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How income assessment works

All full-time students who qualify for student finance are entitled to a basic amount of financial help. You can get a loan to cover your tuition fees whatever your household income. However, the total amount you can get through grants and the Student Loan for Maintenance is based on your household income.

Household income assessment

The rules on how household income assessment works are complicated, and this page is only a general guide. For more detailed information, or if you have questions about your individual circumstances, see the section below on 'Full-time students: finding out more about income assessment.

All eligible students are entitled to a basic amount of financial help. However, the total amount available through grants and the Student Loan for Maintenance is based on your household income. In general, students from other European Union (EU) countries can only get help with tuition fees - though there are some exceptions.

If you live with your parents, a spouse or a partner, they may be asked to contribute towards supporting you as a student. If you, or other members of your household don’t supply information about your household income, you may not receive all the help you would otherwise get.

However, if you’re eligible for the Student Loan for Tuition Fees, you’ll get it whatever your household income as 75 per cent of the loan is not based on any assessment.

How does income assessment work?

Your local Student Finance NI office will ask you to supply details of income for your household from the previous financial year. Certain allowances and deductions are then made - for example, for dependent children. The amount left after these deductions is called your 'household income' or 'residual income', and is used to decide how much financial help you’re entitled to.

Whose income will be counted?

Student Finance NI offices will always count your own income. This will include non-earned income, such as interest from savings, but not casual or part-time earnings during your course. They may also count income from your parents or partner.

Whose income they take into account will depend on whether you are classed as a 'dependent' or 'independent' student. The information below tells you what’s usually taken into account when classifying students, but it doesn't cover all circumstances. See the section below on 'Full time students: finding out more about income assessment' for more detailed guidance.

Dependent students

Generally, you’ll be classed as a dependent student if you’re under 25 on the first day of the academic year for which you’re applying for support and are financially dependent on one or both of your parents (even if you don't live with them). If you’re a dependent student, your local authority will take into account the income of your parents or adoptive parents on top of your own income.

If your parents are divorced or separated and you started your course in or after September 2004, the Student Finance NI office will assess the income of just one your parents, rather than both, whichever one seems appropriate to them in the circumstances.

They will ignore income from your other parent, but will take into account the income of any spouse, civil partner or live-in partner of the parent they decide to assess. (including a partner of the same sex if you started your course in September 2005 or later).

Independent students

The lists below aren't exhaustive, but they provide a general guide to when you'll be classed as an independent student. You’ll usually be classed as independent if any of the following apply to you on the first day of the academic year for which you’re applying for support:

  • you have care of a child or young person under the age of 18
  • you are aged 25 or over
  • you have no living parents

Generally speaking, you'll also be classed as independent if either of the following applies to you before the first day of the academic year for which you're applying for support:

  • you are, or have been, married or in a civil partnership
  • you have supported yourself for at least three years

If you are an independent student, your local authority will only take into account your income and that of your partner. This can mean your spouse, civil partner of the opposite sex or if you started your course in or after:

  • September 2001, any live in partner of the opposite sex
  • September 2005 and you're 25 or over on the first day of the academic year for which you're applying for support, any live in partner of the same sex

Household income - how it affects financial help

Your Student Finance NI office will use your 'residual income' to work out how much your household is expected to contribute to supporting you while you’re studying, and how much financial help you’re entitled to. The level of financial help you can get will depend on whether you:

  • study in London or elsewhere
  • live at home
  • are in the final year of your course

If your household income is below a certain level, you’ll get the full Student Loan for Maintenance together with a grant to help with living costs. If you’re from a higher income household it’s assumed that your parents, spouse or partner will make more of a contribution to supporting you while you’re studying - but you’ll still be able to get at least 75 per cent of the maximum Student Loan for Maintenance.

Full-time students: finding out more about income assessment

To find our more about how full-time students are assessed, see ‘How income assessment works'. If you have any questions about whether you’ll be classified as dependent or independent, ask your local Student Finance NI office.

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