Higher Education courses are those at Higher National Certificate level or above (that is Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework level 7 or above). They can be taken at college or at university and include:
- an undergraduate honours degree;
- an undergraduate ordinary degree; and
- a Higher National Certificate ( HNC) or Higher National Diploma ( HND).
Support for Higher Education is mainly loan-based, with a number of means-tested grants for specific groups of students.
The Student Awards Agency for Scotland ( SAAS) will pay the tuition fees for full-time eligible students studying at publicly-funded institutions in Scotland. You must apply to SAAS for this even if you are not applying for any other means of support.
Most students studying part time and on a distance learning course will have to pay tuition fees. However, if you are receiving certain benefits, on a low income, or are disabled, you may not have to pay fees. For more information contact your institution, college or the Open University.
Support for those studying full time is mainly through an income-assessed loan. Unmarried students under 25 years may qualify for a Young Students Bursary if their parents' income is less than £32,515 a year.
This is a non-repayable grant, paid instead of part of your loan, so it reduces the amount you need to take out as a loan. The maximum bursary available is £2,510 a year.
A non-repayable bursary is available for students studying elsewhere in the UK (from 2006/07 onwards). This payment replaces part of your loan entitlement. The full bursary of £2,045 a year will be available if your parents/husband/wife/ civil partner's income is less than £18,360 per annum. Independent part-time students (studying at least 50% of a full-time course) are eligible for an income-related loan of up to £500 a year to help with course-related costs, if your household income is less than £17,367 (with one child) a year. The threshold is higher if you have more children and/or are married/in a civil partnership.
All support for living costs for higher education, except Disabled Students' Allowance, is income assessed. This means that your financial and personal circumstances are taken into account when a decision is made about the support you will receive. Parental income is not a factor in assessing independent students, but your own 'unearned income' and your husband/wife/civil partner's income will be taken into account.
Every student who applies for assistance must make a formal declaration of his or her total income from all sources during the academic year.
Income earned by working during term or holiday time will not affect your student support entitlement though unearned income in excess of specified limits will reduce your entitlement on a pound-for-pound basis.
Students who are absent from their studies because of illness or caring responsibilities can continue to receive support through SAAS. After recovering or ending your caring responsibilities, if you have to wait until the start of the next academic year to rejoin your course, you may be entitled to claim Job Seekers Allowance.
We will consider you as being 'independent' if you meet at least one of the following conditions:
- you are 25 before the first day of the academic year for which the loan is being assessed
- neither of your parents is alive
- you are married or in a civil partnership before the first day of the academic year for which the loan is being assessed
- you have been supporting yourself with earnings or benefits for any three years immediately before the first day of the academic year in which the course begins.
Specific Help for Students with Dependent Children
This help is available to full-time students only.
Lone Parent's Grant
There are special provisions for widowed, divorced, separated or single students bringing up children. If you have at least one dependent child, a yearly grant of £1,240 is available to you.
Lone Parent's Childcare Grant
If you receive the Lone Parent's Grant you can also get help of up to £1,155 per year for your formal childcare costs such as childminders, after-school clubs and providers of day care and education. If your children are aged 8 or under, the childcare provider must be registered with the local authority.
Childcare Fund Support
You can also benefit from the Higher Education Childcare Fund, particularly if you're a lone parent or mature student. Support from this fund is discretionary, administered by institutions themselves, and is only available to meet the costs of formal/registered childcare. You should contact your university or college for more information.
Other Financial Help
Students with an Adult Dependant
Full-time students can claim the income-assessed Adult Dependants Grant for their husband/wife/civil partner, up to a maximum of £2,510 per year. If you get married after the start of a course, you can claim this grant for your husband or wife from the date of marriage. You cannot claim Dependants grant if your husband or wife also receives student support.
Students with Disabilities
If you have extra course-related costs as a direct result of your disability, you may be able to claim the Disabled Students Allowance ( DSA). DSA can help students with disabilities pay for items of equipment, non-medical personal help, or certain other course-related requirements.
DSA is not income assessed and you should contact your college, university or SAAS for further advice and an application form.
Full-time students can apply for help with the cost of daily travel to their college or university. If you are living away from home, you may claim three return journeys each session to and from your term-time residence, in addition to term-time travel to and from your institution. There is a maximum amount payable to eligible students and you are required to pay the first £155 of the yearly total. SAAS will only allow the most economical fares available for the type of transport you use.
Students can apply to their institution's Hardship Fund if they have financial difficulties that might prevent them gaining access to higher education, or continuing their course. Colleges and universities have discretion to provide payments to students who are moving from the benefit system to take a course.
How To Apply
Application forms are available from your college, university or SAAS. You must apply for your fee, loan and grants through SAAS.
If you have any questions about your eligibility or about payment of fees and supplementary grants, please visit the SAAS website or contact them on 0845 111 1711, or e-mail email@example.com
Here are some examples of how the support may work:
Full-time Lone Parent Student
Fiona is 29 and currently works as a receptionist. She is a divorced mother of two and has been accepted by university to study a full-time degree in French. As a lone parent Fiona worries about how she will cope with living and childcare costs.
Fiona's tuition fees are paid in full by SAAS and as an independent student she is entitled to the maximum loan of £4,400. As a lone parent she is also entitled to £1,240 Lone Parent's Grant and can claim the Lone Parent's Childcare Grant of £1,155 as she has formal childcare costs. Some universities provide childcare facilities but in Fiona's case they do not, and she will use her childcare grants to fund registered childcare.
Full-time degree course, lone parent
Lone parent's grant
£6,795 per year
Her employer has offered her some hours in her job as a receptionist that she can fit around her studies. This earned income will not affect her loan or childcare grants. She is also aware that if she gets into financial difficulty during her course she may be able to claim discretionary awards from the Childcare and Hardship Funds that are administered by the university. Fiona has accepted her place at university to study.
Part-time Parent Student
Tom is married with one child and earns less than £15,000 per year. He would like to improve his qualifications to increase his earning potential. He has applied for an Open University degree but is concerned about the tuition fees and the cost of updating his old computer.
As Tom and his family are on a low income the Open University has advised him he does not have to pay any tuition fees. SAAS have also advised him he meets the eligibility criteria for the £500 student loan. He has been advised that he can apply for this loan for each year of his studies to help meet study related costs such as equipment, books, travel, etc. Tom is delighted and intends to use the money to update his computer when he starts his course. He is also aware that if he gets into financial difficulty during his course he may be able to claim a discretionary award from the Hardship Fund that is administered by the university.
Part-time Open University course, married, working part time, earns less than £15,000 per year
£500 per year
What is the Graduate Endowment?
The Graduate Endowment is a fixed amount that some graduates have to pay after completing their degree. For students starting in session 2006-07 the amount is £2,289, and for all new liable students in 2007-08 the amount will increase by the rate of inflation. The funds raised are used to provide student support, including bursaries, for future generations of students.
Some graduates are exempt from making contributions including:
- mature students (i.e. those assessed as independent);
- lone parents entitled to a Lone Parent's Grant during their degree;
- disabled students eligible for support through the Disabled Students' Allowance scheme during their degree;
- students undertaking an HNC/D course;
- students taking less than two years to complete their degree course immediately after completing an HNC/D;
- students taking less than three years to complete their degree course in all other circumstances;
- students taking a degree course in nursing or midwifery or any degree course that attracts a Health Department bursary in each year;
- students who have failed to meet the requirements to be accredited with a degree;
- those studying for their degree out with Scotland;
- those studying part time;
- those who have previously been a student in publicly-funded Higher Education.