Benefits for students

Student life doesn't come cheap and you will come up against a number of expenses, especially if you're living away from home. The good news is that there are a number of government benefits available to help take the pressure off.

Benefits for students

Finding the right support

There will undoubtedly be many challenges ahead when it comes to continuing with further or higher education following a cancer diagnosis.

For many people, it's important to find stability in normality. By getting the right support and arranging flexibility with your studies, it is often possible to continue with your course.

However, with the added costs of travelling for treatment or paying for extra clothes and general outgoings, you may need to apply for some financial support to help you get by.

Financial help available

Bursaries, scholarships and awards

Check with the university to see if you qualify for bursaries, scholarships or awards.

Financial grants can help cover the costs of things like books and laptops. Money will be paid to you directly, with no need to pay any of it back.

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)

University and college can be expensive enough, but with added costs such as specialist equipment, readers, note-takers or extra travel costs, it all adds up.

DSAs are grants (which don't have to be paid back) that could help you cover extra costs if you have an ongoing health condition, disability (cancer is classed as this), mental health condition or learning difficulty.

The amount you get will depend on your individual needs, rather than your family's household income and the intensity of a course. They can also be in addition to any help received with travel costs.

16 to 19 bursary

Students in full-time training or education who are facing genuine financial hardship may be able to apply for a bursary of £1,200 a year depending on your circumstances (a 'vulnerable student bursary'). This benefit won't be available to you if you're studying at university.

If you are ill or have an authorised absence, the school, college or training provider will let you know whether it will affect your payments.

This is available in England only. Students in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland may be eligible for an Education Maintenance Allowance.

Discretionary Learner Support (DLS)

Students aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship (for example, if you can't afford to pay for your accommodation, you can't pay bills, buy food or meet other essential costs), can apply for DLS to help pay for a range of expenses, including:

  • accommodation and travel
  • course materials and equipment
  • childcare, if you're 20 or over (if you're 19 you will need to apply for Care to Learn instead)
  • other hardship needs
The funding may be paid as a loan, a direct payment (that won't need to be paid back) or be paid to someone else, for example a landlord.

Education Maintenance Allowance

EMA has now closed to new applicants in England, but the scheme is still available if you're living in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. You could get up to £30 a week (paid fortnightly) to help with the cost of learning.

Extra help for students

From 1 September 2016 students will no longer be able to apply for a Maintenance Grant. These have now been replaced with loans, meaning that full-time students can apply for:

  • Tuition Fee Loan
  • Maintenance Loan
  • extra help from universities or colleges if you're on a low income, for example a bursary, grant or scholarship.

Loans will need to be paid back when a graduate earns more than £21,000 a year. Part-time and EU students are unable to apply for a Maintenance Loan. Visit for more information.

Change in circumstances

It's important that you keep in touch with the office or department which pays out any benefits to keep them up-to-date with any changes.

Some benefits are only payable while you remain in education. This means that you may be liable to pay some of it back if you don't keep them informed.

For more information on claiming benefits contact the Disability Rights UK student helpline on 0800 328 5050.

If you're a parent

If you are studying and are also a parent, there are a number of benefits you might be entitled to claim. You can find out more in Benefits for parents.

Updated August 2016, next review due 2017.