In our previous guide, we covered the many costs of going to university and living independently as a medical student. As you may have seen, it’s certainly not a cheap venture! You might have heard about how students can get a maintenance loan to help pay the bills, but what does that mean? How much can I get? Do I have to pay it back? In this guide, we’ll answer all these questions and more!
Nota Bene: Before we begin…
Before reading this guide, we’d suggest you read our previous one on the costs of medical school in the UK. You may also find our guide on medical school jargon useful, particularly the first section on postgrad and undergrad medicine
Because many medical school places are in England, this guide will be focused on the funding available for students studying in England. However, the rules are a little different if you’re from Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland and are studying in your home country. The Royal Medical Benevolence Fund has an amazing advice hub for students from all walks of life, including other UK citizens, postgraduate students and more!
This guide is also going to be less useful for international students studying medicine in the UK, who are not eligible for the government loans and grants we will talk about in-depth here.
Student Finance maintenance loan
You might know that some students are eligible for Student Finance loans to cover tuition costs. This is also true of maintenance costs! This means, on top of the money you’ll receive to cover tuition fees, you’ll also get extra cash to help you pay the bills. Just like the tuition fee loan, the maintenance loan will have to be paid back, and the amount you borrow through medical school will be added on top of your student loan debt. Don’t worry too much though! Your student debt payments come straight out of your paycheck, so you don’t need to manage it yourself. Also, repayments are capped at 9% of your income above about £27,000 – For a foundation junior doctor in their first year, that makes your first repayment in the margin of around £150.
Who is eligible for a maintenance loan?
The long and short of it is if you’re eligible for a tuition fees loan from Student Finance, then you’re eligible for a maintenance loan. This, unfortunately, excludes international students (except those who have EU settled status). You can check the official eligibility page on this page, but specifically for medicine, this is who can apply for a full maintenance loan:
– Undergraduate medical students in years 1-4 of their course
– Postgraduate medical students on accelerated courses in the first year of their course
– Postgraduate medical students on an undergraduate course in years 1-4 of their course
There is also a ‘partial maintenance loan’ which is available for those who receive NHS bursaries. Look out for our next article on NHS bursaries to find out about that!
How much maintenance loan am I entitled to?
First of all, Student Finance divides all students applying for the maintenance loan into 3 groups: Those living at home (with parents/guardians), those living away from home OUTSIDE LONDON, and those living away from home INSIDE LONDON. Each of these groups are eligible for different amounts of money. Most people fit into the away from home, outside London option.
Everyone who applies for a maintenance loan is entitled to a minimum amount of loan which is (very roughly) half of the maximum possible maintenance loan. To reiterate, everyone who can get a maintenance loan is entitled to this minimum amount AT THE VERY LEAST. See the table in the next section for the minimum loans for each of the 3 categories.
So how can I get the rest of the maintenance loan?
This depends mainly on your parents’/guardians’ household income. To be clear, your parents/guardians household income is the combined amount of money they earn every year from their jobs/rent from tenants/other sources of income. This is assessed by the Students Loan Company and your parents must submit their details to prove their income. DO NOT LIE about your parents’ income as if you’re found out you will be asked to pay back any money you weren’t entitled to.
The rest of the loan is “means-tested” meaning you have to qualify for a certain amount above the minimum. To receive the maximum maintenance loan, your parents household income has to be under £25,000 per year (before tax). For people whose parents/guardians jointly make more than 25k (AKA most students), you will be entitled to an amount that is less than that, in proportion to their income. At a certain point, if your parents earn enough money, you’ll just be eligible for the minimum loan we talked about in the last section.
Save the Student have a detailed table here or you can use the official Student Finance calculator (with a rough estimate of your own parents’ income) here. See below our generic overview.
Student finance maintenance loan for 2021/22
Parents’ household income where you’ll just receive the min loan.
Living at home
Living away from home OUTSIDE LONDON
Living away from home INSIDE LONDON
Am I entitled to anything else from Student Finance?
Student Finance does offer additional resources for students from specific backgrounds/situations. These are usually allowances/grants for those facing possible financial barriers to their studies. These include students who:
– Have children under the age of 17 in their care:
You may also be eligible for universal credit as a student if you’re responsible for a child, live with a partner who is otherwise eligible for UC, or you’re under 21 and do not have parental support (IE estranged from parents, lived in local authority care etc)
Is Student Finance all the support I can get?
While it’s probably the largest single source of your income, there are other branches of support. Universities may offer their own bursaries or grants to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. You can often find the amount and eligibility for these on their websites. Medical schools often offer travel bursaries to help fund your commute to hospital placements.
Universities also offer hardship funds for any student who may be having immediate issues with paying essential bills like rent and food. They can also offer student financial advisory services to help you access these extra funds and will know of any local bursaries or funds you may be eligible for. Often, universities offer low hours employment opportunities for students, working around the campus.
Beyond universities themselves, there may also be bursaries and grants available from charitable organisations. The Turn2Us grant search can show any grants available to people in a certain area of the UK. Your medical school may also have a list of charitable grants aimed at medical students specifically. The Royal Medical Benevolent Fund also has a shortlist of some of these medical student funds.