According to the latest statistics, in England, university graduates earn an average annual salary of £36,000. That’s £10,000 more than the average annual salary for non-graduates.

With that in mind, you’re probably thinking that getting into student debt will be worth it in the long run, but before you start applying for credit cards and approaching the Student Loans Company, it’s important to know exactly how much you need to borrow and understand when you’ll be expected to pay it back.

This article focuses on student loans. In it, we’ll explain exactly what a student loan is and how to apply for one, give an indication of the size of the loan you might need to take out and take you through some of the other types of funding that are available for students.

The maximum tuition fee loan is £9,250, and the maximum maintenance loan is £12,667.

The amount of money you will need to borrow as a student depends on various factors, such as where you’re studying, the cost of your course and your lifestyle.

Read on to find out how much you can expect your student loan to be.

How much is a tuition fee loan?

You can apply for a tuition fee loan to cover the cost of your place on your course. You will never see this money as the Student Loans Company will pay it directly to your education provider. This means you don’t need to worry about it until the time comes to pay it back.

Universities and colleges determine their own tuition fees to cover things like:

  • Access to course-related equipment and facilities
  • Access to campus libraries and computer rooms
  • Course admin costs
  • Field trips
  • Lectures, seminars and tutorials
  • Student support services
  • Student union membership
  • The graduation ceremony

The maximum tuition fee loan you can get as a full-time student is £9,250, with the exception of accelerated degree courses, in which case you could get up to £11,100.

Tuition fees can vary greatly, however, the table below will give you an idea of what you can expect to pay.

Maximum tuition fees depending on where you’re from and where you’re studying

Your home countryIf you study in EnglandIf you study in Northern IrelandIf you study in ScotlandIf you study in Wales
EnglandUp to £9,250Up to £9,250Up to £9,250Up to £9,000
Northern IrelandUp to £9,250Up to £4,395Up to £9,250Up to £9,000
ScotlandUp to £9,250Up to £9,250No feeUp to £9,000
WalesUp to £9,250Up to £9,250Up to £9,250Up to £9,000

How much is a maintenance loan?

In addition to tuition fees, you need to consider how you will pay for your living costs and educational supplies, like textbooks and equipment.

Some students manage to get by on savings, help from family members or earnings from a part-time job. Others, however, will need to apply for a maintenance loan.

These loans are to help cover the cost of things like accommodation, food, transport and books, but it’s unlikely they will cover all living costs. This means you will need to make up for the shortfall by getting a job or asking for help from your parents.

The amount of maintenance loan you will get depends on where you’re studying and your family’s household income. If you study away from home in London or you’re from a lower-income background, you may be eligible for more.

You may also get more if your course lasts longer than 30 weeks and three days. This is called a ‘Long Course Loan’.

You can use the government’s Student finance calculator to work out how much maintenance loan you might get, otherwise, the table below will give you an indication.

Maximum maintenance loan depending on your circumstances

Living with your parentsUp to £8,171
Living away from your parents, outside LondonUp to £9,706
Living away from your parents in LondonUp to £12,667
Studying a UK course abroad for a yearUp to £11,116
Aged 60 or above on the first day of the first academic year of your courseUp to £4,106

How much does it cost to go to university?

As mentioned in the previous section, it’s unlikely that your maintenance loan will cover all your living costs. To help you work out what your living costs might be, here’s how the average student spends their money:

ExpenseCost per yearCost over three years
Household bills£400£1,200
Mobile phone£150£450
Educational supplies£170£510
Health and wellbeing£150£450
Gifts and charity donations£130£390

How do you apply for a student loan?

As an undergraduate student, you will be able to apply for student finance as long as you meet the following criteria:

  • You are a UK national, or you have settled status
  • You normally live in your home country
  • You have been living in the UK, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands for three years before the start of your course
  • You’re studying a publicly-funded course 
  • You’re studying a recognised, full-time course, such as a first degree, a foundation degree, a Higher National Diploma or an initial Teacher Training course
  • You’re studying your first higher education course (if not, your funding will be limited)

Note that you have to apply for your student loan each year to ensure you get the support you are entitled to throughout your course and that you must notify your student finance body of any changes to your circumstances.

How you apply for student finance depends on which country you’re in:

Applicants from England

In England, student loans are managed and approved by the Student Loans Company, however, you apply on the Student Finance section of the government’s website.

Applicants from Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, you apply for your student loan through Student Finance Northern Ireland.

Applicants from Scotland

For help with the cost of your tuition In Scotland, you can apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). They can also help with living costs and tuition fees if you’re studying elsewhere in the UK.

Applicants from Wales

Student Finance Wales is the place to go for student funding, wherever in the UK it is that you’re studying. 

Applicants from The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands

If you’re from The Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, you apply for your student loan via the Isle of Man Department for Education and Children, the Guernsey Education Department or the States of Jersey website.

Make sure you apply early, as it can take more than six weeks to process student finance applications. Whatever support you’re entitled to will then be paid into your bank account in instalments at the beginning of each term.

Once you’ve graduated and you’re earning over a certain amount, you will have to pay back both your tuition fee loan and maintenance loan.

The time it takes to pay back your student loan depends on how much you borrow, when you start paying the money back, the rate you pay it back and the type of student loan you have.

Once you’ve graduated and you start earning over a certain amount, your student loan repayments will be automatically deducted from your pay. These repayments will either stop when you’ve repaid the full amount, or your loan will be written off if it’s still outstanding after a certain amount of time. The time it takes for your student loan to be written off depends on what plan you’re on:

  • Plan 1 — Your loan is written off when you’re 65 if you took it out in 2005/06 or earlier, or 25 years after the April you were first due to repay if you took it out in 2006/07 or later
  • Plan 2 — Your loan is written off 30 years after the April you were first due to repay
  • Plan 4 — Your loan is written off when you’re 65 or 30 years after the April you were first due to repay if you took it out in 2006/07 or earlier, or 30 years after the April you were first due to repay if you took it out in 2007/08 or later

If you’re worried that your student loan won’t be enough, you’ll be pleased to know that you may be entitled to additional types of financial funding, which don’t need to be paid back. These include: 

  • Bursaries
  • Grants to cover things like travel expenses
  • Help with childcare costs
  • Local authority assistance
  • Scholarships
  • The Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA)

The government’s Student finance calculator mentioned in the maintenance loan section above can tell you whether you’re entitled to any grants or allowances.

How much a student loan costs depends on various factors, but to give an indication, the maximum tuition fee loan is £9,250 and the maximum maintenance loan is £12,667. These figures vary according to how much the university or college charges for tuition fees, whether you study in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, whether you live with your parents, whether you study in London and what your family’s household income is.

If you’re worried that your student loan won’t be enough, you may be entitled to extra financial funding, which doesn’t need to be paid back.