Am I eligible to claim welfare benefits?
I’m a full-time postgraduate student
Most full-time postgraduate students cannot claim welfare benefits, for example Universal Credit. However, you may be able to claim if you fall within the excepted group of students who can claim. This includes:
- students with dependent 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 Heatlh for further information.
Some welfare benefits also have specific rules for full-time students. For example, how student income is used or how a disability affects you on a daily basis.
For further information about claiming welfare benefits as a student, read our guide Extra Money: Disability and Ill Health and our pages dedicated to students with children if you have a dependent child.
I’m a part-time postgraduate student
There are no specific rules excluding part-time students so if you are a part-time postgraduate student and already claiming welfare benefits, then as long as you continue to satisfy the rules for those welfare benefits, you can continue your claim.
If you are available for and actively seeking work, you may be able to claim Universal Credit – see below. This may include PhD students who are writing up on a part-time basis.
Which benefits can I claim?
If you meet the basic eligibility rules for a particular welfare benefit, you might be eligible to claim new welfare benefits including Universal Credit (UC) , new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or new style Jobseeker's Allowance.
UC is a new single monthly payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. It replaces 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 children.
Please note, it is not straightforward to make a new claim for UC if you are already a full time student and are claiming on the grounds of ill health or disability (as you receive Personal Independence Payment or Disability Living Allowance). This is because your work capability has not already been assessed. Read our Extra Money:Disability and Ill Health guide for further information.
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.
Will my student income affect my benefit entitlement?
If you are eligible for welfare benefits, you are required tell each of the 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 for living costs (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 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 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 find it useful to read the Advice and Counselling Service’s 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.