Student Maintenance Loans 2024
The Maintenance Loan will probably be your main source of cash while you're at uni. But how does it work? And how much money will you get? Allow us to explain.
According to our National Student Money Survey, the Maintenance Loan is one of the biggest sources of money for students while they're at uni.
So, as you'll almost certainly be taking one out, it makes sense to learn about the eligibility criteria, the application process and how big a Maintenance Loan you'll get. You'll also want to know how to pay it back and what to do if your loan isn't enough.
In trademark Save the Student fashion, we have you covered. Read on, and we'll answer all of your questions about student Maintenance Loans.
What's in this guide?
- What is a Maintenance Loan?
- How is the Maintenance Loan paid?
- When does the Student Loan come in?
- Are you eligible for a Maintenance Loan?
- How much Maintenance Loan will you get?
- How to apply for a Student Loan
- Repaying your Student Loan
- What to do if your Maintenance Loan isn't enough
- Campaign to increase Maintenance Loans
What is a Maintenance Loan?
The Maintenance Loan is a Student Loan provided by the government, and it's intended to help towards your living costs while you're at university. Rent, bills, food, nights out – all of these things and more are what the Maintenance Loan is there to help you pay for.
You apply for the Maintenance Loan through the same process as Tuition Fee Loans and, eventually, you'll make repayments on the two as a joint sum. However, the Maintenance Loan and the Tuition Fee Loan are technically two separate types of funding.
And while we're against students having to take on any debt to attend uni, the current repayment terms on Student Loans are fairly manageable. In most cases, we'd argue it's best to take out both a Tuition Fee Loan and a Maintenance Loan, rather than one or the other (or neither).
How is the Maintenance Loan paid?
Maintenance Loans are paid straight into your student bank account in three (almost) equal instalments throughout the year.
You'll get one at the beginning of each semester – other than in Scotland, where loans are paid monthly. This means it's down to you to budget your loan responsibly and make sure you don't spend it all in freshers' week.
Students often ask why the third payment is as big as the others when you'll likely be at home over the summer. The answer is simple: you're still a student, and some of you still have rent to pay during July and August.
And it's thanks to that same logic that things change slightly in your final year.
Your final Maintenance Loan payment is smaller than it would have been in previous years. This is because after June/July you're not a student and no longer entitled to a Student Loan.
Also, note that not all of your Student Loan is paid directly to you. Tuition Fee Loans are paid straight to your university, and you'll never see the money. That means you shouldn't have to worry about your uni chasing you for payment, nor the temptation to spend the cash yourself.
When do Student Loans come in?
When your Maintenance Loan comes in depends on which part of the UK you're from and when your uni's term officially starts.
But, no matter where you're studying, you'll need to register for your course before you receive your first student finance payment. This is September for most students, so we advise making registration one of the first things you do when you start uni!
Beyond that, there's a little more variation.
Students from England, Northern Ireland and Wales receive their Maintenance Loans in three chunks throughout the year. Usually, these are in September, January and April, but this may vary depending on when your uni's semester officially starts.
Similarly, the exact date you receive your Student Loan is unlikely to be the same as your friends. It's typically paid on the first day of term, and as unis are often several weeks apart on this, there's no reason to worry if your friends receive their loans before you.
If you're from Scotland, things are slightly different – your loan arrives on the 7th of each month.
This means you won't get three massive payments like students from elsewhere in the UK. But, on the plus side, the monthly system does make it easier to keep to a budget.
Student Finance loan payment dates 2023/24
To help you figure out when your next Student Loan payment is due, this is when you'll receive your Maintenance Loan payments in 2023/24:
- Students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales – In or around September 2023, January 2024 and April 2024
- Students from Scotland – On the 7th day of each month.
Are you eligible for a Maintenance Loan?
Whether or not you're eligible for a Maintenance Loan depends on a few factors. We'll run through each of the criteria in a moment, but don't panic. Most undergraduates starting uni are usually eligible to receive funding.
These are the factors that determine if you qualify for a Maintenance Loan:
Your university/college and course
Firstly, your university or college (or another type of institution) must be 'recognised' or 'listed'. This is a lot less complicated than it sounds, as it covers most unis and colleges.
