Undergraduate university-based degree routes

Since 2017, eligible undergraduate students on university-based nursing, midwifery and most allied health profession pre-registration courses (courses which lead to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council or Health and Care Professions Council) have had access to the standard student support package of tuition fee loans and support for living costs, rather than getting an NHS grant as they did in the past.

Paramedic courses are one exception to this funding arrangement with these programmes still funded by a mixed model of student loans or direct commissions from Ambulance Trusts or Health Education England.

What do student loans cover?

Student loans cover tuition fee costs and contribute towards your living expenses.

The tuition fee is transferred directly to your university so you won’t have to get involved in that process.

The student maintenance loan is means tested. This means the amount you can borrow to support your living costs will depend on your individual circumstances (your household income, whether or not you will live at home while studying and whether or not you live in London). The day to day support for living costs is significantly higher for most students under the main student funding system than it was in the past for students receiving an NHS Bursary. Details of these loans are available on the Government’s student support website.

What other support is available?

Support for students with child dependants

Students with children can claim a £1,000 Child Dependants Allowance from the NHS Business Services Authority as well as non-repayable support through the mainstream student funding system to help support childcare costs. Anon-repayable parents learning allowance is also available.

Support for placement costs

Students on healthcare courses spend a great deal of time on clinical placements away from the university. In some cases, this means that students need to travel longer distances than usual or even stay away from home for a period of time. Students on these courses are eligible for reimbursement of additional travel and accommodation costs over normal daily travel costs. This support is part of the Learning Support Fund administered through the NHS Business Services Authority.

Other support

In some cases students may be eligible for certain additional support through the Learning Support Fund, including up to £3,000 for exceptional hardship.

Students who are obliged to incur essential additional expenditure while undertaking a course of higher education as a result of a disability will qualify for disabled students’ allowances.

The student support system provides additional, non-repayable grants, to students with adult dependants.

Nearly all universities offer extra money in the form of scholarships or bursaries to help with the cost of going to university. These are in addition to student loans and you don’t have to pay them back. They might take the form of cash or discounted services or accommodation. Some universities also offer fee waivers that will reduce the loan that you have to pay back.

How will I repay my loan?

Lots of people worry about whether university is affordable but it is important to know that you don’t have to pay money upfront and that the amount you eventually pay back will depend on how much you earn. In this respect loan repayment is more like a tax than a commercial or payday loan.

Loan repayments are income dependent. You will repay 9% of any income you earn each year above £25,000. If your income drops below £25,000 or you take a break from work you will not pay back the loan again until you are again earning over the threshold amount. Many newly qualified professionals in the NHS earn a little under £25,000 a year so you may not start paying back your loan until sometime after you qualify.

Loans are paid back automatically out of your pay packet so you don’t have to worry about missing repayments.

Money Saving Expert Martyn Lewis has published some good advice on student loans which explains the system well.

The loan gets written off 30 years after you become eligible to repay so if you are a mature student there is a fair chance that you will never have to repay the full amount.

You can find out more about how the funding works on the Case studies page of the website.

Can I get a loan if I already have another degree?

Most students cannot take out a second student loan but the Government has made a special exception for healthcare students. If you already have a degree you can take out a second loan on the same terms as other students.

The same basic repayment arrangement will apply even when you have two loans subject to ‘Plan 2 repayment terms’ (post-2012 loans) so you will not pay back more than 9% of your income over £25,000. The repayment amount is simply split proportionally according to the outstanding balance of each loan. Again, any remaining loan amount will be written off after 30 years.

If your first student loan was a ‘Plan 1’ loan (pre-2012) the amount you will repay to each plan will depend on your income and the terms and conditions of each loan. Detailed information can be found on the Student Loans Company website.

If you already have a degree you may be able to qualify as a healthcare professional through a fast-track postgraduate degree route.

What about integrated Masters courses?

There are a few integrated Masters courses in healthcare subjects. Students on these courses have access to funding for the full four years of the course.

I already have a Foundation degree, will this be recognised?

If you already have a relevant qualification or substantial experience you may be able to have this recognised through Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). This could shorten the time taken to qualify and you would still be able to access standard student support. Universities have their own arrangements for APEL so do ask the universities you are interested in.

If you start your programme in year two or above because of your previous experience, you will still qualify for a student loan.

I want to study to be a paramedic

Paramedic science is outside the scope of the mainstream funding arrangements. You will need to find out how these courses are funded locally. You may be able to have your fees paid by a local employer or even have your living expenses covered. If this is not the case you should be eligible to access the student loan system in the following instances:

  1. If you do not get any support at all from you ambulance/health trust you should be able to get the ‘standard package’ of support via Student Finance England
  2. Where an ambulance/health trust, employer or sponsor will fund your fees and living expenses and these are means tested, you can receive the reduced rate maintenance loan from Student Finance England.

If you are in receipt of non means tested support from your ambulance/health trust, employer or sponsor you will be ineligible for further support from Student Finance England.

Can I afford this?

There are lots of myths about student loans and people understandably worry about whether university is affordable. Make sure you get independent advice and don’t be put off before you’ve investigated the way the system works.

Learn more