Finance while studying at university can be a bewildering and complicated business, especially if you are a medical student. Our guides have been put together to provide you with the information you need to navigate the world of medical student finance, and to point you in the direction of the help and support that is available.
The basics of student finance
The funding options available to you as a medical student differ according to:
- the country you live in (your place of domicile) and how long you have lived there
- where you are studying (differing arrangements apply in the four UK countries and students in London can access higher maintenance payments)
- the year you started your course
- any previous higher education
- your age
- your domestic/personal status and your household income.
It is important to remember that if your circumstances change during your studies, like a significant income increase for yourself or your parents, then you must have your entitlements reassessed immediately, or you may have to pay back money in the future.
There are three key organisations that provide funding for medical students:
- Student Loans Company (SLC), which administers Student Finance England financial support in the form of variable tuition fee loans, means-tested maintenance loans, and other forms of financial support including the disabled students‘ allowance and travel grants.
- Your university, which administers access to learning funds and hardship funds; scholarships; grants and bursaries; and academic prizes.
- NHS which administers tuition fee bursaries; universal, non means-tested grants for maintenance; means-tested grants for maintenance; NHS hardship grants; and other forms of financial support including childcare allowance and practice placement expenses.
Undergraduates can apply for an NHS bursary from the fifth year of study on a five- or six-year course. Before then, they should apply to Student Finance England each year for a student loan for tuition fees and living costs.
To be eligible to receive support from Student Finance England you must be English domiciled.
For more information on how to apply and the types of funding available, download our medical student finance guide for English domicile students.
Check the Student Loans Company for more information on your entitlements.
Funding for students from Wales is provided though Student Finance Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government.
Undergraduates could get a tuition fee loan of up to £9,250 to study at an eligible university or college in the UK.
Additional loans and grants available include:
- Welsh Government Learning Grant (WGLG): Most students can get a mixture of grants and loans to help with their living costs. How much grant you get will depend on your household income, but most full-time students will get a grant of at least £1,000.
- Special Support Grant. This grant is intended to help with costs such as books, course equipment and travel. It is available for students studying under specific circumstances, who may struggle to meet the cost of a degree and who meet certain eligibility criteria.
- Maintenance loan. Administered by Student Finance Wales, the maintenance loan is affected by your household income - and that of your parents or partner - which will determine how much you receive as a loan and how much you receive as a grant. It is intended to cover living costs while you are studying.
- NHS bursary. Welsh students on medical or dental courses in the UK are also eligible for an NHS bursary for part of their course. This may include payment of tuition fees (up to the standard level), a means-tested bursary, and a non-means tested grant of £1,000.
Students from Scotland apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), no matter where in the UK you are studying. If you study in Scotland, you do not need to pay tuition fees for your first degree, these are paid by SAAS; however, you must apply to SAAS for payment of fees and these will be sent directly to your university.
If you are studying in another UK country, you may be required to pay tuition fees but SAAS will normally be able to provide you with a loan to help cover the cost of this.
If medicine is your second degree (whether you are on a four-year accelerated course or a standard five-year course) you will not normally be eligible to apply for help with tuition fees, regardless of whether you received public funds previously. However, you can still apply to SAAS to pay tuition for your fifth year of study and onwards. This includes if you take an intercalated year.
Several bursary schemes are also available to students, including:
- young students‘ bursary
- independent students’ bursary
- care experienced students’ bursary
- Scottish graduate entry medicine return of service bursary.
For more information on how to apply and the types of funding and grants available, download our medical student finance guide.
This year we have extended our finance guide to include funding and grants available to UK students who wish to study in Scotland, and include some information for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Check Student Awards Agency for Scotland for information on your entitlements.
Student Finance NI delivers financial support to students who normally live in Northern Ireland and is managed by the Student Loans Company in partnership with Student Finance Northern Ireland and the government.
The four key funding sources in Northern Ireland are:
- Student Finance NI: Variable tuition fee loans (not available to graduate entry students on the undergraduate medical degree course), means-tested maintenance grants and means-tested maintenance loans.
- Your university: You may be able to access support funds and hardship funding; scholarships, grants and bursaries; and academic prizes.
- Department of Health in Northern Ireland (funding in year five onwards): The Department of Health offers means-tested financial support bursaries for medical and dental students (also known as the NHS bursary); non means-tested maintenance loans for the balance of your maintenance support; and payment of your tuition fees. Please note, graduate entry medical students will not be eligible for the NHS bursary, but may apply to Student Finance NI for support with living costs.
- Student Support Fund: The Student Support Fund is used to provide discretionary financial help for students who are experiencing financial difficulties while studying, and comprises two funds, the Department for the Economy (DfE) Student Support Fund and a university’s hardship fund.
The DfE Student Support Fund is a discretionary fund that may provide financial assistance to students from Northern Ireland and Great Britain, who encounter financial difficulty while studying. Students who are not eligible for the DfE Student Support Fund will be considered for an award from the university’s hardship fund.
Download the NI finance guide for the 2023/24 academic year.
If you meet the EU residency criteria, then you will be charged the same rate of fees as 'home' students (ie students domiciled in that UK nation), and you may receive support for tuition fees on a similar basis to home students.
The rules on tuition fees are different depending on whether you are studying in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, with information about home and overseas fees for each country available at UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs).
From your fifth year of study onwards you may be eligible to have your tuition fees paid by the NHS bursaries in England, Department of Health in Northern Ireland, or the NHS Wales Student Awards Services. In Scotland, EEA students are eligible to have their tuition fees paid throughout their first degree by SAAS.
Normally you will not be eligible for maintenance loans, grants and additional allowances for living costs from the Student Loans Company or the NHS bursary. However, depending on your residency and eligibility conditions, in some instances you may be eligible for support for both fees and maintenance to help with your living costs, particularly if you have lived in the UK for three years prior to starting your course.
If you are in any doubt about your residence eligibility status, you should contact the support office in the UK nation you are studying in, or your student union welfare office.
You are also strongly encouraged to check with your university to see if you are eligible for any local bursaries or scholarships.
Non EU/EEA nationals
In general, support for students not from within the EU/EEA is very limited. However, there are some exceptions and you should always check your eligibility with the support office of the UK nation you are studying in or with the welfare office of your university or student union.
If you are an international student and do not pass the eligibility criteria for student support because of residency requirements, you will have to pay international fee rates and will not receive any finance support from the UK government. You will also not be eligible for the Access to Learning Fund (England) or any other government schemes that provide finance assistance to students.
Universities set their own fees for international students, which for medicine are usually between £25,000 and £40,000 per year. If you are not sure about the fees that your institution charges, check with them before you accept the place offered to you.
The British Council have a guide to scholarships and financial support for international students. To apply for British Council funding, you should apply to the office in your home country. If the British Council does not have an office in your home country, you are not eligible for British Council funding. If this is the case, you should contact the British Embassy or High Commission in your country as they may be able to help you further.
For more information about support you may be entitled to, contact UKCISA, who can also offer advice to overseas students planning to study in the UK.
If you are a commonwealth citizen, you can contact the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission for more information and advice.
You are also strongly encouraged to check with your university if you are eligible for any local bursaries or scholarships.