What's more, the course you're enrolling on must fall under the list of qualifying courses supplied by the government.
Again, most undergraduate courses are recognised and eligible for funding. But there are some different criteria if you'll be studying part-time.
Students on most courses at most unis will be eligible for a Maintenance Loan. To make sure, head over to the government's website for the full list of criteria.
Whether or not you've studied before
In theory, the only way you'll be eligible for a Maintenance Loan is if this is the first higher education course you're enrolling on. But, in reality, it's a little more complicated.
If you've previously started a course but had to drop out of uni, you may be eligible to receive funding again. Similarly, if you're resitting a year at the same institution, you may be eligible for a Maintenance Loan.
This is because all students are eligible for funding for the number of years of the course they're applying for, plus one extra year.
If you've studied before and you're applying for a Maintenance Loan on a separate course, you'll need to subtract the number of years you've previously studied from this figure to find out how long you'll be eligible.
For example, on a three-year course, most students are entitled to four years of funding. But what if you've already studied for two years on another course? In this case, you'd subtract two and find you're only eligible for two years of funding.
The exception to this rule is if you dropped out for "compelling personal reasons". If so, you could be eligible for funding for your full course regardless of how long you previously studied. These reasons tend to be things like serious illness, rather than simply not liking the course you were on.
And, finally, even if you've already completed a degree, you could still receive funding. This only applies to a few students, like those 'topping up' a qualification to a full Honours degree, or those studying an eligible course. But there's certainly no harm in checking.
This one shouldn't be an issue for most of you.
The only age restrictions on Maintenance Loans affect those aged 60 or over. But even then, you may get some funding if you're studying full-time.
However, if you're 25 or older, how the size of your loan is calculated will be slightly different. See our guide to Student Loans for mature students for more info.
Your nationality and residency status
Nationality and residency status is the murkiest of all the eligibility criteria. As such, it's the one that tends to catch students out the most.
As a general rule, you're eligible for a Maintenance Loan if you're a UK national (or have 'settled status'), normally live in the UK (or the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man) and have done so for the three years prior to the start of your course.
But it's worth noting that all three of those things must apply to you to guarantee your eligibility. For example, if you're a British citizen but moved abroad as a child, you may not be eligible anymore.
In some instances, you may be able to appeal and receive a Maintenance Loan anyway. To do this, you'll often need to prove that you've retained economic ties to the UK in your absence (e.g. one parent stayed and paid tax), or that one/both of your parents had to move abroad for work.
There are also special exceptions made for specific groups, including refugees and stateless people.
Some UK nationals living in the EU may also be eligible for funding for courses beginning before 1st January 2028. Head to the government's website for more information on UK students living in the EU.
As we said earlier, it's best not to let these criteria confuse you.
We stand by our statement that the majority of students at the majority of universities will be eligible to receive a Maintenance Loan. This is especially true if you've been studying at a school in the UK and will be attending a well-known university.
But, as ever, if you're unsure, it's best to contact your funding body and ask them to clarify things for you.
How much Maintenance Loan will you get?
The size of the Maintenance Loan you're entitled to will depend on the following four factors:
- Where in the UK you're from – Each country within the UK has its own funding body for students. You'll apply to the body in the country you normally live in when you're not at uni.
- Whether you'll be living at home or not – In most of the UK (apart from Scotland), there's more funding on offer for students who live away from home while at uni. There's usually even more funding if you'll be studying away from home and in London.
- Your household income – Students from households with a higher income generally receive less generous funding packages from Student Finance bodies. Meanwhile, those from poorer backgrounds usually receive the most generous support. Depending on where in the UK you're from, this could determine how big a Maintenance Loan you get and/or how big a Maintenance Grant you're entitled to (if any).
- How long you're studying for – If you enrol on an accelerated degree, you may be eligible for extra funding for the additional weeks of study involved each year. In this guide, we'll focus on the main Maintenance Loan allowance, so head over to our guide to accelerated degrees for info about the extra cash.
It's easiest to explain by country, so scroll through to where you currently live to see how big a Maintenance Loan you could receive.
And remember: your Student Loan is provided by the part of the UK you normally live, not where you will be studying. So, if you live in Northern Ireland but plan to study in Scotland, you should apply for funding from Student Finance Northern Ireland.
