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University Studies FAQs

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Q&A on all the types of people who become students. Don't let anything get in your way...

  • Getting a degree as a single parent

    When I became a single parent at 24, to a 2-year-old and my unborn daughter, the first thing I had to do was quit my job. My first visit to the job centre left me in tears, I was treated like a criminal. I felt stupid and worthless for many years.  I stayed at home with my children until my daughter received childcare vouchers and could attend playgroup part-time.

     I enrolled at the local college to do a Diploma in Access to Higher Education.  It was incredibly hard, I almost dropped out because of finances after my car broke down and eventually had to get financial help with travel costs, so I could continue to attend.  As work started to be marked and I gained distinctions, sometimes with the best marks in our group, my confidence and self-esteem raised. 

    Trying to focus on what I was going to use my qualification for was difficult, did I look at a job I could go straight into or aim as high as I could? With some grit and determination, I focused on becoming a scientist! My applications went in for University, I was offered a place at Exeter medical school to study a degree in clinical science, it was perfect and a massive boost considering Exeter was in the top 10 universities at the time. I studied at Exeter, there were tears, frustration and trauma but I did it!  I left with a 1st class degree!  It took grit, determination, resilience and sheer bloody-mindedness but I did it!! 

    It is possible and Degree Studies at West Suffolk College will help you all the way. 

    Life as a Student Mum

    Benefits and tax credits while you’re studying

  • A degree and a family?

    It is possible but be ready …. I am 28 and have two toddlers.  I have just finished my first year and it was hard!  But I don’t regret a day of it and am determined to keep going and looking back to getting back into it for the second year.

    You can study with a family part time or full time.  You must though make sure you have a good network of support around you and take every offer going to look after your children, to have some study time or be able to get to the library. Plan your time carefully and use every spare minute productively!  Remember though to give time to you and your family as well.

  • Working during a degree

    Some people would say that you should concentrate on your degree and make the most of your time at university or college.  However, a job broadens your skills, knowledge and experience and the combination of this and the degree will make you much more eligible for a career when you’ve graduated.

    Having a part time job when you’re studying makes money issues more manageable, knowing you have that extra bit of cash will help with budgeting and giving yourself that occasional treat.

  • Can I juggle a job and a degree?

    It is possible to juggle both but you must be strict with how you use your time.  There won’t be time for you to prevaricate over when to do that assignment!  The risk is that working whilst studying could mean you don’t get as good a degree but as long as you are really strict about organising your time; that you’re prepared to say no to the extra shift so that you can still meet your deadline and talk to your academic tutor so that he/she knows you’re working then you’ll be fine!  But it is about self discipline!

  • What benefits can I claim while at doing a degree?

    If you’re a student in further or higher education in the UK you could be eligible for social security benefits in addition to student funding.  The benefits you can claim depend on your circumstances and whether you are enrolled full time or part time. This link takes you to an overview of what is available:

    Can I claim government benefits as a student?

  • Can I go to do a degree without A-levels?

    Definitely! You can do an Access to Higher Education Diploma which can help you gain the subject skills and study skills to be able to get on to a degree.  Most universities accept Access to HE courses as an alternative qualification but the best place to take this route is in an FE college. Here you can do the Access to HE course and stay with the same teaching team to do a degree. 

  • Is there an age limit?
    You're never too old to start a degree, in fact a large number of 'mature students' are attending university every year, so it's really common. Over 60% of our students are mature students.

Finance Q&A

  • How much does it really cost to go to university?

    The cost will vary significantly depending on where you decide to go to university.  The cost of student living varies around the country. Tuition fees range from £6500 to £9250

  • How do uni fees work?

    You won’t have to pay the tuition fees up front, this is paid by the student loan company directly to the university. You will receive your student maintenance loan three times a year, the amount you get depends on where in the country you are studying.  For instance you will get more if you study in London than if you study in Norfolk.

  • Can I get a maintenance loan if I live at home?

    Yes! You can still apply for the student maintenance loan, although you will probably get a bit less than if you are living away from home. 

  • How will my loans be repaid

    You won’t pay anything until you’re earning over £25,000 and then you will start paying 9% a year directly from your monthly pay cheque, and some say you don’t even realise its being taken!  For instance on a salary of £28,000 you will pay £9 a month. 

  • My family can’t help me financially with living costs when I go to university. Are there any other grants or loans I can apply for?

    Yes!  All universities have bursaries that you can apply for.  Each will have its own criteria that you must meet.  Information about this can be found on their websites.  However, in addition you can apply for a maintenance grant to help with living expenses.  The grant doesn’t need to be repaid but it will reduce the amount you can get for a maintenance loan.  You can find information about grants from the student loans company and the government’s student finance calculator can help you work out how much support you can get (www.gov.uk/student-finance-calculator).

  • I’m a part time student can I get a tuition fee loan, maintenance loan and grants?

    Yes, yes and no!  

    For tuition fees – you could get a loan as long as your course allows you to complete more than 25% of the full time course each year.

    You can get a maintenance loan but how much you can get depends on where you’re living, what your household income is and how much of your course is completed each year (eg over 25%).

    As a part time student you’re not able to apply for a maintenance grant.

  • If I live at home will I save money?

    Yes! You will be able to save a lot of money by staying at home, you won’t have to pay rent (or not so much anyway), you won’t have the costs of household bills, food, laundry.

  • How does a degree cost £9,250?

    This amount can’t be broken down into an itemised list.  Universities have overheads, insurance, and other on-costs that need to be covered and so a breakdown wouldn’t really help you understand where your fees go.  However, the important thing to bear in mind is that your loan is paid back over a very long period of time and you don’t start paying this back until you earn £25,000, and then it’s 9% (so on £25000 you will repay £18 a month), this comes straight from your pay cheque and everyone we know who is paying this doesn’t even notice it.  Also you stop repaying it when you reach 55.  

  • Why should I take on the debt of a student loan for the rest of my life?

    Because going to university is a gateway to a higher earning potential and the chance to move into a high skilled level of work you will struggle to achieve otherwise.  It is recognised that those with a degree might start at the same level as someone without but they will move up the career ladder faster and will go further.  Therefore, earning potential is much greater.

  • How much will it cost parents for their child to go to university?

    This depends on where you go to university and how much your parents earn.  A survey by www.savethestudent.org found that it could cost over £5,000 year and that on average parents contribute £138.50 a month (June 2019). But remember, you can apply for bursaries from the university and maintenance grants from the government.

    On the other hand, if you child goes to local university or college then it won’t cost you any more than it costs for them to live at home at the moment!  They will have as good an experience and saving all of you money!!

  • Where can I find out about the cost of going to university?