If you’re an adult (over the age of 19) looking to undertake a further education (FE) course in the UK, you may be eligible for some financial support or funding to cover the costs of your course.
Further education (FE) is the mandatory stage of education in between secondary school and Higher education (HE). If you are an adult looking to into higher education, you may find that you need to complete an FE qualification before you can apply for courses at university, for example.
Why do a further education course?
A further education course could be an apprenticeship, a college course, A-Levels, or any other type of Level 3-6 qualification. Further education courses are necessary to help you progress to higher education.
They can also provide fantastic stepping stones into specific industries – for example, if you decide to do an apprenticeship – and can help boost your CV with new, transferable skills and qualifications.
How much does further education cost?
If you are under the age of 19 on the day the course starts, most further education courses are free. For those aged 19 and over, the costs of a course may be fully or partially covered by a grant or loan.
Further education courses are not eligible for funding by Student Finance. Student finance loans apply only to HE courses, such as undergraduates degrees completed at university.
Depending on the status of your course (i.e. whether it is full-time or part-time) you may be able to apply for Universal Credit to assist with the cost of living.
We explore the different types of funding below.
Advanced Learner Loans
If you are aged 19 or over and looking to complete an FE qualification (Levels 3-6), you can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to cover the costs of the course itself.
For most people, this is one of the best ways to get back into education. You must inquire with your chosen college to see whether Advanced Learner Loans are accepted – most colleges will accept this loan because it means the costs of the course are covered straight away.
Advanced Learner Loans work a lot like Student Finance (the loans available for Higher Education degrees). However, they are based entirely on the costs of your course, and will not ask for a credit check or proof of income.
You can have up to four Advanced Learner Loans at any one time if you wish to study A-Levels. If not, you can have 3 non-A-level loans either before or after your A-level course.
Advanced Learner Loans are paid back using a salary-based repayment system. Once you start earning £21,000 or more, a small amount will be taken from your salary each month to offset the balance of the loan over time.
However, if you successfully enter into a Higher Education programme as a result of completing your FE course, your Advanced Learner Loan will be essentially “written off”. You will then be able to enter into a contract with Student Finance, and undertake a normal HE loan.
How can I support myself when I’m studying?
It can be difficult to get back into education as an adult, especially if you are used to working a full-time job or have dependents. The Advanced Learner Loan will not cover maintenance costs, residential costs, or offer you any support for the cost of living.
There are, however, ways to ensure you can still study and survive.
City & Guilds bursaries: available to those aged 16 or over, who are studying or want to study a FE-level City & Guilds qualification, but would not be able to do so without falling into genuine financial difficulty.
Universal Credit: if your course is classed as part-time by the college, you may be able to make a Universal Credit claim to help supplement your income. Bear in mind that this will only be applicable to part-time students – if your course is 2 days a week, but the college states that it is full-time, then you will not be eligible to make a claim, or continue an existing one.
College-specific bursaries or hardship funds: some colleges will offer financial support for adult learners looking to study an FE course. Get in touch with your college to find out whether they are able to offer support for childcare, travel costs, or residential costs.
Part-time course, part-time job: For many adult learners, the only way to study and survive is to find a part-time job and work as they complete their Further Education course. Though this can sometimes increase the pressure, most FE courses only last a year, and so the sacrifice is somewhat manageable.
If you are an adult learner (over the age of 19) looking to study a further education qualification, you may be eligible for an Advanced Learner Loan to cover the costs of your course.
However, you will need to identify a way of supporting – either by doing a part-time course and working simultaneously or by accessing financial support or bursaries that you are eligible for.
If you are able to rely on family, friends, or a partner for financial support, you may find that this education option is even more attractive.
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