How to Pay for University in the UK Without a Student Loan

| 8 min read Financial Assistance

Going to university in the UK can be expensive. Very expensive. In fact, England is the most expensive place to study in Europe.

Students at UK universities can now rack up loans for tuition fees and living costs totalling more than £50,000 – or £60,000 in London – over a three-year course, meaning thousands of graduates start jobs saddled with hefty debt and mounting interest. The good news is that there are ways of how to pay for university in the UK without a student loan, if you’re willing to get creative with fundraising ideas or consider online crowdfunding.

Start a GoFundMe today

A breakdown of UK university fees

When were UK university tuition fees introduced?

The state had been paying students’ university tuition fees since 1962 before they were reintroduced in 1998, under Tony Blair’s Labour government.

This decision followed an inquiry into higher education funding, which reported that billions more funding would be required over the next 20 years to increase student enrollment and ensure adequate standards. The committee stated in its report that “the arguments in favour of a contribution to tuition costs from graduates in work are strong”.

The subsequent Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 led to all UK students paying university tuition fees of up to £1,000 per year.

How much does it cost to go to university in the UK today?

Since 1998, UK university fees have been skyrocketing.

In 2006, the cap rose to £3,000 per year.

In 2012, it trebled to £9,000 per year under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Nick Clegg, then leader of the Liberal Democrats, had made a campaign promise to oppose any rise in UK university fees, which won his party many student votes. Huge student protests were held in response to Clegg reneging on his pledge, as well as planned cuts to higher education spending.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May launched a review into higher education funding in 2018 but the panel is yet to report back on its findings.

Today, tuition fees vary between UK countries. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland now have devolved powers that allow them to make their own higher education laws.

Here’s how much students can expect to pay in UK university fees today:


University tuition fees are capped at £9,250 per year for all UK and EU residents. International tuition fees vary by university and course but can hit £38,000 per year for a medical degree. Studying in London will be significantly more expensive given the high cost of living.


University tuition is free for Scottish and EU residents. Students from other UK countries pay up to £9,250 per year. International fees vary.


University tuition fees are capped at £9,000 per year for all UK and EU residents. Welsh students studying anywhere in the UK pay £3,900 per year and the Welsh government covers the remainder. International fees vary.

Northern Ireland

Northern Irish residents and EU students pay £4,275 per year in university tuition fees. Students from other UK countries pay up to £9,250 per year. International fees vary

How you can pay for university

Financial help for students with UK university fees and living costs is available in the form of loans and bursaries.

How much student financial support is on offer depends on your university, course, age, nationality or residency status, household income and if you have taken a higher education course before.

The government website,, has a handy online student finance calculator as well as details on how to apply for a student loan if you want financial help with university fees.

How much interest is added to my student loan?

In August, government figures revealed that by 2024, students will owe £8.6 billion in interest alone on their student loans – almost double the collective debt they currently owe.

Interest starts accumulating from the first student loan payment. For students currently studying, the interest rate is based on the RPI rate of inflation plus 3 per cent. This figure currently stands at 5.4 per cent but it changes every September.

Graduates who started university in or after 2012, and are currently earning £46,305 or over, are also subject to the 5.4 per cent interest rate.

Graduates earning less than £25,725 are only subject to the RPI rate of inflation, which currently stands at 2.4 per cent. For graduates earning salaries between these sums, the interest rate rises on a sliding scale.

How do I repay my student loan?

Student loan repayments are collected through payroll, like tax.

Graduates repay their student loan at a fixed rate of 9 per cent on all annual income over £25,725. This threshold will rise to £26,575 in April 2020, in line with average earnings. Graduates earning less don’t make repayments.

It is important to note that graduates who started university in or after 2012 will see their remaining student loan wiped after 30 years, even if their salary has never been high enough for repayments to begin.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that 83 per cent of graduates will not fully clear their loans in three decades, meaning many won’t have to repay all their tuition fees, let alone pay interest.

Fundraising ideas for university

Not eligible for a student loan or in need of a higher loan than you’ve been granted? Consider one of these fundraising ideas to get financial help with UK university fees and living costs and pay for university without a student loan.

1. Find a sponsor

If you dream of working for a specific company, especially one you have interned at before, approach them about the possibility of sponsorship. If you can persuade them that your university degree would make you a skilled employee, they may agree to help fund your tuition if you commit to returning to work for them after graduating.

2. Send tailored letters to charities

Thousands of UK charities give out educational grants every year. You’ll to research their respective criteria to see if you’re eligible. If you are, send a tailored letter demonstrating why you are the ideal candidate, how their money would help and how you plan to give back after graduating.

3. Sell your skills

If possible, give something back in return for donations that links to the skill you wish to develop at university. For example, arts students could consider selling artworks or music students could offer to cover a favourite song. The higher the donation, the better the reward. Post pictures and videos demonstrating your talents to help attract attention to your plight.

4. Put on a fundraising event

There is a huge range of fundraising events to choose from, from themed parties and auctions to quiz nights, raffles, sponsored danceathons, jumble sales, community concerts and more. Consider recruiting local businesses to help in exchange for promotion, and asking friends and family to volunteer their services. If organising an event sounds daunting, consider teaming up with a friend in a similar situation and splitting the proceeds.

5. Crowdfund for university tuition

If you have a convincing and engaging story to tell and are willing to put the time and effort into creating fundraising ideas for your marketing campaign, then crowdfunding on GoFundMe could be the best route to take.

Last year, Roy Potter successfully smashed his £30,000 target after setting up a GoFundMe campaign to crowdfund his postgraduate Oxford degree and set him on the path to becoming an academic anthropologist. Potter, from Hackney in east London, had grown up in poverty, been disowned by his single mother and slept rough, yet he managed to achieve two university degrees while also working full-time.

Rama Rustom, a first-year Oxford student, is currently crowdfunding on GoFundMe after she was left unable to access student finance due to her refugee status undergoing a renewal process. Rama is seeking help to “pay for her basic needs and tuition” so that she can “focus on her studies and excel in such a great university”. So far, she has raised just over £500 of her £2,000 goal.

British jazz pianist Roella Oloro made £23,000 on GoFundMe, which will allow her to take up a scholarship at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music by covering her living costs.

Start your university fundraiser today

Sometimes you need to fundraise in as fast and faff-free a way as possible.

That’s where GoFundMe comes in.

It couldn’t be easier to set up a campaign, share the link on your social media platforms and start racking up donations from supporters.

Unlike many other fundraising platforms, there are no hidden fees with GoFundMe.

Our experts are on hand to offer 24-hour help and advice and you can use our mobile app to check in on your fundraising progress on the move.

Start a GoFundMe today

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