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Student support for undergraduates across the UK

Published Thursday, February 22, 2018

This House of Commons briefing paper outlines the student support systems for undergraduate higher education students in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It sets out the amount of funding that students may receive and discusses the reviews of higher education funding and student support which are taking place in each region of the UK.

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Devolution of higher education

Higher education is a devolved matter and each region has created its own higher education finance arrangements and its own student funding system and organisation. Very different systems therefore exist across the UK and the picture for students is rather complicated. 

Student support arrrangments

In all of the UK regions students are charged tuition fees and loans are available to cover the cost of fees – Scotland is unique in that tuition fees for Scottish students are paid for by the Scottish government. Regional student funding bodies also provide living cost support in the form of loans, grants or bursaries.  Funding is also available to help with particular situations such as childcare costs and for students with disabilities.

Tuition fee amounts and student funding arrangements vary significantly in detail across the regions.  The type of student support available and eligibility requirements are set out on the websites of the various regional student funding bodies.

The governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have chosen to subsidise the fees of their own students who study at home. This situation may however be different if Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish students chose to study outside their region - only Wales subsidises students wherever they study.

Students receive student support from the funding body in the region where they live. This complicated system of student funding has led to a situation where students studying on the same course may receive different amounts of funding depending on where they come from. 

Higher education funding reviews

Higher education and student finance is a highly debated subject in all of the UK’s regions and there has been much discussion about rising fee levels, student debt and low levels of living cost support.

The Welsh and Scottish governments have recently carried out reviews of higher education funding and student support: the Diamond Review in Wales reported in July 2017 and the Independant Review of Financial Support for Students in Scotland reported in November 2017.  On 19 February 2018 the English government launched a Review of Post-18 Education and Funding.  The review will last a year and will consider how to make the tertiary education system accessible and ensure that it provides value for money for students and taxpayers.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8237

Author: Susan Hubble

Topics: Higher education, Students

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