Student support and fees in Scotland 

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Last updated: 28 August 2023 

This blog is designed to help MSPs with queries they receive on student support eligibility and entitlements. 

It covers support for college and university students at all course levels. It is not exhaustive and is intended to signpost readers to further relevant information.  

This is an extended blog and will be updated to reflect any future changes. We’ve added a contents popout below to help with navigation. 


There are three key pieces of legislation setting out support for students in Scotland. These are:  

Applying for funding 

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) provides colleges with funding for tuition fee waivers and bursaries for eligible Further Education (FE) students. Students then apply directly to their college for support.  

FE students are those at college studying courses below HNC/HND level. 

The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) deals with applications for support for tuition fees and living costs for Higher Education (HE) students.  

HE students are those at university or at college studying for their Higher National Certificate or Diploma (HNC or HND).  

In order to qualify for student support, FE and HE students must meet general residence conditions set out below.  

General residence conditions 

To qualify for support with tuition fees and living costs, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) students must meet general residence conditions. They must:  

  • be ordinarily resident in Scotland on the relevant date (usually the first day of the first year of a course); and 
  • have been ordinarily resident in the UK in the three years prior to the relevant date; and 
  • have settled status in the UK; or 
  • have a relevant connection to Scotland (i.e. a spouse, civil partner or child of a qualifying person with settled status in the UK). 

Definition of ‘ordinarily resident’ 

‘Ordinarily resident’ means to have ‘habitual and normal residence in one place’.   

The Scottish Government expects someone who is ordinarily resident in Scotland to have made their home in Scotland with the intention of staying and living here, and not just to undertake a course of study. Students will not be considered ordinarily resident in Scotland if their main purpose of being here is for full-time study.   

There is no set time someone needs to be in Scotland to establish ordinary residence, but the normal 3-year rule in the UK applies in most cases.  

In cases where it was considered appropriate to do so, SAAS may write to HE applicants seeking specific details as to why someone had resided in Scotland. Examples of further information SAAS might request are details on property ownership or employment contracts.   

Recent changes to residency criteria 

Earlier this year the Education (Fees and Student Support) (Miscellaneous Amendment) (Scotland) Regulations 2023 introduced changes to residency criteria.  

This followed a 2022 Judicial Review of SAAS’s decision not to award student Ola Jasim tuition fee support due to not meeting the residency criteria for those granted a form of leave to remain. The Court of Session ruled these criteria to be unlawful.  

Previously, people with leave to remain in the UK short of settled status could only qualify to have their fees waived if they were either:  

  • under 18 and had lived in the UK for seven years prior to the start of their course; or  
  • eighteen and above and had lived in the UK for either half their life or 20 years.  

From Academic Year (AY) 2023-24, those with a form of limited leave to remain will be eligible for the fee waiver provided they are: 

  • ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior to the relevant dates; 
  • ordinarily resident in Scotland on the relevant date; and  
  • have been granted a form of leave to enter or remain in the UK where that leave has not expired.  

In addition, young asylum seekers and children of asylum seekers will no longer be considered international students for the purposes of fee assessments.  

From AY 2023-24, those who were under 18 on the date of their asylum application and resident in Scotland on the relevant date will qualify for tuition fee support only. They will not be eligible for cost-of-living support such as student loans or bursaries, as this might impact on support payments provided by the Home Office. 

Students, benefits and tax credits 

While most full-time students can’t claim benefits, the following may be eligible: 

  • Young students in FE courses who are estranged from their parents.  
  • Students who are parents. 
  • Students with a disability.

It is important to note that any loan or bursary support a student receives may reduce the amount of money they can claim for social security benefits they are eligible for.  

  • Universal Credit and the benefits it replaced (Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, and Housing Benefit) are affected by student funding.  
  • Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit, Disability Living Allowance, PIP (Personal Independence Payment), Attendance Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, and Child Benefit are not affected by student funding.  

