Undergraduate tuition fees and student loans

How much are tuition fees and how are you going to pay for them? Find out how to fund your studies and how to apply here.

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What are tuition fees?

Tuition fees are charged by universities and colleges to cover key elements of your course and academic life, as well as core services related to students’ wellbeing and experience on campus. 

Tuition fees normally cover:

  • lectures, seminars, and tutorials
  • course admin costs
  • access to course-related facilities and equipment (e.g. laboratories, studios) 
  • access to campus libraries and computer rooms
  • support services for students
  • student union membership
  • field trips essential for completion of your course (travel and accommodation only)
  • graduation ceremony

However, tuition fees won’t usually cover:

  • printing or photocopying at libraries or IT facilities
  • non-compulsory field trips
  • textbooks and other course materials, e.g. art supplies, dancewear
  • personal technology, e.g. laptop, tablet, specialist software, camera, and accessories
  • membership to union clubs and societies
  • travel costs to work placements
  • professional body membership
  • living costs e.g. accommodation, travel
  • graduation attire, photography, and guest tickets

If you’re unsure if something is covered by your tuition fees – or if you’ll have to pay for it, ask your university or college. 

Tuition fees can vary quite a bit – even for similar courses. You can see exactly how much they are by searching for a course, but you can get an approximate idea from the table below.


How much are tuition fees?

These are the maximum tuition fees depending on where you’re from and where you’re studying. Exact fees will be shown when you search for courses.

Tuition fees by region for courses starting in 2020

 
Student's home region Studying in England Studying in Scotland Studying in Wales Studying in Northern Ireland 
England Up to £9,250 Up to £9,250 Up to £9,000 Up to £9,250
Scotland Up to £9,250 No fee Up to £9,000 Up to £9,250
Wales Up to £9,250 Up to £9,250 Up to £9,000 Up to £9,250
Northern Ireland Up to £9,250 Up to £9,250 Up to £9,000 Up to £4,395
EU Up to £9,250 No fee Up to £9,000 Up to £4,395
Other international Variable Variable Variable Variable

Learn more about undergraduate tuition fees and funding available in your region: Check out our guides to student finance for students in EnglandScotlandWalesNorthern Ireland, and for EU/international students.

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF): What it means for tuition fees

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) assesses undergraduate teaching, awarding either a gold, silver, or bronze award to participating universities and colleges.

Universities and colleges in England that receive a TEF award are allowed to charge a maximum tuition fee of £9,250 per year for full-time undergraduate courses. Those without a TEF award can only charge up to £9,000.

The TEF has no impact on tuition fees in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

Search for a university to see its TEF ranking (and much more). Alternatively, learn more about TEF.


What financial help can you get?

Student loans can include a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan to help with your living costs.
  • Tuition fee loans, to cover the full cost of your course, are paid directly to the course provider, and you won’t have to pay it back until after your course, when you’re earning above a certain level.
  • Maintenance loans can be applied for at the same time, lending you money at the start of each term (or monthly in Scotland). How much you get depends on your household income, where you study, where you live and how long for.
  • Students can apply for grants if they’re eligible for certain benefits, disabled, or need help with childcare costs. Read our blog on what these changes are and what they mean. You can also find out more on the student finance pages on GOV.UK.

EU student fees update

In a written statement on 23 June 2020, Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, announced that from August 2021 EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals will no longer be eligible for home fee status undergraduate, postgraduate, and advanced learner financial support from Student Finance England for courses starting in academic year 2021/22. This change will also apply to further education funding for those aged 19+, and funding for apprenticeships.

Note that EU students entering HE in 2020/21 will continue to pay home fees for the duration of their course and be eligible for the UK’s EU settlement scheme if they arrived before the end of this year (31 December 2020). Students who start university or college in the 2020/21 academic year but arrive after 31 December 2020 will also be eligible for home fees but will need to apply for a student visa.

This will not apply to Irish nationals living in the UK and Ireland whose right to study and to access benefits and services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals under the Common Travel Area arrangement.