What is the average Maintenance Loan?
The average Maintenance Loan is approximately £5,952 a year, based on calculations we made using data from our National Student Money Survey and information supplied by the Student Loans Company.
However, as we've explained above, the amount you'll receive isn't affected by what the 'average' student gets. Instead, the size of your Maintenance Loan is determined by your household income, where you'll be living while studying and where in the UK you normally live.
Maintenance Loans in England 2023/24
|Living at home
|Away from home (outside London)
|Away from home (London)
|£25,000 or less
The household incomes in bold represent the upper earnings thresholds for the parents of students in each living situation. Students with parents earning above these thresholds will receive the minimum Maintenance Loan for someone with their living arrangements:
- £3,698 if you live at home and your household income is £58,291 or above
- £4,651 if you live away from home and outside London, and your household income is £62,343 or above
- £6,485 if you live away from home and in London, and your household income is £70,040 or above.
Bear in mind that the household incomes we've given in the table above are just examples. The Maintenance Loan you receive will be calculated using your exact household income rather than a band (e.g. £42,345 instead of £40,000 – £45,000).
What are the minimum and maximum Maintenance Loans in England?
The minimum Maintenance Loan on offer for students from England is £3,698. This is paid to students with a household income of £58,291 or more who will live at home during their time at uni.
The maximum Maintenance Loan is £13,022. This is paid to students who will be living away from home and in London, and whose annual household income is £25,000 or less.
And for more info on Student Loans in England, check out our main Student Finance guide.
As well as Maintenance Loans (which need to be repaid), Student Finance Northern Ireland offers students Maintenance Grants (which don’t need to be repaid). You apply for, and receive, the two together, with the amount you receive of each affecting the other.
For that reason, we’ve included Maintenance Grant amounts in these tables. Here’s how much is on offer if you’ll be living with your parents:
|£19,203 or less
… living away from home and outside of London:
|£19,203 or less
and away from home and in London:
|£19,203 or less
The household incomes we’ve given in the table above are just examples. The loan you receive will be calculated using your exact household income rather than a band (e.g. £32,345 instead of £30,000 – £35,000).
What are the minimum and maximum Maintenance Loans in Northern Ireland?
The maintenance package for Northern Irish students contains both a grant and a loan. As such, it’s probably more useful to look at the total packages on offer rather than just the loan.
The minimum amount of support on offer for students from Northern Ireland is £3,938. This is paid to students who’ll be living with their parents and whose household income is £50,451 or above.
The maximum amount on offer for students from Northern Ireland is £10,852. This is paid to students who’ll be studying away from home and in London, and whose household income is £19,203 or below. The Maintenance Grant accounts for £3,475 of this support, while the remaining £7,377 is a Maintenance Loan.
Head over to our guide to Northern Irish Student Finance for a detailed breakdown of the funding on offer to you.
|£20,999 or less
|£21,000 to £23,999
|£24,000 to £33,999
* These amounts assume you’re a dependent (or ‘young’) student. If you’re 25 or older, check out our guide to Student Finance for mature students.
The funding body in Scotland (Student Awards Agency Scotland, or SAAS) offers grants as well as loans.
However, unlike in the rest of the UK, the loans offered to students from Scotland don’t differ based on your living situation. Instead, there are just four sums on offer and the amount you receive depends on what household income band you’re in.
Students with lower household incomes receive more funding overall. What’s more, the proportion of their support that’s non-repayable (a grant) is also bigger.
Another distinction between the Scottish system and the rest of the UK is that students are assessed based on household income bands, rather than exact household incomes.
So, a student whose household income is £24,000 will be entitled to the same support as a student whose household income is £33,999, as these two figures lie within the same band.
What are the minimum and maximum Maintenance Loans in Scotland?
The maximum Maintenance Loan and Grant package on offer in Scotland is £9,000. This is paid to students in the lowest income band (£0 – £20,999), with £2,000 of the funding accounted for by a non-repayable grant.
The minimum Maintenance Loan on offer to Scottish students is £6,000, paid to those in the highest income band (£34,000 and above). The entire sum is a loan, meaning it must be repaid.
