Loads of grants and bursaries go unclaimed each year in the UK, so we’ve created this guide so you can bag the cash you’re entitled to.
Further education loans for mature students in England
If you’re 24 or over, you can apply for a 24+ Advanced Learning Loan to help with college or training tuition costs in England.
You’ll need to be studying a Level 3 or 4 course – these include A-levels, Access to Higher Education Diplomas and many apprenticeships You can take a loan for each A-level, but you can’t take them all at once. You must also have lived anywhere in the UK for the last three years.
There’s no credit check to get the loan, and it doesn’t depend on your household income. How much you get depends on what you’re studying and what your college charges in tuition fees. The minimum loan is £300. The loan will be paid directly to the college.
There’s also a 24+ Advanced Learning Loans Bursary Fund, which you can apply to if you need learning help, or to cover childcare or residential costs.
If you’re studying an Access to Higher Education diploma, then go on to complete a higher education course, your 24+ Advanced Learning Loan is written off.
You start paying the loan back when you earn £21,000 a year or more. Interest is charged at RPI+3% while you’re studying, then at RPI.
Who can apply? Anyone over the age of 24 studying a Level 3 or 4 course.
What’s the maximum award? £300 upwards. What does it cover? Tuition fees/training costs.
Top education grants
Free short courses
- Start-up boosts for over-50s
- Top up your maths and English skills
- Get up to speed with the internet
- Learn a language for free
Fee-free tuition for Scottish students
If you live in Scotland and decide to study at a university in Scotland, you won’t have to pay anything towards tuition fees, you’ll be guaranteed to get a maintenance loan and may be eligible for a bursary. But if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you’ll still have to pay up to £9,000 a year to study in Scotland.
The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) offers the Young Students’ Bursary, which covers day-to-day living costs if your family’s household income is less than £34,000 a year. Those on an income of less than £17,000 will get the full bursary of £1,750.
Anyone who applies through SAAS will be eligible for a loan of at least £4,750 if their household income is £34,000 or above, while others will receive £5,750.
There’s also an Independent Students’ Bursary and student loan for those who are 25 or over, are married or living with a partner, or responsible for a child. Here, you’ll get a bursary of £750 if your household income is under £17,000.
Loans work in the same way for mature students – you’ll get at least £4,750 if your household income is over £34,000, while those with an income under £17,000 can borrow up to £6,750.
If you live in Scotland and earn less than £22,000 a year, you could get some funding from ILA Scotland.
This provides a grant of £200 towards the cost of learning something new at any approved provider, including learning centres, colleges, universities and private training companies.
Who can apply? Adults in Scotland. What’s the maximum award? £200. What does it cover? Learning costs.
Discretionary Learner Support
You can apply for Discretionary Learner Support from your education provider if you’re 19 or over, studying for a further education course, and facing financial hardship. This money can go towards childcare, accommodation, travel or course materials & equipment.
Your school or college decides how much you’ll get, and which scheme you’ll be put on, ie it could be a direct payment (you don’t have to pay it back), a loan, or paid directly to your landlord.
Who can apply? Anyone over 19. How much can you get? Varies. What does it cover? Any costs associated with studying
Care to Learn
There is help for those who have to bear the cost of course fees and childcare through the Government’s Care to Learn scheme. You must be 20 years or over at the start of your course to be eligible for the scheme, and be the main carer for your child. This is not suitable for those studying a higher education course at university.
The sum covers childcare, deposit and registration fees, travel costs for taking your child to the provider, and keeping your childcare place over the holidays. Childcare providers must be registered with Ofsted.
Payments of £160 per child per week (£175 if you live in London) will stop if you stop studying, you finish the course, or your child stops attending childcare.
Who can apply? Aged 20 or over, studying publicly-funded course in England. How much can you get? £160 or £175 per child per week. What does it cover? Childcare costs.
Professional and Career Development Loans
If you think grants and loans are only for university students, think again. These loans are offered at a reduced interest rate, which the Government pays while you’re studying, and are there to help those who want to top up their training.
To be eligible, you need to be over 18 and must have been living in anywhere in the UK for at least three years before the start of your course. Your course must last two years, or up to three years with a year of work experience.
The snag is that the course must be provided by an organisation on the Professional Career and Development Loan Register, so you’ll need to check.
Be careful of imposters – only Barclays and Co-op currently offer these loans. For more information, take a look at our Career Development Loans guide.
Who can apply? Anyone over 18. How much can you get? Between £300 and £10,000. What does it cover? Any tuition costs associated with developing your career.
Local council grants
Your local council may offer grants to advance your education. As councils can assign funding to different areas, search for local training providers using the Gov.uk website.
Quick Stats: Who can apply? Varies. What’s the maximum award? Varies. What does it cover? Depends on the type of grant available.
Setting up your own business
Over 50 and interested in setting up your own business?
The Prince’s Initiative, a charity that supports people who are out of work or facing redundancy, offers a Preparing to Run Your Own Business Course for the over-50s. It’s free but requires an £80 deposit, reduced to £25 if you’re claiming an employment-related benefit, which is refunded when you’ve finished the course.
The course runs all over the UK and includes areas such as marketing and finance. For more information, or to book a place, see the Prime website or call 0845 862 2023.
Who can apply? Over-50s. What’s the maximum award? N/A. What does it cover? 6-7 week course with 3 training days and coursework.
Want to improve your maths and English skills?
If you’ve ever wanted to improve your maths and English skills, virtually every college in the country offers free courses to help you from basic literacy and numeracy up to GCSE level. Check on the National Careers Service website or call 0800 100 900 for classes in your area.
Try this online quiz from Move On and the BBC SkillsWise site to see if you could improve your skills.
Who can apply? Anyone What’s the maximum award? n/a What does it cover? Free daytime and evening classes in maths and English (reading, writing)
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