Higher Education issues

Higher Education issues

It’s possible to overcome the challenges of higher education with caring responsibility if you know how.

Getting over the hurdles

Not every path to a degree follows the typical route from A Levels. Your financial situation shouldn’t stop you either. Here are some practical options to consider, and the essential facts about student loans.

Nineteen or over with no A Levels?

Access to Higher Education courses prepare people for study at university, who don’t have the typical qualifications.  They are designed for people who are returning to education.

My education was very interrupted and I felt I was too old because my friends had already gone to uni.  Then I somehow found out about Access courses.


Most courses take 1 year and can be challenging (but rewarding!).  The Access to HE Diploma is a Level 3 qualification, so it’s like doing A Levels.  But note that there will be college fees if you have already have achieved Level 3.

There are different courses depending on what subjects interest you for future university study, for example:

  • Animal Management
  • Art & Design
  • Business
  • Computing
  • Engineering
  • Social Care

Find out more here

Listen below to Emily’s full podcast about her journey to a nursing degree…

young woman in cap and gown holding degree certificate

Emily did her GCSEs at the same time as her Access to HE Diploma (Nursing) at Kingston College.  She was then accepted at Kingston University.



University at College?

Some Further Education colleges offer BA/BSc Degrees in partnership with universities.  The tuition fees are lower and you can study while living at home.

Another option at Further Education colleges is doing a Foundation Degree. The entry requirements are typically lower than for Bachelor’s degrees. Course content has more focus on employability, with business links for work placements.  Foundation Degrees take 2 years full time or 3 years part-time.

You then have the option of taking a ‘top-up’ year to a full degree, although you need to do a new application.

I decided to stay at college because everyone knew me and I didn’t have to explain everything all over again.  After 2 years of working and getting myself together, I applied to Roehampton and I am so excited


Read more about Lauren’s experiences here.

Living Away? Near or Far?

It may be easier for you to succeed at studying and gaining independence by moving away from home, although this can be a huge step for carers and families. Try to imagine how often you will want to come home.  It can be very stressful for carers to face the high cost and time to travel a great distance.  It’s a good idea to look at the train connections and prices.

Because I was a carer, I had £500 from the uni which was enough to pay for my travel home

Apply for universities that are both near and far so you can make this decision closer to the time of starting.

Changes at home may need to be planned well in advance of starting university.  We can help you think about what might need to change, and plan some steps that will make it easier for everyone.

Money for Higher Education

2021 entry information
Bursaries and Scholarships

You don’t pay these back.  Each university will have different criteria.  They are based on need and on special talents, for example academic, sporting or musical. Some universities offer bursaries and other extra help to carers.  Check each website carefully or contact the Widening Participation department and ask what help they offer.

Tuition Fee Loan

Fees can be up to £9,250 per year. The money goes straight to the university, so you don’t see it or manage the payments.

Maintenance Loan

This is for living costs, and depends on your family income.  It’s higher if you are studying and living in London.  You get this in your bank account three times a year. Important for carers living at home – If your parents earn less than £25,000 you can get a loan of up to £7,987 per year.

Paying back loans

When you are earning over £27,295, you pay back 9% of your earnings above £27,295.

What that looks like:

You earn £28,000 per year
Amount over £27,295 £28,000 – £27,295 = £705
You pay 9% of anything over £27,295 9% of £705 = £63.45
You pay every month £63.45 / 12= £5.29/month
Student bank accounts

Insurance com

Compare the Market has a comparison list of all the different accounts on offer, helping you to find the best deal to suit your needs. (NB Compare the Market is a price comparison website that does receive fees from organisations it recommends – but it does have a comprehensive list of options available.)

More useful info on finances

Money saving tips for students

The truth about uni fees and loans by Martin Lewis

Government information on loans

Government information on finance for full-time students

More loans for courses if 19+

More info for you

Have a look at some other areas which can help you with your caring role...

Keys in a door


If you're looking to find your own space, have a look at some of the housing options out there

young women hugging

Your health

Get some information and links that will help you take care of your physical, emotional and mental health.

person holding cash

Financial help

Find out more about help that might be available to you as a carer.

Find out about…

housing, returning to learning, higher education issues, working, apprenticeships, your health, planning your future, financial help and managing your money.

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Can we help you?

The 18-24 team offers free specialist support to young adult carers across Surrey. Text us on 07723 486730 and we'll come back to you as soon as we can!

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