The Welsh government offers students a combination of Maintenance Loans and Grants. And, as is the case in Northern Ireland and England, the amount on offer differs based on where you live as well as your household income.
But crucially, students from Wales in the same living situation (i.e. living at home, living away from home and outside London, or living away from home in London) all receive the same amount of money.
The only difference is how much of your package is a loan and how much is a grant. Students with the lowest household incomes receive a bigger portion as a grant, and those with a higher household income receive a bigger loan.
So, with that in mind, here’s what is on offer to students from Wales who’ll be living with their parents:
|£18,370 or less
… living away from home but outside of London:
|£18,370 or less
… and living away from home and in London:
|£18,370 or less
Again, the household incomes we’ve given in the table above are just examples. The Maintenance Loan you receive will be calculated using your exact household income rather than a band (e.g. £42,345 instead of £35,000 – £45,000).
What are the minimum and maximum Maintenance Loans in Wales?
The maximum Maintenance Loan and Grant package available to Welsh students is £14,635. This is paid to all students living away from home and in London.
The minimum Maintenance Loan and Grant package on offer to Welsh students is £9,950. This is paid to all Welsh students who’ll be living at home during their time at uni.
How to apply for a Maintenance Loan
Students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales can all apply for a Maintenance Loan online or by post. If you’re from Scotland, there’s no postal option, so you’ll have to apply online.
That said, whether you apply online or by post, you may still need to send some supporting evidence in the mail. This is likely to be things like passports, birth certificates and so on.
We’ve got a full guide to applying for Student Finance (including Maintenance Loans). But if you’re just after a link to your funding body, we’ve got you covered too.
Remember that you apply for funding from the part of the UK you ordinarily live in, not the part you’ll be studying in.
All clear? Great. Here are the links to apply for a Student Loan from each of the UK’s four funding bodies:
- England – Student Finance England
- Northern Ireland – Student Finance Northern Ireland
- Scotland – Student Awards Agency Scotland
- Wales – Student Finance Wales.
How to apply for a Current Year Income Assessment
If applying for Student Finance for the 2023/24 academic year, you’ll need to provide your household income from the 2021/22 tax year (6th April 2021 – 5th April 2022).
But if you think your household income for the current tax year (6th April 2023 – 5th April 2024) will be significantly lower than in the 2021/22 tax year, you can apply for what’s known as a Current Year Income Assessment. This will entitle you to larger Maintenance Loan payments throughout the entire academic year.
At the end of the 2023/24 tax year, you’ll need to submit further evidence to prove what your household income was. If it was lower than expected, you may get some extra Maintenance Loan. But if it’s higher than you estimated, you’ll have to repay some straight away.
Here are the criteria for a Current Income Assessment in each country:
- England – Household income must have dropped by at least 15% (Student Finance England for more info)
- Northern Ireland – Household income must have dropped by at least 5% (Student Finance Northern Ireland for more info)
- Scotland – Household income must have dropped into a different bracket (Student Awards Agency for Scotland for more info)
- Wales – Household income must have dropped by at least 15%. But due to how the Welsh Student Finance system works you likely won’t get any more cash. You’ll just get an increased share of grant compared to loan (Student Finance Wales for more info).
And a heads up if your household income was previously above the maximum threshold. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, it needs to drop below this mark for you to become eligible for extra funding.
Similarly, across the UK, if your household income is already below the minimum threshold, you won’t be eligible for a larger Student Loan. This is because you already receive the maximum amount.
How do you repay your Student Loan?
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it 100 times. Despite the flaws in the Student Finance system, the repayment terms for Maintenance Loans (and Student Loans overall) are fairly generous.
You’ll make repayments towards your Maintenance Loan and Tuition Fee Loan together as one Student Loan. So when we discuss the repayment terms of Maintenance Loans, remember it applies across the board.
We have a guide to Student Loan repayments that explains it all in a lot more detail. But, for now, we’ll answer a few of the most common questions students have about repaying Maintenance Loans.
What is the interest rate on Student Loans?
For students from England and Wales, the interest rate on Student Loans usually varies depending on your salary and whether you’re a student or a graduate. However, in response to rising inflation, in January 2024 the interest rate is currently 7.6% for everyone on Plan 2 and Plan 5 loans.
