Financial help

If you decide you want to continue your education after you’re 16, there is funding available to support you. It’s a matter of deciding what you want to do next and working out (estimating) your likely costs.

As a student you will have to pay for your tuition fees for your course and for your living expenses, including rent, food, books, transport and entertainment. You should then research what is available in terms of financial support. You need to find out what you are entitled to and whether or not you will have to pay it back. Generally, you will not have to pay back grants and bursaries, but you will have to pay back loans. Make sure you are very clear about what you are applying for so that you know what you will owe when you finish.

Student loans

A new microsite has been launched which describes how the tuition loan system will operate, how to get a student loan, help with living costs and what support is available from government. To view this site please click here.

Investing in your future

It is worth bearing in mind that achieving further qualifications in science, technology, engineering or maths subjects may bring greater financial rewards in future employment when compared to other subjects. Research carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2005 showed that chemistry and physics graduates earn on average 30% more than those with two ‘A’ levels but no degree. Reporting on her research at the Institute of Education, Dr Anna Vignoles stated “Some graduates in highly valued subjects, such as accountancy, will continue to profit from the amount they spent on their degrees. But others may gain only a small, or even a nil, return to their investment in higher education.” So the subject chosen is relevant to future earning potential.

  1. Evaluating the Impact of Education on Earnings in the UK: Models, Methods and Results from the NCDS. R. Blundell, L. Dearden, B. Sianesi. The Institute for Fiscal Studies WP03/20; 2005.

Alternative routes

There are a few routes to accessing higher qualifications which can help you avoid building up too much debt. One such scheme is the OpenPlus initiative for chemistry and physics. No previous qualifications are required, you start by studying two years part time with the Open University and then complete your degree by studying two years with one of a range of partner universities. Financial support is available and you can work while you study. For more information click here.

Taking on an apprenticeship is another way to gain higher qualifications without building up debt. The higher apprenticeships enable you to work whilst earning level 4 (higher education certificate) qualifications or higher. To find out more visit the national apprenticeship service website.

Further information

The following websites provide detailed information on financial support including what is available in terms of funding, how to work out what you’re entitled to and how to apply:

UK wide

Directgov provides information on loans, grants and bursaries, as well as how to apply and when the deadlines are.

UCAS provides advice for students in specific circumstances e.g. students with children or care leavers, about special allowances, bursaries, scholarships and awards. This site also has an online bursary map of student bursaries on offer at universities and colleges in England.

UNIAID is a student’s charity that has a student calculator feature helping you to build your budget.

The Office for Fair Access aims to promote and ensure fair access to Higher Education for under-represented groups.

The OpenPlus scheme is another way of gaining a science degree. The scheme doesn’t require any previous qualifications and offers a combination of Open University (OU) study with full-time study at a face-to-face university. The two years of OU study offer an opportunity to earn full-time whilst working towards your degree.

Diamond Jubilee Scholarships offered by the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) provide students achieving straight A’s in their post-16 qualifications with £1,000 per year for IET accredited degree courses.


Student finance England helps you work out the financial support you’ll get, apply for finance and keep track of your payments, and includes an online calculator to help you estimate how much you can get.

Northern Ireland

Student Finance NI provides various financial services and information for students in Northern Ireland wanting to go on to Higher Education.

Careers Service Northern Ireland includes a useful guide to applying for financial support.


The Student Awards Agency for Scotland is specifically for students whose home is in Scotland, or for those planning to study in Scotland, and who want to apply for tuition fees, loan or grants for a higher education course. Also has information on sponsorship and scholarships.

Skills Development Scotland provides details of funding for further and higher education, as well as for training opportunities to help you take the next step in your skills development.


Careers Wales gives specific advice for Welsh students.