Students in Wales
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In This Guide
- Further Education
- Higher Education
- What are Maintenance Loans?
- Postdoctoral Finance
- When to Apply
- Repaying Your Loans
- Other Help
Whether you are a Welsh national or are applying to study at one of Wales’ universities or colleges in the coming months, you may wish to start looking into funding your course and your living expenses as soon as possible.
It’s widely agreed that you should start your application as soon as you can – and there are a large variety of options available for students in Wales from Student Finance Wales to help you enrol onto your ideal course and to fund your living costs while you learn.
Whether you are starting out as an undergraduate at university or are returning to undertake a postgraduate thesis or doctorate, there are financial options available whereby you will be able to borrow a certain amount of money which won’t be repayable until you are earning over a set amount at a later date.
Those students who are leaving school and who are heading into sixth form college or equivalent can access finance in various forms to help facilitate their study and their journey into education beyond traditional school confines.
Traditionally, Welsh students can still obtain the Education Maintenance Allowance from Student Finance Wales, and providing you are between the ages of 16 and 18 and wish to continue learning after leaving school, you could be entitled to a fortnightly bursary of £60 based on a £30 per week grant. As a grant, this is not repayable – but you will need to be eligible via standard application to take full advantage.
Further options for college students are available in the form of the Welsh Government Learning Grant FE – which applies to those students who are undertaking education at this level and who are aged 19 or older. Providing you are studying at a Welsh college – have a household income of less than £18,370 per year – and providing you both live in Wales and are a UK citizen, you may be entitled to a non-repayable £1500 grant.
Certain courses may not fall under this remit, however, so do check with your institution – and beyond this, you will need to make sure that all forms are submitted to be received within nine months of your course starting. Everything must be received, generally, within 12 months of your course having started.
University grants and loans are a little different, and many of these will fall under governmental remit. Therefore, there is always plenty of information online via GOV.UK and via Student Finance Wales as well as The Student Room – but you can generally expect to receive help with tuition fees to cover course costs and loan amounts to help ensure that your cost of living is paid for while you learn. As with other UK financing options, you’ll be able to speak with Student Finance Wales directly far ahead of your course start date to ensure that you are completely covered ahead of you enrolling.
Tuition fee loans will seek to cover the costs of your study at this level entirely – meaning that you will effectively be able to enrol without having to pay a penny right away. The amount you can borrow will be based on the course you apply for and you will only be expected to repay once you have finished your course and are earning over a certain amount each year – this means that slight deductions will be made to ensure that your loans are effectively paid back when you are in a financial position to do so. It’s important to remember, too, that interest will be applied to student loan repayments as the years go by – and that if you undertake work where you need to submit a regular tax return, you will need to account for such deductions.
What are Maintenance Loans?
For students who wish to seek additional financial support for the cost of living while studying in Wales, you may be entitled to a certain amount in the form of a maintenance loan. These loans are available based upon your household income, which means that if you live at home with a parent or a partner, you will need to ask them to effectively support your application by submitting certain information relating to the household’s yearly income. This data is taken into account to ensure that you receive a fair grant of money for the money that is already freely available to you. Once again, as with tuition fee loans, these bursaries will be repayable at a later date.
There is also additional financing available for those students who may be returning to study in Wales once they have graduated. For those who are undertaking PHDs or doctorates, for example, you may be able to claim for maintenance costs or even for tuition grants to cover the cost of your expected course fees.
Once again, Student Finance Wales helps to support this side of student financing as far as possible – and you will need to apply as soon as possible to ensure that you get access to the best possible financial support.
When to Apply
It’s important to know your application deadlines depending upon when your projected course is due to start. Full information is available from Student Finance Wales who do advise you to register and login to gain tailored advice and support dedicated to you and your course – but you will generally be expected to file all applications for a given academic year by the start of May of your first year of study. You can, however, also apply for funding up to nine months after your course has started.
Repaying Your Loans
While many students will be keen to simply dive in and start taking advantage of the new experiences lying in wait for them, it really cannot hurt to get acquainted with what will be expected from you in the long run. As student loans are just that – loans – you will be expected to repay anything you borrow.
Grants and bursaries, of course, are offered to you without the need for repayment – which can often be why they are only ever available under specific circumstances or through scholarship applications.
In Wales, your loan repayments will take place from the April after your course has finished. If your loan applies after 1st September 2012, you will be registered on Plan 2 – this also applies to England and Northern Ireland, but not Scotland, who are on a Plan 1 system – and you’ll start seeing deductions from your PAYE wage once you are earning more than £25,000 a year. This is the equivalent of £480 per week or £2,083 per month – and you will effectively see 9% of your income above your threshold deducted to pay towards said loan. The same system works for those who submit tax returns, as you will need to inform HM Revenue and Customs as to the Plan you are registered on.
Do also be aware of interest – a standard index of 3% will apply until you are earning over £25,000 per year, after which you may be subject to up to double this amount. This may also apply if you fail to respond to requests from the Student Loans Company. The interest rate is slightly less in Scotland – though you won’t be able to take advantage of full financial support there unless you are a Scottish national or are provably resident.
Regardless of whether you study in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you are going to need to work out a system whereby you can effectively budget for the cost of living – maintenance grants are a great way to get started as a boost to your financial freedom – but learning how to balance bills and regular expenses is a genuine life skill, and one which will come with the independence that new undergraduates experience.
For those who need help with maintenance once returning to postdoctorate study, the same rules of budgeting apply – and there are a wealth of tools online from sources as diverse as the Student Loans Company, The Student Room, the Citizens Advice Bureau and more besides – there are also a plethora of free apps available for you to download to your phone or tablet to help you keep track of exactly what you’re spending.
There are various bursaries, grants and loans available from Student Finance Wales, and there are also scholarships and select bursaries available from various institutions across Wales and the UK.
From the NHS to national firms and even colleges and universities you may be interested in applying to, it is always worth discussing potential funding with bodies who are invested in your study field. Charities, professional bodies and even arts organisations – all are still committed to helping fund students who are willing to learn and to progress in their particular field and/or profession. Don’t get disheartened if you’re ineligible for one particular award – as there will be many more available for you to choose from and to negotiate for support.