Finance and funding for care experienced students

Many students are worried about managing their money – and if you're in care, or have experience of being in care in the past, this may seem like a particular challenge. But there's lots of help for you.

The good news is, there’s dedicated funding available once you begin studying  – usually bursaries, that you don’t have to pay back, unlike your student loans. These can make a huge difference when it comes to your living and study costs, including accommodation.

Also, there are lots of other ways your university or college can help you, whether you’re still applying, or getting ready to graduate.

Student finance

Applying for student finance

Everyone can apply for student finance to cover tuition fees and maintenance in higher education – this is slightly different depending on where you live in the UK, so check the guides below for full details.

Guides to help you apply for student finance

  • England

    • IMPORTANT: Instructions for students in England who are under local authority care but live with their parents:
      • If you’ve been in care but are now living with your parents until you go to university or college, you will be treated as a care leaver for funding purposes, if your care continues under the local authority while you live with your parents.

        You’ll have to state you’re living with your parents on your student finance application – unfortunately the Student Finance England portal does not currently automatically recognise you as a care leaver. Until the portal has been updated, you’ll need to upload a letter to make sure your application is assessed correctly, as a care leaver. 

        Please use the below wording for your letter and upload it when you submit your student finance application. This will ensure your application is assessed as a care leaver:

        To the Independent Team
        I’m applying for independent status as I’m a care leaver.
        Please could you advise what evidence I need to provide?
        My Customer Reference Number: (11-digit number allotted once you apply for funding)
        Signature: (if possible)

  • Wales
  • Scotland 
  • Northern Ireland

Find out more about student finance 

Don’t worry about repaying a student loan – you won’t be expected to start making payments until you graduate and start earning above a certain amount.
If you are a care leaver, you can apply for student finance as an independent student – this means your household income isn’t taken into account to calculate what you can receive

More financial help

You may be eligible for further financial help as a care experienced student, such as:

  • England and Wales: A higher education bursary of at least £2,000 which you don’t pay back (if you're starting a higher education course before your 25th birthday) – contact your local authority for details.
  • Scotland: A £9,000 Care Experienced Student Bursary, which you don’t pay back, and an optional student loan of £2,400. There is also a Summer Accommodation Grant to help with your accommodation costs during the summer period – find out more on the SAAS website.
  • Northern Ireland: Your Trust will assist you with planning funding for higher education, and must explain how they will support your plans – contact your Trust for more details.


Many universities and colleges offer bursaries for care experienced students that you don’t have to repay, and some offer grants or loans to help you manage any additional expenses (e.g. specialist equipment).

Speak to the university or college, or check the Propel website.

Extra financial help from universities and colleges 

Universities and colleges may offer further financial help, from applying through to graduation.

  • Travel costs to interviews, open days etc. – even if they haven’t accepted you yet, a university or college may reimburse your public transport costs to attend any events that are part of your research or application process. But, you’ll need to get approval in advance, and save your receipts.
  • Basic items when moving in – one university invites students to ‘get in touch’ if they have concerns about affording basic items for your accommodation, such as bedding and kitchen utensils.
  • Priority for hardship funds and other funding – your application for emergency funds or additional bursaries may be prioritised over other students, if you run into financial hardship while studying.
  • Budgeting and other advice – this might be the first time you’ve had to juggle large sums of money like a student loan, or budget for living costs. To help you get on top of your money, your university’s finance department may offer workshops or drop-in sessions – this might include creating a budget, or telling you about other grants you’re eligible for.
  • Accommodation – many universites and colleges will help you find suitable accommodation. More about help you may get with accommodation
Charitable organisations

There are a number of organisations offering grants, bursaries and scholarships, including: 

Interested in an apprenticeship?

If you're an apprentice in England you may be eligible for an apprenticeships care leavers' bursary. If you start your apprenticeship by 31 July 2023 the bursary is £1,000, from 1 August 2023 the bursary will be £3,000.

More about apprenticeships care leavers' bursary

More info about funding

Visit these websites for lots more information and advice about funding for care experienced students:

NHS careers

If you study an eligible healthcare course, you might qualify for an NHS Students’ Bursary. Funding for undergraduate nursing, midwifery, and allied health professional students varies by country of study – find out more about NHS careers funding.

Students not supported by their parents (estranged)

Finance for estranged students can be a particular challenge – but all applicants can apply for loans to cover tuition fees where applicable (paid directly to the university), and maintenance costs (paid directly into your bank account). And there are also bursaries, grants, or scholarships you might be eligible for to help with the costs of being a student.

Mature students

Finance is an issue for all students, regardless of age, but it can be particularly difficult for mature students, who are often faced with a range of competing commitments. It's worth spending some time planning your finances for the duration of your study, so you know what to expect when you start. Find out all you need to know about student finance for mature students