University is expensive, and there are two main costs to consider when attending university: tuition fees and living expenses. However, do not let money be a deterrent to going to university, it is a fantastic opportunity which everybody deserves, and there are plenty of ways to be supported financially through university.

This page is split into Tuition, which is the cost of the university course, and Living Expenses, which covers everything else you need to pay for.

Please note this information is for England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland have different tuition and loan systems.


Tuition fees are the fees you pay to a university to study a course with them. This money funds your teaching, your resources and your campus. The tuition fees in the UK currently stand at £9,250 per year for full-time students.

This may sound like a lot of money, but the vast majority of people don’t pay this sum upfront. Instead, they take out a government tuition loan. Everybody, regardless of family income, is entitled to a full loan of £9,250 per year to cover tuition fees. If you study for three years, your tuition fee loan will amount to £9,250 x 3 = £27,750. It is important to note that this loan begins accumulating interest from the day your university receives its first payment.

It is very common for people in the UK to take out a full loan every year to cover tuition fee costs.

Living Expenses

Everything else which you have to pay for to live comes under your living costs. This includes rent, travel, course materials, food, socialising, etc. There are a few different ways to cover these costs, the most popular being to take out a Maintenance Loan with the government.

Maintenance loans are means-tested, which means how much you get is dependent on your family household income. The less money your family earns, and hence the less they can support you financially, the bigger loan you are entitled.

There are also other factors which change how much money you can receive; these include whether you live at home, if you are married, if you are a carer for somebody and what course you study. You are also entitled to a bigger loan if you are studying in London. This table below can help you see the maximum loan you could get in different circumstances in 2020/2021.

Living at home Up to £7,747
Living away from home, outside London Up to £9,203
Living away from home, in London Up to £12,010

This loan is paid in three instalments throughout the year, weighted heavier towards the third payment to help cover costs over the summer. You also do not have to take out a maintenance loan if you or your family can cover your living expenses.

This loan is not always enough to cover all living expenses, so many people choose to get a part-time job while at university. You could look for jobs on campus, at the student’s union, or in the café, as these are often flexible around studying. Some common off-campus jobs include nannying or tutoring younger children in the local area.

Some people also choose to take a gap year so they can earn some money in preparation for university. This is an excellent idea if you don’t want to worry about working while studying.

The cost of living varies in every city, which means expenses such as rent, travel, and food can vary hugely. Do some research before attending university to try and get a feel for the cost of living. However, remember in every city there will be student areas and events which can make living more affordable. Also, there are national schemes to reduce costs for students, including the 16-25 railcard, the NUS card and general discounts from businesses for students which you can access using the student card received upon entry to the university.

Most universities offer bursaries and grants for people who need extra financial support. The government usually allocates this by family income, but there are also grants and scholarships available for academic achievement. Go to the finance section of a university website to find out more.

Paying back loans

The loans you take out for tuition and maintenance are combined. You pay this back in small amounts depending on your income, meaning that the repayment process doesn’t begin until you can afford it.

This information below is for those on Loan Plan 2, which means you began university on or after 1st September 2012.

You do not pay anything till at least the April after you finish your course and you don’t pay anything back when you are under the income threshold. When you do start paying the loan back, you pay 9% of what you earn over the threshold. The threshold changes every April but currently stands at £511 a week or £2,214 a month. Here is an example provided by the government:

This week your income was £600, which is over the weekly threshold by £89. This means that you pay back 9% of £89 for this week, which is £8.

For more information visit our page on Undergraduates.