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If you live in Scotland

Paying for your tuition

If you live in Scotland and are studying at a Scottish university, you will not be charged tuition fees. So long as you are eligible for, and have applied for, student financial support, your fees will be paid for you.

If you live in Scotland and are studying elsewhere in the UK − England, Northern Ireland or Wales − you will be charged tuition fees but you do not have to pay them up-front. So long as you are eligible for student support, you can apply for a Student Loan to cover your actual tuition fees. For most students, the amount of the loan will be the actual fee you are charged, up to a maximum of £9000 pa (in 2012). Students at private colleges can get a loan to cover their fees of up to £6000 pa but there is no limit to the fee that they can be charged.

This loan is not means-tested; the money is paid direct to your university (so you can’t spend it on anything else); and you repay the loan later, when you are earning at least £15.8k pa).

But you have to apply: you will not get your fees paid (in Scotland) or the Student Loan for fees (elsewhere in the UK) unless you do. And, if you don’t apply, you may be charged the full cost of the course, which may be more.

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Money to live on

You are expected to live on money from a variety of sources, depending on your personal circumstances. (If you are already a graduate, you should check carefully; you may not be eligible for any of this help and your fees may be higher too. And part-time students do not get help with living expenses)

  • Student Loan & your family. Almost all full-time UK undergraduates are entitled to take out a Student Loan to provide money to live on, pay rent, etc. You pay this back after graduation. If your family income is above a certain threshold, your family (parents, spouse/civil partner) will be expected to make a contribution as well.
  • SAAS bursary. If your family income is less than £34k, you may also qualify for a non-repayable bursary from the SAAS (Student Awards Agency for Scotland). There are different schemes, depending on whether you are under 25 and studying in Scotland or outside it.
  • Supplementary grants. In addition, there is Special help for certain categories of students, eg lone parents, those with a disability or those leaving care.
  • Bursaries & scholarships. Universities usually provide some (non-repayable) bursaries and scholarships for the lowest-income students.

For more information, check out the SAAS website – www.saas.gov.uk.

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How much to live on

How much this all amounts to will depend on your family income and on where you live while you are at university.

Your Student Loan will be up to £5570 pa. Some of this (13%−17%) is available to everyone so, even if your family is rolling in money, you will still get £940 pa and your family expected to contribute £4630 pa. The remaining 80+% is means-tested so, if your family doesn’t have much money, you will receive the whole amount. The maximum Student Loan is reduced to £4585 pa if you are living with your parents while you are at university; increased to £6690 pa if you are studying in London. There are different rates for any year you spend studying abroad; and you will get more if your academic year is longer than 30 weeks.

SAAS Bursaries. A bursary of £2640 pa is available to students whose family income is below some £19.3k, if they are under 25 and studying in Scotland (a Young Students’ Bursary or YSB); older students would qualify for £1000 pa Independent Students’ Bursary (ISB) and those studying elsewhere for £2150 pa Students’ Outside Scotland Bursary (SOSB). You do not repay this money. The amount of bursary gradually decreases as family income rises – down to no bursary at all when family income is £34.2k. These bursaries are paid instead of part of your loan, so you have less to pay back later − but you may also be eligible for an additional student loan.

University bursaries & scholarships. Many universities will help you if your family income is below about £25k, though some universities apply additional criteria (eg high grades on entry, students from low-income neighbourhoods). Scholarships and bursaries are not repayable; scholarships usually require some level of academic or other achievement but many are now income-dependent − very like bursaries. Each university has its own scheme, helping different groups of students with varying amounts of cash. Amounts vary from, say, £300 pa up to £7000 pa and more for bright students from low-income families in specified subjects. The main scholarships and bursaries are outlined in our university descriptions. On the university search lists, you can compare what you would get if your family income is around £18k−£20k pa, without the need to fulfil any other requirements.

Horribly complicated? See if this chart helps, which shows the approximate amount of help available to a student, depending on the family income.

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Help with living costs table 2010 (if you live and study in Scotland)


If your family income is.. £20k £30k £40k £62+k
Student loan is..
(Less if you live with parents,
more if you study in London)
£3052 £4145 £3778 £940
Young Students’ Bursary (YSB) is...
(You don’t need to pay back)
£2518 £744 Nil Nil
Total help of £5570+pa £4889pa £3778pa £940pa
Assumed your parents pay at least Nil £681 £1792 £4630
Bursaries from university...
(You don’t need to pay back)
Possibly Maybe Unlikely None
So what you have to live on £5570+pa £5570pa £5570pa £5570pa

Some small print. There are allowances against your family’s gross income before you arrive at the figure used in the calculation – other siblings still in education etc. All these figures go up in line with inflation each year. If your parents (or spouse/civil partner) don’t want to complete the financial assessment, you will only be able to claim the non-means-tested loan, ie £940 pa.

This maintenance money is all in addition to any help for tuition fees.

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Applying for student support

Apply. Apply for student support as soon as you can – though in Scotland you can’t apply before April (and the detail is always very late onto the website). Do not wait until you have received an offer of a place or you risk not getting your money before the start of the academic year. You need to apply each year of the course.

You make a single application for all types of student support. Go to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland website, www.saas.gov.uk and register. Then you can complete the application online and track this later with the log-in details you are given.

Are you eligible? The first decision on your application is whether you are eligible for student support (you may not be if you are already a graduate). This first stage is important because it ensures the SAAS will pay your fees if you are studying in Scotland and entitles you to the non-means-tested loans.

If this is all you want to apply for, you indicate this on your application and you’re done. Do this either because your family income is too high to qualify you for any extra, or if your family is not willing to complete the financial assessment.

Financial assessment. If you want to apply for the full range of financial support, you will need to opt for a financial assessment – you declare your income and that of your family (usually that of your parents or any partner). This allows an assessment of how much your family is expected to contribute to your living costs (your parents are not expected to contribute if eg you are over 25 or are estranged from them).

You will then be told how much help you are entitled to for that year – that is, how much you can take out as a Student Loan for fees and how much maintenance money (the Student Loan, whether you are eligible for an SAAS bursary and a Disabled Students Allowance etc, and if so how much).

Getting the money. Your money will be paid once you have started the course. Your fees (in Scotland) or Student Loan for fees (elsewhere) are paid directly to your university; your maintenance money will be paid directly into your bank/building society account (usually monthly if you are studying in Scotland, otherwise a third at the start of each term).

Bursaries. Your university will usually use your financial assessment to decide if you are eligible for a bursary too. You need to indicate on your application that you agree to the university being able to share your financial data and then you should get the bursary money automatically if you qualify. At some universities you actually need to apply for bursary help. So if you think you may qualify, make sure you know the procedure at your university.

You can find out more about student support and apply directly on the Student Awards Agency for Scotland website, www.saas.gov.uk or ring 0300 555 0505.

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