We know that this question is a real concern for a lot of you, so we want to tackle it right away! Thankfully, the answer to this question is (more often than not) YES!
Several factors help make this is a reality; from the help of family, to student loans and grants. That’s not to say you can live life a king or queen for the next few years, there may have to be some clever financial planning and a part time job to see you through, but yes, you can afford to study at university.
Fee and loans
As a student you can apply through Student Finance England for two types of loans:
Tuition fee loan
Universities in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland can charge up to £9,250 a year for undergraduate tuition.
The tuition fee loan is paid directly to the university and will never enter your personal bank account. That would be far too tempting! This will cover the annuals costs of tuition fees.
The maintenance loan is designed to help provide funds to cover the costs of living while studying.
The amount you will be eligible for will depend on your household income and where you decide to live during your studies.
In 2019, the maximum available to students was as follows:
- £7,529 for students living at home while studying
- £8,944 for students living outside of London and away from home
- £11,672 for students living in London and away from home
- £10,242 for students living or studying abroad for at least one term (source)
A student loan will start to be repaid in the April after you have graduated once you are working and earning enough to pay it back. A percentage will be deducted from your bank account monthly by direct debit (you will need to set this up with the Student Loans Company), this will depend on how much you earn, but the guide is 9% of the difference between £25,725pa and your salary.
For example, if you earn £30,000pa, the 9% interest will be paid on the difference between £25,725 and £30,000 = £384.75 per year (£32.10 per month).
To apply for Student Finance, visit Student loans on GOV.UK
Bursaries and grants
Checking each university’s website for grants and bursaries and applying for any that you are eligible for is a good way of reducing your university education.
Most universities offer money to the highest academic achievers, to encourage applications from the highest achieving students. So if you need some extra motivation to study, the possibility of financial reward could spur you on!
Check out the “Grant Fairy: UK Uni Degree Courses and Scholarships” app on the Play and Apple stores.
Your accommodation costs will be one of the biggest outgoings for you.
Things to consider:
- Can you stay at home? Some students are happy and have the option of living at home during their studies, which will definitely help reduce those outgoings! That being said, it is important to consider what you are wanting from your university experience. For many students, a significant part is the excitement of living away and gaining independence.
- Is it cheaper to rent a room in a shared house within the town or city you are studying in, rather than opting for University Halls?
- Some universities offer catered accommodation, which usually bumps up the cost. Would it work out cheaper to be in control of your own meal prep? If so, perhaps non catered accommodation is better for you!
Student bank accounts
A student bank account is an essential for university life. Choosing an account that best suits your needs could save you a small fortune over the duration of a 3 or 4 year university course.
The biggest perk of a student bank account is the interest free overdraft facility. These can be anywhere up to £3,000 in the first year and can prove to be cheaper way to borrow money when compared to student credit cards and bank loans. Go and compare banks, and the student offers they have!
The right course or university
There are many courses and universities to choose from, all offering something slightly different, from course structure and content to campus location and social activities. It is important to consider all factors when picking where to apply, knowing you made an inform decision is worth the time and energy. Here are some top rips to help with your decision.
Compare course content
Before anything, you will need to choose the type of course you’d like to study. If you don’t know your options yet, that’s ok! Take a look at the different course types and entry requirements.
If you have already decided on the type of course you would like to study, here are some things to consider when comparing different courses and universities.
- When choosing a course, remember that not all courses with the same name are identical in content.
- Look at the modules covered in each course and identify which ones are most interesting, or relevant to your career aspiration.
- How many lectures are there, and how much group work will be done in seminars?
- What does the assessment at the end of each module look like? Exams, coursework, presentations, or a combination of all three?
- Who are the tutors, and are they the experts in areas you want to learn about?
Comparing universities and locations
There are many ways you can research a university or college, including reading their website or prospectus, looking at online reviews, and social media channels, but ideally you should see the campus, city, and course lecturers for yourself.
Universities and colleges run open days throughout the year – find upcoming open days.
Once you have shortlisted the different universities and colleges offering the course you are interested, in there are a number of things to consider when comparing each one:
- What subject areas do they specialise in?
- Can you study part of your course abroad, or get help with work placements?
- Do they have sports facilities or societies that you would want to join?
- How near to home, a city centre, or a countryside are they?
- What accommodation is available for students?
Subject and university reviews
As well as talking through your ideas and plans with family, friends, teachers or advisers, you can find each other opinions online. Take the time to check what other people thought by visiting the following:
- Get a students viewpoint at Unistats – perfect for subject and course provider reviews.
- Read uni and college reviews from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
- Check the league tables that rank university and colleges. Make sure you check the sources though, as some can be bias. The Guardian, The Times, and The Complete University Guide are some of the more impartial places to look.