The Child Poverty Action Group’s Benefits for Students in Scotland Handbook contains further details of student eligibility for benefits and tax credits. 

College student support 

Level of study

The amount of support available to an eligible student studying at college in Scotland depends on their level of study.  

Colleges offer a range of qualifications, from access courses for those returning to study through to Higher Education (HE) level courses.  

Scottish qualifications are mapped out on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) from level 1 to 12, taking in qualifications awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), Further and Higher Education Institutions, and apprenticeships and vocational qualifications. 

Colleges typically offer courses from SCQF Level 4 to SCQF Level 8.  

Learners can study Further Education (FE) courses at SCQF Level 6 or below such as National 4 and 5, Higher and vocational courses. 

HE courses delivered at colleges are Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs): 

  • HNCs (SCQF Level 7) are generally one-year long college courses equivalent to year one of a university degree programme. 
  • HNDs (SCQF Level 8) are two-year college courses, equivalent to year two of a university degree programme. 

Support for Further Education students

Students studying FE courses at colleges in Scotland may be eligible for financial help to cover tuition fees, living costs, study and travel expenses.  

FE students must contact their college student support team to apply for support.  

Contact details for college funding sites can be found on the Student Information Scotland website.  

Tuition fees 

Scottish Funding Council guidance sets out that the tuition fee rate for FE courses for 2023-24 is £1,008.   

However, many students are eligible to have their fees paid for them. Colleges apply a tuition fee waiver from SFC for eligible students.  

To qualify to have their fees waived, a student must be ‘ordinarily resident’ in Scotland.  

Living costs, study and travel expenses 

Students studying FE level courses can receive a non-repayable bursary to support them during their studies.   

Students under the age of 18 are eligible for Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) of £30 per week, with an additional weekly payment of up to £49.91 for those under 18 and living away from home. 

Those aged 18-24 living with parents are eligible for up to £99.35 per week, while over-25s living with parents are eligible for up to £125.55.  

All students living away from home are eligible for £125.55.  

However, the amount of support students receive can be affected by household income. Further information on income thresholds can be found on the Student Information Scotland website.  

Care-experienced FE students are eligible for a non-income assessed bursary of £225 a week from the age of 16.  

Students may also be eligible for funding for: 

In addition, all colleges are given Further Education Discretionary Funding from SFC. Students in financial difficulty can apply to their college for additional funding via the discretionary fund.    

To find out more about support entitlements, students must contact their college funding/support team.  

Support for Higher Education students 

Students studying college courses at HE level (HNC/HND) can apply for support to cover their tuition fees and living costs through the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).  

Further information about eligibility and entitlement can be found in the University student support’ section.   

University student support

Tuition fees


Eligible students living in Scotland studying Higher Education courses at college (HNC/HND) or university (degree level) at Scottish institutions apply to have their tuition fees paid for by SAAS.  

Tuition fees for students from Scotland studying approved courses at a small number of universities in the Republic of Ireland are also covered by SAAS.  

SAAS will pay fees for the duration of the course. A ‘+1’ year of funding for a course change or repeat year is also available if needed.  

Current tuition fee rates are £1,820 per year for a degree or Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE).  

Students studying part-time can apply for the Part-time Fee Grant (PTFG) to cover tuition fees for eligible courses at HN level and above. To be eligible for this funding, students must earn less than £25,000 per year before tax.  

SAAS can also provide a tuition fee loan of up to £9,250 a year for students from Scotland studying at publicly funding colleges or universities elsewhere in the UK.  

Students from elsewhere in the UK studying at Scottish universities are responsible for paying their own tuition fees of up to £9,250 per year.  

Some Irish and UK nationals living in the Republic of Ireland, Gibraltar or elsewhere in the EU may be eligible to apply to SAAS for a tuition fee loan of up to £9,250. More information about this is available on the SAAS website.  


Fee levels for postgraduate courses are not regulated by the Scottish Government. Institutions set their own fee levels for courses, and in some instances these fees may be higher than the fee loan amount. 