For students from Northern Ireland and Scotland, the interest rate on Student Loans is currently 6.25%.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the interest rates on Student Loans change each year based on inflation. For a full explainer of how it works, read our Student Loan repayments explainer.
How and when do you start repaying your Student Loan?
No matter where you’re from in the UK, you only start repaying your Student Loan from the April after you’ve graduated. And even then you’ll need to be earning over the repayment threshold for your type of loan.
The current repayment thresholds for UK graduates are:
- Students from England who start on or after 1st August 2023 (Plan 5 loans) – £25,000 a year (£2,083 a month or £480 a week) before tax
- Students from England who started before 1st August 2023 (Plan 2 loans) – £27,295 a year (£2,274 a month or £524 a week) before tax
- Students from Wales (Plan 2 loans) – £27,295 a year (£2,274 a month or £524 a week) before tax
- Students from Northern Ireland (Plan 1 loans) – £22,015 (£1,834 a month, £423 a week) before tax
- Students from Scotland (Plan 4 loans) – £27,660 (£2,305 a month, £532 a week) before tax.
Like the interest rates on Student Loans, the repayment thresholds can change each year. Check out our Student Loan repayments guide for more info.
In terms of the ‘how’, most graduates won’t need to worry about actively making repayments.
Unless you’re self-employed, your Student Loan repayments will automatically be deducted from your salary in the same way that tax is. You won’t have to manually repay anything.
If you are self-employed, you’ll need to make Student Loan repayments as part of your self-assessment tax return.
When is your Student Loan debt cancelled?
A major positive of the Student Loan’s repayment terms is that no matter how much you’ve paid back, the government cancels the balance after a number of years.
If you’re from England, Scotland or Wales, your loan is written off 30 years after you first become eligible to repay (the April after you graduated). If you’re from England and start your course after 1st August 2023, it’ll be 40 years before your loan is written off.
Northern Irish students have their loans cancelled after 25 years.
Across the UK, your loan will be written off if you have to claim a disability-related benefit and can no longer work (or if you die).
What to do if your Maintenance Loan isn’t enough
Every year we run our National Student Money Survey. And, every year, we find that the Maintenance Loan isn’t big enough.
Our latest survey found the average monthly shortfall between Maintenance Loans and student living costs is £582. As such, nearly two in three (64%) students in the survey said their Maintenance Loan isn’t enough.
So, sadly, you’ll likely need some extra funding while at uni.
If your Maintenance Loan doesn’t cover your student living costs, here are your options for extra funding:
Use your interest-free overdraft
Whenever students ask us what’s the best student bank account, our first piece of advice is always the same. We suggest looking for the ones with the biggest interest-free overdrafts.
Most major banks offer a student account. And, in most cases, they offer an interest-free overdraft as part of the deal. This means that, unlike most bank accounts, you can dip into your overdraft without having to worry about any charges.
You only need to worry about climbing out of your overdraft once you’ve graduated. But, even then, you shouldn’t have to do it straight away.
Most student accounts become graduate bank accounts once you leave uni. These have interest-free overdrafts too, but the size steadily decreases over two or three years.
So, if your Maintenance Loan isn’t enough, your student overdraft is one of the safest sources of extra money.If you want to know more about student accounts, make sure you watch our dedicated student bank account video guide.
Ask your parents for money
We’re not keen on Maintenance Loans being tied to household income. But the fact is they generally are.
One of our biggest gripes is that we don’t feel the funding bodies are clear enough about expecting your parents to contribute if you don’t get the maximum Maintenance Loan.
If this is news to you, calculate the difference between your Maintenance Loan and the maximum amount available to a student in your living situation. The figure you’re left with is what the government ‘expects’ your parents to contribute each year.
Of course, plenty of parents who are expected to contribute are unable to. At the very least, many can’t contribute as much as they’re expected to. So, the difficult conversation of asking them for financial support is even trickier.
And before you think you can hack the system by refusing to provide your funding body with your household income… they’re one step ahead of you. Students who don’t submit this info get the lowest Maintenance Loan by default.
Apply for bursaries, scholarships and grants
We briefly covered Maintenance Grants above, but there are loads more grants on offer that aren’t funded by the government.