- Look at the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) for ratings on teaching quality, learning environment, as well as student outcomes.
It can be a very daunting time when leaving school or college and not quite knowing which path to take next! It can be easy to fall into doing the same as your friends or what your parents or teachers expect, so it’s important to consider if your next step is really right for you.
‘Advancements in technology and the changing nature of the job market means that many job of the future don’t yet exist. The ability to continue learning – whatever route you take – is set to become an essential skill in working life.’
Below is a list of prompts to get you thinking about the options within Higher Education.
What’s your end goal?
Understanding your end goal can help you explore other options and work out if university or a higher apprenticeship is your best route to get there. Knowing what you want is not essential – some people chose university as their next step because they don’t have any career ideas but really enjoy a particular subject and want to see where it might take them! Whichever route you choose, being clear about your motivation will help you get the most from your experience.
Consider employment prospects for your chosen course – where have recent graduates ended up? To find out more, see the Higher Education Careers Services Unit’s What do graduates do?
Do you need a degree?
Sometimes, a degree is more like a passport; employers simply want to know you have one but don’t have any real interest in what you’ve studied. For certain careers, a degree is not necessary and work experience is considered more important. And in other careers, such as medicine, a degree in a set subject is essential.
What about additional benefits?
As with many aspects of life, the biggest advantages of any chosen path are often the unexpected ones. In the long term, [people reflecting on their university days] often find the wider benefits, such as developing confidence, making connections, or involvement with clubs and societies, more important than their actual studies. These things can all be gained in other ways – and no one would suggest going to university just because you’re likely to make some great friends or may write for the student paper – but what you end up valuing the most may have little to do with your course.
Can you do things differently?
Going to university doesn’t have to mean you need to follow the standard route of moving to a new town and becoming a full time student – there are different and more flexible ways to get a degree which may suit you better. You could:
- Study at your local university and live at home
- Do a part-time degree that you can combine with work or other commitments
- Study with the [Open University] (distance learning courses which mean you can study at time and place that suits you).
- Do a sponsored degree. Certain employers will pay for you to do your degree but you may need to work for them first and/or for a certain period after you graduate.
A sure way to help with the decision is to attend several (university open days), to get a feel for what you like, both in terms of courses and the wider university experience.
There’s no doubt about it, being a student can be expensive, especially in London or a big city. These top tips will help you budget well at university and make your student loan last longer.
Plan your spending
Do this before you leave home. Yes it’s dull, but if you put your outgoings and income on a spreadsheet or an app, you can stay on track. There will always be some expense you haven’t thought of, some prepaid credit cards are tailor-made for students – to stop you overspending. Credit card debt is painful so avoid paying high interest on what you owe.
Save money on food
This will probably be your biggest expense after accommodation. Stock staple cheapies – think multipack baked beans and supermarket own brands. Share costs of basics with flatmates. Visit supermarkets around closing time for extra discounts and hang around market stalls at the end of the day. £20 in the likes of Aldi and Lidl will likely take you further than in Waitrose.
Want a free meal? Apply to be a “mystery shopper”.
Make the most of student discounts
Pay £12 for a NUS Extra card and unlock student discounts on everything from food and entertainment to student essentials. Plus, Spotify offers half-price music. This year though, deals are thinner on the ground and some of the best bargains can be found in travel. Sites such as www.savethestudent.org will keep you up to date. Sign up for voucher code schemes for short term discounts.
Get a good student bank account
Don’t be swayed by the freebies – and make sure you get an interest-free overdraft. Most high street banks offer student accounts, and some might allow an overdraft of up to £3,000 interest free, dependent on your credit rating, but check conditions before you sign up. If you trust yourself, go overdrawn and put the cash in a savings account.
Find a student job
Most universities offer part-time work – in the library, at open days or with the union, but it’s advisable not to exceed 15 hours a week. Restaurant and shop work is flexible – find work on student employment websites such as www.Unitemps.com, www.e4s.co.uk or www.studentjob.co.uk
Save over £100 on transport
Don’t keep a car unless you have the cash. Get a third off train fares with a 16-25 railcard, and 30 per cent off with a National Express Coachcard – both of which could help save more than £100 a year. Some Universities including University of Northampton have bike hire schemes, too.
Sniff out the best bargains
- Ring around for the best deals on technology and insurance. If your phone contract is about to expire, a quick call to the cancellations department could get you a better deal.
- Always ask in shops and businesses for a student discount, even if it’s not advertised.
- Buy books second hand, use the library or share the cost with other students.
- Second-hand clothes sites and apps such as Vinted, Depop and eBay are good for thrift purchases and making a few pounds too.
University doesn’t have to be as expensive as your parents think so get those deals and be savvy!