SAAS can provide a tuition fee loan of up to £7,000 for full-time and part-time courses at Postgraduate Diploma and Masters level.  

If a course is longer than one academic year, the £7,000 tuition fee loan is split over the length of the course.  

SAAS can also provide student loan support to eligible students studying full-time postgraduate at publicly funded institutions elsewhere in the UK.  

More information about postgraduate support can be found in the SAAS guides for Part-time Postgraduates and Full-time Postgraduates.  

Funding for postgraduate courses in Social Work is provided by The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC). A limited number of postgraduate bursaries for students studying MSc Social Work at nine Scottish universities are available each year. The bursary is intended to cover tuition fees, living costs and study expenses. The living costs element of the bursary is means tested.  

SAAS does not provide funding for courses at Postgraduate Certificate, PhD or Doctorate level. More information about finding PhD funding is available on the Student Information Scotland website.  

Some Irish and UK nationals living in the Republic of Ireland may be eligible to apply to SAAS for a postgraduate tuition fee loan of up to £7,000. More information about this is available on the SAAS website

EU and international

Prior to Brexit, EU students were eligible for free tuition. From the 2021-22 Academic Year, EU students can be charged the same rate as other international students. EU students with ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status remain eligible to apply for tuition fee support if they meet residency conditions.  

Further information on funding for EU students is available in the SAAS EU student funding guide. 

Tuition fee rates for international students are set by institutions and can range from £10,000 to £50,000 per year depending on course and institution.

Living support 


Eligible full-time students over the age of 16 and under the age of 61 can apply to SAAS for cost-of-living support. Depending on age and household income, they may qualify for non-repayable bursaries or repayable loans. Living cost loans are not available for part-time study.  

For young students under age 25 who are not self-supporting, have no children and do not live with a partner, parental income is taken into account when determining funding. The maximum loan amount for dependent students is £7,000. A bursary of between £500 and £2,000 is available for those with household income of under £34,000 per year.  

Independent students are those who are married, in a civil partnership, over 25, have dependent children or have been self-supporting for at least three years. Parental income is not assessed for these students. The maximum loan amount available is £8,000. A bursary of £1,000 is available for those with income of £20,999 or less per year.  

Estranged students who no longer have contact with their parents or legal guardians may be eligible for an Estranged Students Bursary of £1,000 and the maximum student loan amount of up to £8,000.  

Care experienced students are eligible for a bursary of £9,000.  

Disabled students and those with additional learning needs studying higher education courses may be eligible to receive Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). DSA has three allowances:  

  • A basic allowance of up to £1,725 per year, which can be claimed for items including printing and Braille paper.  
  • A large items allowance of up to £5,160 over the duration of a course to cover the hire or purchase of equipment such as laptops or voice recognition software.  
  • A non-medical personal help allowance of up to £20,520 per year, which can be used to employ support workers such as British Sign Language interpreters (BSL), proof-readers or note takers.  

Support a student receives through DSA depends on their individual needs and the course studied. Disabled students may also be eligible for support with travel costs and funding through the Independent Living Fund (ILF) Scotland. More information on support for disabled students is available on the SAAS website.  

Dental students at the University of Aberdeen, Glasgow or Dundee can apply for the Dental Student Support Grant, a bursary of £4,000 per year.   

Students studying to be a paramedic, nurse or midwife can apply for the Paramedic, Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary (PNMSB). This is a bursary of £10,000 per year for the first three years of a course and £7,500 for the final year of the course.  

Further information about bursary and loan amounts is available in the SAAS guide on funding for undergraduates.


Full-time postgraduate students can apply for a living-costs loan of up to £4,500. This is split equally across each year of the course, so support for a full-time two-year course would be £2,250 per year.  

Disabled students and those with additional learning needs studying postgraduate courses and PhDs may be eligible to receive DSA.  

There is no living cost support for those on part-time postgraduate courses.  

By Lynne Currie, Senior Researcher (Further and Higher Education), SPICe  

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