Higher education: get the financial facts

Higher education is a great investment, but one which can sometimes seem complicated.
The good news is students who started university courses after 2012 don’t have to pay anything back until they are employed and earning £21,000 a year. Plus, recent changes to university finance support means there are more generous packages on offer to students from the lowest income families.
Here are a few facts about the costs to get you started:
Tuition fees
From 2012, universities and colleges are able to charge tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year. The costs vary between higher education institutions.
UCAS have put together a handy Course Search guide, which tells you how much a particular course will cost at various institutions. You can find it here.
Money Saving Expert have produced a fantastic calculator for you to determine how much your university course will cost, both now and in the future. It allows you to enter your personalised figures to provide a realistic estimation of cost. Access this by clicking here .
There are two types of loan; tuition fee and maintenance. Regardless of your household income, the government will lend eligible students the money to pay tuition fees - which don't have to be paid back until you are earning at least £21,000 and, even then, they will only ask for 9% above £21,000 of what you are earning.
You pay your Tuition Fee Loan or Maintenance Loan back from the April after you leave your course and earn:
  • over £15,000 a year if you started your course before September 2012
  • over £21,000 a year if you start your course in September 2012 or later
From 2012/13, if you’re on a part-time course, repayments start in the April after three years of study if you earn over £21,000. This applies even if you are still studying.
You can apply for a means-tested annual maintenance loan and the amount you are entitled to will depend on your household income. How much you receive also depends on if you live at home whilst studying or, if you live in London, you are entitled to a little more due to higher living costs.
For more information, visit the Student Loans Company website, or the Student Finance UK pages. 
Part-time students
Part-time students studying at least 25% of their time, are now entitled to a loan and no longer have to pay their fees upfront. These fees are the same as a full time course on a pro-rata basis.
Government grants will be available for students from low income households. These are means-tested grants, so the amount you are awarded depends on your household income. Grants do not need to be repaid.
Non-repayable financial help is available in the form of bursaries which are allocated according to the university and course you choose and your household income. Since 2012, universities that choose to charge over £6,000 have to show that they are supporting applicants from lower income households. If you are thinking of applying, ring the institutions to find out what support is available and how to apply, or check institutions’ financial support pages.
Universities sometimes offer scholarships to high achieving students. You’ll get a direct payment from your college or university - how and when this is paid is decided by the institution. If you are looking to apply for scholarships find out what is on offer from the institutions themselves by calling them – they will often have set up their own schemes with their own individual criteria for application.
The Scholarship Hub is a useful way of finding out what is on offer at each institution, see here for more information.