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Article: Finance for Study for Adults


This article looks at some of the different ways that adults returning to study can find financial help.

What costs are involved?

There are lots of costs involved in doing a course of study. You'll need to find money for books, transport and maybe childcare, not to mention course and exam fees. It's a good idea to sort out how you'll finance every part of your course as early as possible.

Course fees

The amount of money you have to pay in courses fees will vary. Where you study, your family income and other factors will decide how much help you'll get towards your fees. Check the GOV.UK website for information on what's available. Go to the 'education and learning' section of that website and look for the 'student finance, loans and universities' sub-section.

Also check university websites to see how much they're charging for the course you're interested in.

Student loans

Student loans are available for your tuition fees as well as for your maintenance (living expenses), while studying. The amount you are able to borrow depends on a number of things, such as your household income, whether you'll be living with or away from your parents while studying and whether you live inside or outside London.

Maintenance and special support grants

Maintenance Grant

Maintenance Grants are for full-time higher education students from lower income households. Unlike the student loan, these awards do not have to be repaid. The money you'll get depends on the level of income of your household.

Special Support Grant

Special Support Grants are for full-time higher education students from lower income households. You qualify for this grant if you receive or qualify for:

  • Income Support
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • the housing element of Universal Credit

Discretionary Learner Support Funds

If you’re aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship, you could get Discretionary Learner Support (DLS).

You apply to your learning provider (eg your college) for DLS. How much you get depends on your circumstances.

The money can help pay for things like:

  • up to £155.24 a week for 1 child
  • up to £266.15 a week for 2 or more children

The grant helps with childcare costs for children under 15, or under 17 if they have special educational needs.

Other grants

There is a range of extra support for you if you are a parent (or have anyone dependent on you financially), if you are disabled, or if you have been in care. All awards are dependent on your income and that of any dependents you have.

It's always a good idea to check out the GOV.UK website to see if any new grants have been introduced, or to check up on eligibility issues.

Part-time study

If you plan to study part-time, there are different grants available for you. The two main ones are called the fee grant and the course grant.

The course grant is to help with things like books and travel. Both grants are dependent on your household income.

People studying on full-time distance learning courses are also eligible for these grants.

Access to Learning Funds (ALFs)

Access to Learning Funds (ALFs), known as Financial Contingency Funds in Wales, are available through your college. They are for students who have higher than average costs or are experiencing financial difficulties.

ALF payments are usually in the form of a grant, so you won't have to pay back the money. However, sometimes they may be in the form of a short-term loan.

You will be expected to have already applied for the other types of support, eg, loans, bursaries and grants, before applying for an ALF.

Professional and Career Development Loans

If the course you want to do is not one that you can get a student loan for then you may be able to get a Professional and Career Development Loan (PCDL). The loan is the same as a bank loan, but you pay it back after you finish the course.

PCDLs are for courses that will help with your career. The course can last up to two years, or up to three if one year's relevant work experience is part of the course.

Financial help for postgraduate study

There are very few subsidised loans for postgraduates, so most postgraduate study is funded either by a research council or by taking out a loan. The exception to this is for people training to become teachers and studying for a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE).

Finding financial help for postgraduate courses can be quite difficult, so it's best to start looking long before you start your course.

Loans are available through the Professional and Career Development Loan scheme.

Disabled students who are studying for at least one year can apply to their Local Authority for help with extra costs that are incurred by their disability.

One common way to find financial help for postgraduate courses is to apply to the funding body of your chosen subject area. Your college or university department will be able to give you more details on this issue.

You can also look out for any available postgraduate studentships. These are sometimes advertised in national newspapers. Studentships are where the college or university already has funding for a post.

Government-sponsored training

Government-sponsored training schemes are there to help unemployed people move into employment. They are designed to provide long-term unemployed people with ways of getting the skills they'll need in the workplace.

For information about what's available, contact Jobcentre Plus.

Other ways of financing study

There are various other ways for you to finance your study. Here are a few of the more common types.


Some employers (mainly large companies), the armed forces and some professional institutions pay for students' tuition fees and living expenses. They do this mainly for HND and degree courses in engineering and sciences, and sometimes business-related subjects.

Sponsored students are expected to work for the company during their vacations. When they graduate, they may be expected to take a permanent position with their sponsor, though this is not always the case.

Employer-sponsored training and education

Another form of sponsorship is where your employer pays for you to do a course of study part-time or by distance learning. If you feel that you cannot afford to go to college full-time or that you would like to earn money while learning, this may be worth thinking about.

Scholarships and charitable awards

Scholarships provide money for study without training in the workplace. They may be given for special research or travel, or to reward outstanding musical or sporting ability. They are usually given by universities or professional institutions.

You could try raising funds to pay for your course from charities and trusts. The funds available are usually for people who are disadvantaged in some way or who belong to a certain group of people (such as a religious or ethnic grouping).

Trade union support

If you are a member of a major trade union, you may be able to take advantage of your union's education services.

Professional bursaries

Bursaries are available to pay for the costs of studying for some professionally orientated courses. These are usually available from the membership bodies related to particular professions.

Further Information

Research Funding Guide

Publisher: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)


Student Finance and Loans

UK government services and information


Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1UH

Tel: 01793 413200



Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET

Tel: 01793 444000


Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1SZ

Tel: 01793 442000



Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1EU

Tel: 01793 411500


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1UJ

Tel: 01793 413000



Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)



Scholarship Search


Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS)

Scottish enquiries

Address: Gyleview House, 3 Redheughs Rigg, Edinburgh EH12 9HH

Tel: 0300 5550505


Student Finance Wales

Welsh enquiries

Tel: 0845 6028845


Student Loans Company

Address: 100 Bothwell Street, Glasgow G2 7JD

Tel: 0845 3005090


The Directory of Grant Making Trusts 2012/13

Author: Tom Traynor Publisher: Directory of Social Change

Funding Postgraduate Study

Publisher: Prospects


Student Finance England

UK government services and information

Address: PO Box 210, Darlington DL1 9HJ

Tel: 0845 3005090


Student Finance NI

Northern Irish enquiries

Tel: 0845 6000662


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