table to establish your band of intensity, and apply that to the amount you took from the first table.
For example, let’s say you’re a student in London, living away from home. Your household income is £40,000/year, and you’re studying at 55% intensity.
As a full-time student you’d get £9,449 in Maintenance Loan, but as you’re studying at 55% intensity, you’re in the 50% band – meaning you’d get a part-time Maintenance Loan of £4,724.50 (50% of the full-time amount).
Course Grants for part-time students in Northern Ireland
Maintenance support for part-time students in Northern Ireland is, unfortunately, pretty scarce. The only money on offer comes in the form of a Course Grant which has its fair share of positives and negatives.
On the plus side, a Course Grant is at least a grant – that is, it doesn’t have to be paid back. However, as it’s only intended to cover some of the costs entailed by studying (like necessary equipment and travel to placements), the full amount is fairly small.
What’s more, you’ll need to be studying at at least 50% intensity to be eligible for the grant, and have a household income of below £28,068.
Maintenance support for part-time students in Scotland
The SAAS (Student Awards Agency Scotland) currently offers no form of maintenance support to part-time students. This is far from ideal, but if you’re a part-time undergraduate from Scotland, don’t panic!
While your funding body doesn’t provide any financial support, your university might. If you think you’ll need some funding, be it in the form of a grant or a loan, contact your university directly to see if they offer any additional support.
If you’re still hitting a dead end, check out our guide to bursaries, scholarships and grants – this has everything you need to find extra funding.
Maintenance Loans and Grants for part-time students in Wales
Part-time Maintenance Loans and Grants in Wales work in a similar way to the full-time system. Students with similar circumstances (in this instance, intensity of studies) will receive the same amount of money, with the only difference being how much of the sum is a loan (which must be repaid) and how much is a Welsh Government Learning Grant (WGLG) (non-repayable).
The proportion of loan versus grant is determined by your household income, with students from wealthier backgrounds receiving a smaller percentage as a grant, and those with lower household incomes receiving larger grants.
Unlike in England, intensity of study isn’t grouped into bands – instead, your course’s study intensity compared to the full-time equivalent will be the exact percentage of the ‘full’ amount you’ll receive.
Note, however, that the ‘full’ amount isn’t the full-time student Maintenance Loan – it’s a little less, as this table shows (with some household income examples to give an indication of how much you can expect to receive):
*amounts are for students studying at 100% intensity, so no part-time student will receive this much
Of course, as a part-time student, you won’t be studying at 100% intensity – so nobody will receive the amounts listed in the table above. Instead, whatever the percentage of intensity your course is, that’s the exact proportion of the ‘full’ amount that you’ll receive.
So, if you’re studying at 50% intensity, your overall package would be 50% of the ‘full’ amount (£3,325), with the proportion of WGLG and Maintenance Loan determined by your household income.
To give another example (just to make it super, super clear), if you’re studying at 25% intensity (the minimum required to be eligible for support), you’d get 25% of the ‘full’ amount – £1,662.50. Again, the split between grant and Maintenance Loan will vary depending on your household income.
How to apply for a part-time Student Loan
While the ins-and-outs of part-time Student Finance vary massively from full-time Student Finance, the application process is pretty much exactly the same!
As ever, you just need to apply through your relevant funding body (remember: it’s based on where you normally live, not where you’ll be studying) before the deadline.
Repaying a part-time Student Loan
Like the application process, the repayments on part-time Student Loans are also the same as the full-time equivalents.
We go through the details in full in our guide to understanding your Student Loan repayments, but here are the main things to remember:
- There are two types of Student Loan: Plan 1 and Plan 2. Where you’re from, as well as when you started studying, will affect whether you have a Plan 1 or 2 Student Loan
- Although the repayment structures for Plan 1 and 2 loans are different, they have one thing in common: they’re both very manageable. You’ll only ever repay 9% of your income over a threshold (£18,935 for Plan 1, £25,725 for Plan 2), and if your income falls below the threshold, you stop repaying. In other words, if you earn more, you repay more; if you earn less, you repay less
- You don’t start repaying your Student Loan until the April after you graduate, and even then you must be earning over the repayment threshold
- Student Loan repayments don’t affect your credit score, meaning they won’t have a significant impact on your ability to get a mortgage. We say ‘significant’, as they will be factored into your affordability rating – a score that measures your monthly incomings and outgoings (of which Student Loan repayments are one) and decides whether you can actually afford to make the mortgage repayments. However, as the repayments are a small percentage of your income, the impact will be minimal
- Your Student Loan debt will eventually be written off. How long this will take depends on whether you have a Plan 1 or Plan 2 loan, but it’ll be around 30 years after you start repaying, and it’s unaffected by how much or how little you’ve repaid
- There’s a good chance that you’ll never repay your Student Loan in full. In fact, it’s estimated that 83% of students with Plan 2 loans will have at least some of their loans written off
- Changes to the interest rate on Student Loans don’t really mean anything. As the debt is so big, and the repayments so small, increasing the interest rate just adds more money to a sum that you’re unlikely to repay anyway
- As the terms are so favourable, you should really think long and hard about whether it’s worth repaying your Student Loan early (spoiler alert: it probably isn’t!).
Wondering how you’re going to balance your part-time job and coursework? Here’s some tips and tricks to help you out!