House of Commons Library

The value of student maintenance support

Published Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How have student maintenance support levels changed over time? How has the balance between grants and loans changed? What did the Chancellor's 2015 Budget announcement on the ending of grants mean to this and to potential students?

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Review of Post-18 Education and Funding

On 19 February 2018, the Prime Minister announced  that there would be a “wide-ranging review into post-18 education” led by Philip Augar. The review is to look at how future students will contribute to the cost of their studies, including “the level, terms and duration of their contribution.” The Prime Minister discounted the idea of moving back to a fully taxpayer funded system. It is expected that the review will report in early 2019.

This paper will be updated with any relevant information or changes that come from the review process.

More detail on the review and associated briefing papers can be found on the page: Review of Post-18 Education and Funding

Changes in maintenance support from 2010

Maintenance grants, maintenance loan levels and income thresholds were all frozen at 2009/10 levels in 2010/11 and 2011/12.

2012/13 saw full grant levels for new students from England increased by 12%, maximum loan levels by 11%; changes to income thresholds and fee loans were extended to part-time students.

The full grant increased by 3.2% in 2013/14; 1% in 2014/15 and was frozen in 2015/16. Maximum loans amounts were frozen in 2013/14, increased by 1% in 2014/15 and 3.3% in 2015/16. Income thresholds were frozen in 2012/13, 2014/15 and 2015/16.

Maintenance grants ended for new students in 2016/17. New students received all their maintenance support as loans. At the same time the maximum value of support was increased by around 10% to £8,200 in 2016/17 (from its 2015/16 level of just over £7,400), £8,430 in 2017/18, £8,700 in 2018/19, £8,944 in 2019/20 and £9,203 in 2020/21 for students living away from home outside London.

Key trends in the real value of the maximum maintenance support package over time are:

  • A gradual real reduction during the 1960s
  • A partial reverse in this cut in the late 1970s before further real cuts in the 1980s
  • The introduction of loans in 1990/91 which initially increased the value of the overall support package and gradually replaced grants over time.
  • The total value of support remained at around £6,200 a year (September 2018 prices) during most of the 1990s and up to 2003/04.
  • The reintroduction of grants in 2004/05 and the new grant in 2006/07 both resulted in jumps in the maximum value of support
  • The 2012 reforms increased the size of the support package for new students. Subsequent freezes or below inflation increases in grant and/or loan rates meant real values fell in subsequent years.
  • Loans replaced grants for new students from 2016/17. Increases in the maximum loan amounts in the same year took the value to its highest level in real terms, substantially higher than in 1999 when grants were last abolished.
  • Maximum loan amounts have maintained their real value since 2016/17



While the maximum value of support has increased in real terms there is still concern that it is not enough to cover student living costs, particularly due to higher accommodation costs. The income point where the maximum value is reduced has fallen over time which means parents of dependent students need to make larger contributions to bring support levels up to the maximum. Parental contributions are not made explicit in student finance material and there is also concern that this means that some students do not receive the support they need.

 This paper looks at the value of the support for student maintenance over time and its impact on public expenditure. Some of these older statistics refer to England and Wales, although devolution of student finance means that figures from 2006/07 cover England only.

The following Library publications give more information about changes in this sector:

The aim of this note is to look at trends in the level of support for maintenance, not specific eligibility criteria or additional grants/allowances for different groups of students. Details of these for students from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can be found at:

More detail on loan and grant levels, income thresholds and variations by where the student lives, studies etc. can be viewed on the Student Loans Company’s website.

Commons Briefing papers SN00916

Author: Paul Bolton

Topics: Higher education, Students

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