Most unis (plus loads of charities and businesses) offer grants, bursaries and scholarships. Best of all, none of these need to be repaid!
While this is free money, there is a catch. Often there are criteria to make sure the money goes to those who need it most, or those who excel in a particular field or discipline (like sports or music).
Use our list of student bursaries to find out more about some of the most common types of funding in this area. Or, if none apply to you, check out our guide to funding sources and discover some for yourself.
And if you think there’s no way you’ll be eligible for anything, think again. As these weird bursaries, scholarships and grants show, there’s funding out there for almost anyone and everything!
Get a part-time job
Getting a part-time job is never as easy as some people make it out to be. But it’s not impossible.
According to our National Student Money Survey, 56% of students hold down a part-time job while at uni. This makes it the most popular source of income, alongside parental contributions.
Whether it’s becoming a sales assistant in a shop, working at a bar or even trying your hand as a film and TV extra, there are countless part-time jobs for students that let you balance work and study.
Other ways to make money
It’s easy to believe that a part-time job is the only way to earn extra money at uni. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are hundreds of weird and wonderful ways to earn extra cash at uni. Although, in our list of ways to make money quickly, we’ve whittled it down to our top 40. This includes starting your own business, using paid online survey sites and even selling your old stuff.
There are even some ways to earn free money. That’s the dream.
The moral of the story is: if you have a brainwave and think you’ve found an ingenious way to make money, go for it! As long as it’s within the confines of the law, of course…
Apply for hardship funds
If you’re struggling for money, you may be able to apply to your university’s hardship fund.
Hardship funds are offered by unis to students who are experiencing serious financial difficulties. Usually, but not always, the money doesn’t have to be repaid.
But when we say “serious financial difficulties”, we mean serious.
As harsh as it may sound, unis are keen to ensure these funds are only given to those who need them the most. So, you’ll need to prove to them that you really are struggling and haven’t been reckless with your money.
This could mean handing over bank statements, Student Finance letters and proof of your household income to your uni. This shows that not only are you out of options, but you haven’t frittered away your money on a PlayStation and a new TV.
You can find out more, including who’s likely to qualify for help, in our full guide to hardship funding.
Should you take out an extra loan as a student?
In tough times, it’s tempting to turn to the easiest and quickest sources of money. Often, these are payday and high-interest loans.
We strongly advise against taking out either of these loans, as the medium- and long-term issues they bring by far outweigh any short-term positives.
The dangers of payday loans are well-publicised. But high-interest loans, such as those offered by private loan companies, don’t receive anywhere near as much scrutiny or criticism. This is despite having many of the same flaws.
We’ve put together a guide on the risks of private student loans, as well as the safer alternatives you can turn to for extra cash. Please read it if you’re considering taking out a high-interest loan!
Campaign to increase Maintenance Loans
At Save the Student, we have consistently called on the government to increase Maintenance Loans.
For too many students, their loans are simply not big enough to cover all of their living costs, leading many to struggle to afford their daily essentials like food.
For students from England especially, Maintenance Loans have fallen far short of keeping up with inflation over recent years, making an already difficult situation even harder.
As Communications Director at Save the Student, campaigning is a big part of my job. Here’s why I see this particular campaign as vital, along with what you can do to help:
At Save the Student, we work tirelessly to share our very best tips for making your Maintenance Loan go further. But, ultimately, scrimping and saving can only get you so far if the loan isn’t enough to cover even your basic living costs.
Sadly, our surveys have consistently found that this is the case for far too many students. And, in recent years, the problem has become far worse – particularly in England, where the real-terms value of the loan has shrunk by up to £1,500 after the government failed to increase funding at anywhere near the rate of inflation.
It’s a scandal that students should have their loans cut like this, which is why we’re campaigning for the government to increase funding to catch up with inflation.
We ran a similar petition earlier this year, which received substantial support and was referenced in a Parliamentary debate. However, as the government declined to take any action, and the issue is persisting, we’ve relaunched our campaign.
So please sign and share our petition to force the government to increase Maintenance Loans to catch up with inflation.
Worried your Maintenance Loan won’t get you through uni? Check out our list of ways to make money for some inspiration.