Governments in the rest of the UK are yet to confirm arrangements, but we’ll communicate their position as soon as it is known. 

Update 9 July: Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, announced details of the tuition fee arrangements for EU students starting a course in Scotland from the 2021-22 academic year. EU students will have to pay tuition fees from 2021/22. Note that EU students who have already started their studies, or who start this autumn, will not be affected. View the announcement.


How to apply for a student loan

Student finance usually consists of a Tuition Fee Loan and a Maintenance Loan to cover – or at least partially help with – your university costs.

All full-time undergraduate students are eligible for student finance, provided they meet some basic criteria:

  • Residency – you’re a UK national or have settled status, normally live in your home country, and have been living in the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man for three years before the beginning of your course.
  • Your university or college – you’re studying at a recognised publicly-funded university or college (or a private institution studying a course approved for public funding).
  • Your course – you’re studying a recognised full-time course e.g. a first degree, a foundation degree, a Higher National Diploma (HND), or an initial Teacher Training course.
  • It’s your first higher education course – you can still get some funding if you’ve studied a HE course before, but it will be limited and you’ll have to make up any shortfall. 

Both Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans must be paid back once you graduate and you’re earning above a minimum salary. Repayment systems vary from country to country.

You have to apply for student finance for each year of your course – not just your first year. This is to guarantee you get the support you’re entitled to throughout your studies.

You must apply to the student finance body in your country, as well as notify them of any changes to your circumstances, e.g. you leave or change your course. Below is a guide to who looks after student finance in each country. 

It can take up to six weeks to process student finance applications. Make sure you apply early – even if you have a conditional offer – as you can amend or cancel your application if your plans change. 

Tuition Fee Loans

Tuition Fee Loans are available to cover the full cost of tuition fees upfront. 

They’re paid directly to your university or college, so you don’t have to worry about them too much (until it comes time to repay them).

Usually you can get a Tuition Fee Loan for the duration of your course plus one extra year, e.g. in case you drop out and return at a later date.

Maintenance Loans

Maintenance Loans are available to help with some of your living costs at university, e.g. accommodation, transport, food, and books. It’s unlikely this will cover all your living costs, in which case it’s up to you to make up the shortfall.

How much you get will work on a sliding scale, based on:

  • where you’re studying – students studying away from home in London receive more to account for the higher cost of living here, compared to those living at home
  • your household income – students from lower income backgrounds are eligible for more – this is often referred to as ‘means-tested’ finance, and requires your parents/guardians to provide evidence of their income

In some countries, Maintenance Loans are combined with non-repayable grants, with your household income deciding the ratio of loan-to-grant you get, i.e. students from lower income households receive higher grants and thus less in maintenance loans which they have to pay back.

Whatever maintenance support you receive will be paid to you in instalments, at the start of each term.

How much will you need to live on at university? Get a rough monthly cost in seconds with our student budget calculator.


Extra financial support

There are also a number of grants and allowances to help with any extra costs you might incur while studying as a result of your personal circumstances, namely if you:
  • have a disability
  • are a parent
  • have adult or child dependants whom you’re financially responsible for
  • are facing financial hardship
To apply for these, you may have to undergo some form of assessment, e.g. to understand your needs due to your disability, or provide evidence that illustrates your situation, e.g. bank statements to show your financial hardship. 
 
However, these extra sources of support can make a significant difference to your budget – and your student life in general. Plus, you don’t have to repay them. 
 
What’s available and how much you can get will vary from country to country – read more in our regional finance guides: EnglandScotlandWales, and Northern Ireland
 

Student finance not enough?

Once you know what student finance you’re eligible for, if your student budget is still looking tight – or quite frankly, simply not enough to cover the cost of university – it’s worth looking into additional funding, in the form of scholarships, bursaries, and grants.

These don’t have to be paid back either, and are awarded for all sorts of reasons – from achieving top grades and extracurricular activities to having a particular surname or being vegetarian.

Our full guides on scholarships, grants, and bursaries go into detail about what they offer, how to apply, and the extra benefits they come with.

Our guide to managing your money at university contains lots of tips to make your cash stretch.