Advice and Counselling Service

Advice and Counselling Service menu

The Student Finance income assessment

The Student Finance Income Assessment

Which elements of Student Finance are income assessed?

The Maintenance Loan is partially income assessed. 

Supplementary Grants including the Parents Learning Allowance, Childcare Grant and Adult Dependants Grant are fully income assessed. 

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 and Disabled Students Allowance subject to eligibility.

What income is counted?

The income assessment is based on your household’s gross income, this means your own personal income for the relevant academic year (see 'your income' below for what income needs to be declared) plus your parent(s) and their partner’s income, unless you are an independent student (see next section).

Your Income

Student Finance England will also ask you to estimate your own personal income for the relevant academic year. You should include details of any taxable unearned income you receive from the following sources:

• bank or building society gross interest

• property, lettings or rent

• dividends or investments

• trusts or sponsorships

• any other payment received for attending the course

You should only include payments from an employer if you're being released from your employment by your employer to attend your course.

Income from earnings during an academic year of your course (including holiday, evening or weekend work) doesn’t need to be declared.

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

SFE will ignore the following from your income:

• pension payments that qualify for certain specified tax relief

• the first £1,130 for any child who is totally, or mainly financially dependent on you or your husband, wife or civil partner or your partner if you’re over 25.

Parent(s) and Partners Income

SFE will work out your parents’ residual income (which includes the income of your parent’s partner, if they have one) by taking their gross income (before tax and National Insurance) and taking off allowances for the following:

• payments into private pension schemes, additional voluntary contributions and employment related costs

• £1,130 for any child other than you who is totally or mainly financially dependent on them

• £1,130 if your parent is also a student

If your parents are separated or divorced, SFE will use the income of whichever parent you’re financially dependent on, including the income of your parent's partner, if they have one. They will ignore the income of the other 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

Please see the SLC Guidance Supporting your child or partner’s student finance application in 3 easy steps

Which tax year?

For the 2021/22 academic year, the household income assessment of parent and partner income is based on income in the 2019/20 tax year.

What if the household income has dropped?

If the overall household income for the tax year 2021/22 is at least 15% less than it was in the 2019/20 tax year, you can ask to be assessed on the current year income instead. To do this you will need to complete a ‘CYI current tax year income assessment form 2021/22’, which which you can download here.

You will need to provide details of the household income for the 2019/20 tax year as well as an estimate of the household income for the 2021/22 tax year. At the end of the 2021/22 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.

For more information please see the SFE Current Year Income assessment webpages for students and parents/partners.

Further information

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

Parental Contribution

The amount of Maintenance Loan you receive depends on your household income (see above), the higher the income, the lower the loan. Students with household incomes of £25,000 or less qualify for the maximum Maintenance Loan. If your household income is above £25,000, the Maintenance Loan is income assessed on a sliding scale but this does not continue indefinitely. See the Maintenance Loan section for a detailed explanation of the income assessment. You can use the Student Finance Calculator to estimate what funding you might be eligible for. 

If you don't receive the maximum Maintenance Loan, the system assumes parents will fill the gap. MoneySavingExpert has a UK University Maintenance Calculator/Ready Reckoner which works out the parental contribution by subtracting the loan the student will receive from the full Maintenance Loan. We understand that parents are not always able to do this and you may have to find other ways to fund the rest of your living costs. This could include part-time work, bursaries or scholarships. Please see our Additional Sources Guide for more information. Please also see the webpage 'Understanding living costs while studying at university or college'. 

Independent Students

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 unearned income you have in the current academic year, except for income from any part-time or vacation work (see above) and your partner’s income (if applicable). 

If you are an independent student, your partner’s income will only be included in the income assessment if:

  • you are married/in a civil partnership, or
  • you are aged 25 or over, and are cohabiting with a partner on the first day of the relevant year.

See above ‘parents and partner’s income’ section for information on how their income will be assessed. 

To be classed as an independent student you'll meet one of the following conditions:

  • You have the care of a person under the age of 18 on the first day of the academic year.
  • You’re 25 or over on the first day of the academic year.
  • You’ve been married or in a civil partnership before the start of the academic year, even if you’re now divorced or separated.
  • You have no living parents.
  • You’ve supported yourself for at least 3 years before the start of your course.
    This includes any time you: - were in paid, full-time employment - received Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or other state benefits - received any pension, allowance or other benefit because of a disability or by any reason of confinement, sickness or illness - received training under any scheme for the unemployed or other funding by any state authority or agency
  • Your parents can’t be traced or it’s not practical or possible to contact them.
  • Your parents live outside the European Union and an income assessment would put them in jeopardy, or it’s not reasonably practical for them to send funds to the UK if a contribution were assessed (this may apply to you if you’re a refugee).
  • You are not in contact with your parents. If you have no contact with your parents (this is referred to as estrangement). You'll need to demonstrate either that you’ve not communicated with your parents for one year before the beginning of the academic year, or that you’re irreconcilably estranged from your parents.  Please see below for more information on how to apply for independent status if you do not have contact with your parents.
  • You were looked after by a local authority throughout any 3 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. You'll be asked to provide a letter from your Local Authority to confirm you were under the care of their Local Authority, have now left the care of the Local Authority and are a care leaver as defined in the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. You will only have to provide this evidence once, at the start of your course. SFE created a new guidance leaflet for students who are care leavers. If you can’t provide the evidence asked for please contact contact a Welfare Adviser.  

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?’

Students who have no contact with their parents

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 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

NB 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 more than a 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 e.g. a teacher, social worker, or doctor, then a letter from them 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. They 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 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 not in contact with their parents 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?

Once you have been granted independent status on the basis of estrangement, in subsequent academic years SFE will ask you to complete a declaration form, which SFE should send to your online account. To complete the form you will need to ask someone who knows you to confirm that you continue to be estranged. You can contact a Welfare Adviser at the Advice and Counselling Service who can normally complete this for you. 

If you experience any difficulties in re-applying for Student Finance as an independent student on the basis of estrangement, 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.

Return to top