The Student Finance income assessment
Which elements of Student Finance are income assessed?
The Maintenance Loan is partially income assessed.
For students studying in London and living away from home:
- If your household income is below £25,000, you will be eligible for the maximum amount of Maintenance Loan £12,010.
- If your household income is above £25,000, 50.2% of the Maintenance Loan is income assessed on a sliding scale.
- However this income assessment does not continue indefinitely – all eligible students will get at a Maintenance Loan of at least £5,981 (this is 49.8% of the maximum amount of maintenance loan).
For students living at home:
- If your household income is below £25,000, you will be eligible for the maximum amount of Maintenance Loan £7,747.
- If your household income is above £25,000, 56% of the Maintenance Loan is income assessed on a sliding scale.
However this income assessment does not continue indefinitely – all eligible students will get at a Maintenance Loan of at least £3,410 (this is 44% of the maximum amount of maintenance loan).
You can choose not to provide any income information with your application, but your application will not be income assessed, which means you can only get a Tuition Fee Loan and a partial Maintenance Loan, subject to eligibility.
The income assessment is based on your household’s gross taxable income: this means your parent(s) and their partner’s income, unless you are an independent student (see next section).
If you are an independent student, your partner’s income will be included in the income assessment if you are married/in a civil partnership or, if you are aged 25 or over, and are cohabiting with a partner on the first day of the relevant year.
Certain allowances are deducted from the gross income, for example if your parent is also a student, or if there are children who are financially dependent on that parent. If you normally live in England, your parents or partner will only need to give their National Insurance Number for Student Finance England to assess the household income. However, they could later be asked for other evidence depending on your individual circumstances. For more information, click here.
Student Finance England will also ask you to estimate your own personal income for the relevant academic year, but you don’t need to declare any income from your own earnings during the course. Most students won’t have any personal income to declare. Guidance about what types of personal income needs to be declared is given in the SFE application form.
Which tax year?
For the 2020/21 academic year, the assessment of parent and partner income is based on income in the 2018/19 tax year.
If the overall household income for the current tax year (2020/21) is at least 15% less than it was in the 2018/19 tax year, you can ask to be assessed on the current year income instead. To do this you will need to complete a ‘current tax year income form’, which you will be able to download here from April 2020.
You will need to provide details of the household income for the 2018/19 tax year as well as an estimate of the household income for the 2020/21 tax year. At the end of the 2020/21 tax year you will be asked to provide evidence of the actual household income for that period. If your estimate was wrong, SFE can adjust your Student Finance entitlement, which may result in you being paid more money, or in you having to repay some money to SFE.
To find out exactly what income is counted and how your entitlement is calculated see the guide Student Finance - how you are assessed and paid.
In certain circumstances students can be treated as independent, meaning that any parental income will be ignored. Instead, Student Finance England will look at any taxable income you have in the current academic year, except for income from any part-time or vacation work and your partner’s income (if applicable) see above ‘parents or partner’s income’ section.
There is a list of the categories of student who can be assessed as independent in the guide Student Finance - how you are assessed and paid.
The list broadly includes students who:
- are not in contact with their parents (estranged) (see the next section of this advice guide) or have no living parents, or whose parents cannot be traced or contacted, or whose parents live outside Europe and an income assessment would put them in jeopardy or it is not reasonably practical for them to send funds to the UK; or
- have been looked after by a local authority throughout any three-month period ending on or after the date on which you turned 16, and before the first day of the first academic year of your course, subject to certain exceptions; or
- on the first day of the academic year for which you are applying for support you are: aged 25 or over, or have care of a person under 18, or have been married or formed a civil partnership, even if it is not still subsisting; or
- have supported yourself for any periods ending before the first academic year of the course, which together amount to three years. This includes being in paid full-time employment, or receiving certain benefits or training for the unemployed, or receiving benefits because of disability or ill health.
Students who are care leavers will be asked to provide evidence that they were looked after, or have been given accommodation by their Local Authority. Usually they’ll be asked to send a letter from their local council or care authority. This letter should confirm they were under the care of their LA, have now left the care of the LA and are a care leaver as defined in the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. They will only have to provide this evidence once, at the start of their course. If the student can’t provide the evidence asked for, they should contact contact a Welfare Adviser.
The guide Student Finance - how you are assessed and paid explains what documents you need to provide in order to prove your eligibility for independent status, although please also see the next section below for further guidance if you have no contact with your parents (estranged). Please contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service if you need any help with proving your eligibility for any of these categories. If you have been refused independent status by Student Finance England, please see the next section, ‘What happens after I apply for Student Finance?’
This is referred to as ‘estrangement’.
How do I apply to be assessed as independent due to estrangement?
