Am I eligible to claim welfare benefits as a student?
Full-time Postgraduate study
Most full-time postgraduate students cannot claim welfare benefits, for example Universal Credit, so once you become a full-time student your eligibility for benefits will cease. However you may be able to continue to receive benefits if you fall within the excepted group of students who can claim as while a full-time student.
If you were previously claiming welfare benefits such as Universal Credit solely due to low income and you do not belong to any of the excepted groups, you will not be able to continue to claim once you start your full-time studies, as the benefit rules do not allow this. You will need to notify your Universal Credit work coach through your online journal or other relevant benefit office, that you are a full-time student and your claim and entitlement will be reassessed. If your claim does continue, you will accrue an overpayment, which you will be asked to repay.
You may be able to continue to receive benefits or make a claim if you fall within the excepted group of students who can claim. This includes:
- students with dependent children. For further information read our guide for students with children.
- some disabled students or students with ongoing ill-health. To be eligible to claim Universal Credit as a disabled student you must be in receipt of Personal Independence Payment (or Disability Living Allowance) and, if you were not already claiming Universal Credit before you became a student, the process to make a new claim once you have become a full-time student is complex. Read our guide Extra Money: Disability and Ill health for further information.
If you are eligible to claim any income based welfare benefits such as Universal Credit then it's important to be aware how student income can reduce the amount of benefit payable. This is explained in the section below about student income and affect on benefit entitlement.
For further information about claiming welfare benefits as a full-time student, read our guide Extra Money: Disability and Ill Health if you have a disability and/or our pages dedicated to students with children if you have a dependent child.
Which benefits can I claim?
This depends on you circumstances as you need to meet the basic eligibility rules for particular welfare benefits. See our specific guides for students with Children and/or Disability and Ill health.
You might be eligible to claim Universal Credit (UC). UC is a single monthly payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. It replaced Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, income related Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit, and Tax Credits. You make one online claim for your living costs, housing and dependent children. It's made up of a standard allowance plus other 'elements' - for example for children, childcare, housing There is also be an element for those with limited capability for work. The amount payable depends on your own circumstances. It is paid monthly in arrears.
If you qualify, your monthly payment will cover everyone in your family who qualifies for support. 'Family' could mean you as a single person for example, or you might also be claiming for a partner and/or dependent children.
Please note, it is not straightforward to make a new claim for UC if you are already a full time student, are in receipt of Personal Independence payment or its predecessor Disability Living Allowance and are claiming on the grounds of ill health or disability. This is because your work capability needs to be assessed and the Universal Credit rules do not allow for this. Read our Extra Money:Disability and Ill Health guide for further information.
If you already receive any Tax Credits you should seek advice before claiming Universal Credits. A claim for Universal Credit will end your Tax Credits claim permanently and you will not be able to reclaim. This can sometimes leave claimants worse off.
If you think you might be eligible to claim welfare benefits, contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service for advice about your eligibility.
I’m a part-time postgraduate student
There are no specific rules that exclude part-time students from claiming welfare benefits. This may include PhD students who are writing up on a part-time basis.
If you are due to start a part-time postgraduate course and already claiming welfare benefits, then as long as you continue to satisfy the rules for those welfare benefits, you can continue your claim.
Universal Credit is assessed on your household income. If you are already attending a part-time course and your circumstances change during your course, for example you are made redundant or your earnings drop, you may be eligible to claim as long as you satisfy the general eligibility rules for the welfare benefit.
Universal Credit can help top-up a low income so even if you work, you may be eligible for some support.
If you claim Universal Credit, you will be expected to meet the requirements listed in your claimant commitment, such as job activities. If you expect your studies will affect these requirements you should discuss this with your Work Coach and ask if any adjustments can be made. However if adjustments are not agreed and you are unable to meet the requirements in your claimant commitment, sanctions can be applied. These reduce the amount of Universal Credit payable. Further information about claimant commitments and sanctions can be found on the Understanding Universal Credit site.
If you already receive any Tax Credits you should seek advice before claiming Universal Credits. A claim for Universal Credit will end your Tax Credits claim permanently and you will not be able to reclaim. This can sometimes leave claimants worse off. Contact a Welfare Adviser to discuss your circumstances first.
If you are unemployed and you have been working and paid or contributed sufficient National Insurance (NI) contributions in the 2 full tax years before the year you’re claiming in, you may also be eligible for New-Style JSA or New Style ESA (if you have a disability or health condition that limits your ability to work).
It's important to be aware how any student income can reduce the amount of income-based Welfare Benefits payable. This is explained in more detail in the section below about student income and affect on benefit entitlement. Contribution based benefits are such as new style Employment Support Allowance are not assessed against income so these should not be affected.
If you are eligible for and claim welfare benefits as a full-time or part time student, you are required tell each of the benefit offices that pay your benefit(s) about your income including any income you get for your studies. This could include income from the Postgraduate Loan, from bank loans, from earnings or from university scholarships or stipends. How much benefit you get will depend on what income can be counted in the assessment of your welfare benefits under the relevant welfare benefits rules.
Postgraduate students in receipt of a grant or loan (except for a UK government Master's or Doctoral Loan - see next paragraph) which could be a scholarship, or stipend will have any amount that is specifically paid for tuition fees ignored as income in the assessment of any means-tested welfare benefits. However, any amount of grant or loan paid for living costs will normally be treated as income. If you receive old style benefits such as Housing Benefit or Income Support, a fixed amount for books and equipment should also be ignored.
The Student Finance England Master's Loan and Doctoral Loan are treated as a contribution towards costs rather than a loan exclusively for tuition fees or living costs. 30% of the maximum Master's or Doctoral Loan is taken into account as income for your means-tested benefits. This is used as income even if you choose not to take a Master's Loan or Doctoral Loan where you are eligible. This amount will still be taken into account as income and will reduce your welfare benefits entitlement.
A Welfare Adviser can advise you what income would be counted. However if you are a parent or have a disability or ongoing health condition, you may also find it useful to read our web pages for student parents, and our advice guide Extra Money for Disability and Ill Health for more information about claiming benefits while studying. These guides include information about how student income is counted within the benefits assessments.
Like most UK students, you cannot normally claim benefits while studying full time. As an EU national studying in the UK, you are legally required to support yourself financially without relying on social assistance. For most welfare benefits, you must show that you have lived in the UK for a certain length of time before you can claim. Contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service for more information.
Universal Credit has replaced Tax Credits for most people and new applications can no longer be made although there are some exceptions for people eligible for or receiving the Severe Disability premium.
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.