Funding for mature students

The decision to return to study can be influenced by many different factors, but whatever your motivation it’s likely that considerations of how you fund your studies will form part into your decision.

There are lots of misconceptions around the ‘cost’ of studying, and debt from student finance. Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert has a helpful guide explaining how student finance works, including how the total cost of studying is largely irrelevant as your repayments are based on what you earn (post graduation), not what you owe. He recommends thinking of your student loans as a graduate tax.

We’ve collated information about what funding might be available if you’re eligible for funding from Student Finance England. See our FAQs section to see about eligibility. What funding support you’re eligible for varies depending on your personal circumstances and your home country.

We refer mainly to Student Finance England, as most mature learners looking to study in West Yorkshire live nearby. If this doesn’t apply to you, see the relevant funding body for more information about your circumstances:

You’ll usually only get student finance if you’re doing your first higher education qualification – even if your previous course was self-funded. However, you may still be eligible for limited funding in certain circumstances and for some courses – see below.

From 2025, the UK government plans to offer all individuals a lifelong loan entitlement (LLE) which would be equivalent of four years of post-18 education to use over their lifetime. Whilst this funding is not yet available, if you are in the early stages of planning your return to study you may wish to stay up to date on any developments.

Further Education and training

If you haven’t yet got the qualifications to begin a higher education course, funding is available for further education courses.

Advanced Learner Loans

You can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to help with the costs of a Further Education course at a college or training provider in England.

Student Finance England will ‘write off’ any outstanding Advanced Learner Loan balances you owe for an Access to HE course once you complete a higher education course. This means you do not have to repay it.

Loan eligibility does not depend on your income and there are no credit checks.

Loan Bursary Fund

You may also be eligible for money from the Advanced Learner Loan Bursary Fund if you need help with some costs while studying, for example childcare, travel or trips related to your course.

Adult Education Budget

If you’re studying a Level 3 qualification, you might be eligible for an ‘Adult Education Budget’ grant instead of an Advanced Learner Loan. If you get a grant, you do not need to repay it. Ask your college or training provider about grants before you apply for a loan.

Higher education degrees

All new UK higher education students are eligible to apply for a loan through the UK government’s Student Finance service to help pay for tuition fees and support towards living expenses, so long as they meet the eligibility requirements (see our FAQs).

The tuition fee loan is paid directly to the University and the living cost loan is paid to you in instalments. You only start to repay the loan when you have graduated and are earning over a certain amount a year (£27,295 during 2022/23). Repayments are based on how much you earn, not how much you’ve borrowed.

Tuition fee loans

You can apply to borrow up to £9,250 for the 2022 to 2023 academic year. This is paid from Student Finance England directly to your university or college once you enrol.

Part-time students with a course intensity of 25% or more can apply to borrow up to £6,935, depending on your course fee.

For UK students undertaking certain health and social care courses, NHS funding may be available – see below.

Maintenance loans for living costs

You can also apply for a Maintenance Loan for living costs. If you’re living independently (not with your parents) and studying outside London, you can get up to £9,706 per year in maintenance loans to support your living expenses (2022/23 rates)

The amount you’ll get depends on your family income, and is calculated by the Student Loans Company.

Extra help

You may also be eligible to apply for extra financial support.

The Student Finance website has details of support for:

Postgraduate study

You can apply for a Postgraduate Master’s Loan or Postgraduate Doctoral Loan to help with postgraduate course fees and living costs.

You can apply for a studentship which is a postgraduate position with funding for fees, living expenses or both. These might be funded by UK Research & Innovation or a company, charity or foundation, and are often focused on a particular area of study.

Find a Masters and Find a PhD have information on funding for the relevant programmes.

Grants, bursaries and scholarships

Many of Go Higher West Yorkshire’s members offer scholarships and bursaries, to ensure that students on low incomes are not excluded on financial grounds.