Financial assistance

For students who want to continue their education after the age of 16, there is funding available to support them. Costs include tuition fees as well as living expenses, including rent, food, books, transport and entertainment.

It is worth researching what is available in terms of financial support. There are various options, some of which students are entitled to and some they will have to pay back at some point in the future. Generally, grants and bursaries do not have to be paid back, but loans do. It is important to make sure students are very clear about what they applying for so that they know what they will owe when they finish.

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 the 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 20051 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 avoid building up too much debt. One such scheme is the OpenPlus initiative for chemistry and physics. No previous qualifications are required, students start by studying two years part time with the Open University and then complete their degree by studying two years with one of the partner universities. Financial support is available and students can work while they study. For more information click here.

Further information

The following websites provide detailed information on financial support including what is available in terms of funding, how to work out what students are entitled to and how they should 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 students to build their budget.
  • The Office for Fair Access aims to promote and ensure fair access to Higher Education for under-represented groups.
  • The OpenPlus scheme is a new 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 a degree.


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

Northern Ireland


  • 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 young people to take the next step in their skills development.