Can you afford to go to university as a mature student?

Esther Shaw / 18 August 2015

If you want to go to university in your later years but worry about the cost, read our guide to financial support and loans available to mature students.



Many people contemplate going to university in their later years, but are often held back from doing so due to concerns about the cost.

Being a student can be very expensive these days, and many graduates finish their courses in a lot of debt.

The good news is, there is plenty of financial help and support available to academics of all ages.

Here we take a closer look.

What’s on offer?

Student finances usually consist of a combination of a tuition fee loan, a maintenance loan, and additional top-ups and grants. This will depend on where you live and your income.

Tuition fee loan

Tuition fee loans of up to £9,000 are offered to almost all students, with no age limit. These apply if you are studying full-time or part-time and are paid directly to your university or college.

Note, however, that you may not be eligible for one of these loans if you already have a higher-level qualification.

That said, there are some exceptions. For more information visit the Student Loans Company.

Maintenance loans

You may also be able to get access to a maintenance loan to help cover the day-to-day cost of living, such as food, rent and travel. However, these loans are only available to the under 60s, and you must be a full-time student.

If you do qualify, you can borrow up to £5,740 (from September 2015) if you are living away from home but outside London. Students are entitled to slightly more if they spend a year of their course studying or in the capital (£8,009) or overseas (£6,820).

Repaying your loans

Loans have to be repaid once you graduate, but you will not repay anything until you earn at least £21,000.

This threshold is set to rise in April 2017, in line with average earnings.

If you do start earning £21,000, you will repay 9% of everything you earn over that figure.

The debt will be wiped out altogether in 30 years.

Read more about doing a degree in later life.

Beware of paying fees upfront

If you are looking to study in your later years, you need to think carefully before deciding to pay for you fees upfront.

Crucially, if you graduate but never earn above the repayment threshold of £21,000 during your working life, you will not be required to pay your loans back.

Equally, if you retire before paying your loan back in full, there is a good chance your pension will not exceed the threshold beyond which repayments are required. This could mean you are not liable for the full amount.

This “loophole” in the rules could make becoming a mature student more of a possibility for those interested in a university education.

Maintenance grant for living costs

In addition to tuition fee loans and maintenance loans, you may be able to claim a grant – as long as you are under 60. Eligibility will depend on your 'household income'. This grant will reduce your maintenance loan allowance, but does not have to be repaid after graduation.

Special support grants

If you’re aged 60 year or older, you can apply for a special support grant instead of a regular maintenance grant.

Other financial help

Further help may be on offer from universities in the form of bursaries and scholarships, while charities and trusts also give out money for a wide range of reasons.

Take advantage of the funding on offer

As a mature student – as with students of any age – the key is to ensure you apply for all the funding you are entitled to.

For more information visit the student finance pages on Gov.uk. There is a useful student finance calculator here

If you are considering part-time work to fund your studies, read our guide to working part-time in retirement. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.