If you are claiming independent status on the basis of estrangement, Student Finance England asks you to demonstrate that either
- you can demonstrate that you are irreconcilably estranged from your parents. This means that for the short to medium term you don’t see that you will be able to resume your relationship with your parents, or
- you have not communicated with your parents for at least one year before the beginning of the academic year for which you are applying for Student Finance
Also, if you are usually assessed on one parent’s income, because your parent is a lone parent, and that parent dies you will be required to either provide income information for your remaining parent or evidence to SFE that you are not in contact with that parent. Please contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service who can help you with this.
Welfare Advisers in the Advice and Counselling Service have worked with many students whose estrangement with their parents has lasted for less than one year, or it has lasted one year but there has been some occasional communication, and these applications can be successful. You can arrange to meet with a Welfare Adviser to discuss your situation, and they can help you to think about how you can explain your situation so that SFE will understand it. The Welfare Adviser can also help you write your own letter to SFE. In your letter, you should try and explain the following:
- what circumstances led up to the estrangement (often someone’s relationship with their parents is difficult for some time before they actually stop having any contact, so you could try and describe this, if it applies to you)
- what you feel are the reasons that the estrangement has happened
- when did it happen
- how did it happen (e.g. did your parents ask you to move out, or did you decide to move out; did you stay with a friend or another family member, or did you start renting your own accommodation, etc.)
- what is your situation now (e.g. do you have any contact with your parents at all? If so how often and by what means – phone/email/in person)
- why you feel that for now the situation is irreconcilable (e.g. what is it about the situation that means you believe that you cannot resume your relationship with your parents in the foreseeable future). This does not mean that you are saying you will never be able to resume your relationship with your parents, it is just saying that you don't currently have contact with them, and don't expect to for the foreseeable future.
It can feel difficult to write all of this information down, as often the circumstances you are writing about will bring up painful feelings. A Welfare Adviser can help you write your letter with you, if you would find that helpful.
You may be reassured to know that SFE won't show your letter to your parents or contact your parents for confirmation.
Do I need to provide any evidence?
A Welfare Adviser can advise you about what documents you might be able to provide in support of your application. Please be reassured that successful applications have been made with no supporting documents where none are available. If someone else knows about the circumstances of your estrangement, for example a professional person outside your family such a as a teacher or social worker, or doctor, then a letter from confirming your situation would be very helpful. However, very often students who are estranged from their parents have not had any contact with a professional person in relation to the estrangement, in which case such a letter would not be required. Sometimes students ask someone who knows the situation, for example a friend or family member to provide a letter.
Where appropriate your Welfare Adviser will also write a letter of support for your SFE application. The adviser can email your independent application directly to the Independent Team at SFE, which means you should have a decision very quickly, usually within a few days.
If you are able to provide confirmation of estrangement from a professional person, you can either ask them to write a letter or complete a ‘Confirmation of Estrangement form’. This form can be sent to you by SFE if you contact them to declare estrangement. It should also appear in your ‘to do list’ on your online SFE account if you declare estrangement as part of your online student finance application.
Alternatively, SFE may accept a statutory declaration. This is a statement which you would write to confirm your circumstances and which you would then say under oath in the presence of someone who is authorised to hear it (e.g. a Solicitor, or a Notary who works in a Solicitors’ office). That person has to sign the statutory declaration to certify that they have heard it. You can search for a notary on The Notaries Society website. The cost will vary but can be as little as £5.
We have written a template statutory declaration in Appendix 2 to help you formulate your own, and a Welfare Adviser can help you to write it.
The organisation Stand Alone support people who have no contact with their family. The can offer emotional support and have lots of useful information on their website for students including a guide on how your Student Finance application is assessed as an estranged student. It will tell you about the supporting documents that you may need to send to Student Finance England to confirm your irreconcilable estrangement from your family. You can download it here.
You may like to refer to the Stand Alone guide however we would strongly recommend that you contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service at Queen Mary as we have a lot of experience in assisting students who are estranged to apply for Student Finance. You may also be interested in our web page on support for people who are estranged.
If you feel that requesting evidence or supporting documents might put you at risk please discuss this with a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service.
Will I need to prove my estrangement every year?
Previously, SFE advised that all estranged students needed to evidence their circumstances each time they applied for Student Finance. However, they now have a new procedure for returning students who remain estranged.
It is now possible for returning students, who have previously provided evidence of their estrangement and who remain estranged, to declare to SFE that their circumstances remain the same. SFE will then review all previously provided evidence and you may not be required to provide further evidence.
If you experience any difficulties in re-applying for Student Finance as an independent student on the basis of estrangement in later years of your course, please contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service.
If you have had an application on the basis of estrangement refused by Student Finance England, please see the next section of this Advice Guide.
Law, regulations and policies can change quickly. The information on our website is given in good faith and has been carefully checked but QMUL cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. QMUL is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites which are provided for further information.