From education to employment

Universal Credit and students

Universal Credit is a monthly payment to help with your living costs. You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income or out of work.

You cannot usually get Universal Credit if you’re studying full-time. There are some exceptions.

Universal Credit if you’re studying full-time

You may be able to get Universal Credit if you’re studying full-time and any of the following apply:

  • you’re aged 21 or under, in full-time non-advanced education and do not have parental support
  • you’re responsible for a child
  • you live with your partner and they’re eligible for Universal Credit
  • you’ve reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit and live with a partner who is under that age
  • you’re disabled and have limited capability for work and are getting:
    • Personal Independence Payment
    • Disability Living Allowance
    • Attendance Allowance
    • Armed Forces Independence Payment

Aged 21 or under, in non-advanced education and do not have parental support

This includes if you’ve left care provided by the local council or you’re without parental support.

You may be eligible for Universal Credit if:

  • you’re on a full-time course of non-advanced education or training that started before you reached age 21
  • you reach age 21 while you’re on the course

You can continue to get Universal Credit until:

  • the end of the academic year in which you reach age 21
  • the end of the course, if it ends before you reach age 21

You’re responsible for a child

The child may be adopted or a foster child.

For couples, one of you or both of you may be a student.

What counts as a full-time course

The education or training provider usually decides whether a course is full-time.

If you attend a full-time course on a part-time basis, you will be treated as studying full-time.

A course is an arrangement of study, tuition or training. It can be academic, practical, or a combination of both. It is usually done at, or by arrangement with, an education or training provider.

It will often lead to a qualification when it is completed. Some non-advanced study, tuition or training, may not lead to a qualification. This does not mean that it is not a course.

Examples of full-time courses of advanced education

Full-time courses of advanced education include those leading to:

  • a postgraduate degree or comparable qualification
  • a first degree or comparable qualification
  • a diploma of higher education
  • a higher national diploma
  • any other course of study of a standard above:
    • advanced GNVQ or equivalent
    • a Scottish higher or advanced higher national qualification

Examples of full-time courses of non-advanced education

Non-advanced education is any qualification up to A-level, or equivalent. Full-time courses include:

  • National Qualification Framework level 3 or the Scottish Qualification framework level 6
  • General Certificate of Education Advanced level (A Level)
  • AS Level
  • Advanced Diploma
  • National Diploma, Certificate or Award
  • Level 3 NVQ, Award, Certificate or Diploma

Part-time study

If you’re studying part-time, you may be able to get Universal Credit. You’ll need to meet the other eligibility conditions, like being available for work.

You may be asked to provide proof that the course is part-time.

Student income and your Universal Credit

Your student income can affect how much Universal Credit you get.

Universal Credit is usually paid once a month and is based on your circumstances during that month. This is called your ‘assessment period’.

For each assessment period that you attend the course, an amount for any student income you get will be taken off your Universal Credit. The amount is worked out from the actual student income you get that month less a set amount for expenses.

Your Universal Credit is not affected if you don’t attend the course for a whole assessment period because of the summer holidays.

Student loans

You may be entitled to Universal Credit if you receive a student loan. There are different types of student loans and there are different rules depending on which loan you receive.

When working out your Universal Credit, any loan amount that is intended to cover tuition fees and other costs of study will be excluded. However any loans that cover maintenance, such as living expenses, rent and bills, will be will be deducted from your Universal Credit. Most loans pay tuition and maintenance in separate payments.

If you receive a loan that pays maintenance and tuition in a single payment, for example a Postgraduate Master’s Degree Loan, a proportion of your loan will be excluded from your Universal Credit payment and the rest is deducted.

Postgraduate Master’s Loan

A Postgraduate Master’s Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate master’s course.

Funding for postgraduate loans is different if you normally live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Moving somewhere to study does not count as normally living there.

Postgraduate Doctoral Loan

A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course, such as a PhD.

Funding for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan is different if you normally live in Wales.

The Postgraduate Master’s and Doctoral loans are paid in a single payment and are all treated the same way when working out your Universal Credit. They are all a contribution to both living costs and tuition fees.

When working out your Universal Credit, 30% of the loan will be taken into account and the rest will be excluded.


If you’re a full-time higher education student, you may be able to get a non-repayable grant from the government to help with accommodation and other living costs. There are also other types of grants that can help with things like childcare, tuition fees or examination fees. If you are in receipt of Universal Credit and you receive a student grant, it will be fully excluded from the calculation if the grant is for the following:

  • tuition and examination fees
  • your disability
  • expenses for residential study away from an educational establishment
  • living away from your usual place of study
  • maintenance of dependent adult
  • books and equipment
  • travel expenses
  • childcare costs

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