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Full time students and benefits

Find out more about the definition of a full-time student for benefit purposes and whether you can claim any benefits or tax credits

1. Who is a full-time student for benefit purposes?

Most full-time students are excluded from claiming means-tested benefits.

There are different rules about students’ entitlement to benefits depending on whether you are applying under the Universal Credit system or under the rules for the benefits Universal Credit replaces.

Who is a full-time Student for Universal Credit

Most full-time students cannot claim Universal Credit, but there are some exceptions.

Universal Credit will treat you as a student if:

  •   You are on a full time course that will lead to a
    • Degree or
    • Postgraduate degree or
    • Higher national diploma
  • OR You are on a course that gives you a loan or grant for maintenance
  • OR You are doing a course that allows someone to claim child benefit for you

You carry on being counted as a student during the holidays.

Who is a full-time Student for Other Means-tested Benefits?

For Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support, whether you are a full-time student depends on your age and the level of the course.

You are a full-time student if:

and

or

  • You are aged 19 or over and on a full-time course of study at any level, unless you are aged under 20 and can still be treated as in relevant education.

You count as a student from the first day until the last day of the course or if you do not complete it, until the day you are dismissed from or abandon the course. This means that you count as a student even during holidays and when taking time out from studying, unless certain circumstances apply. (See Time out from study within this guide.)

Students with Partners

If you are a full-time student and you live with a partner who is not a student, they may be able to claim means-tested benefits for you both. Some of your student support may be taken into account.

2. Can full-time students claim Universal Credit?

If you are a student, you can only claim Universal Credit if:

  • You are under 21, doing a course that will lead to a qualification at the same level as or below A levels (such as Scottish Highers, NVQ up to level 3), and do not and cannot live with your parents; or
  • You are responsible for a child; or
  • You get Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and you have limited capability for work. (This can be complicated – find an adviser); or
  • You are over Pension Credit age; or
  • You live with a partner who can claim Universal Credit; or
  • You have taken time out from your course for illness or caring responsibilities, are now recovered/your caring responsibilities have ended, and you are waiting to go back to your course.

Claimant commitment

To be able to get Universal Credit, everyone has to agree to a Claimant Commitment.

If you are claiming Universal Credit as a student who has taken time out from your course, you will probably be expected to take some actions as part of your claimant commitment. You will have to talk with your work coach to find out what you will need to do.

If you are claiming Universal Credit as a student under 21 doing a course that leads to qualifications up to A level standard, you will not have to do anything under your claimant commitment.

If you are claiming Universal Credit as a student and you receive student income such as a grant or loan, you will not have to do anything under your claimant commitment.

Even if you don’t fall into either of these two groups, you might not have to do anything under the normal rules on claimant commitments.

Examples

Marta

Marta is a single mother to a 10 year old. Marta is doing a full time degree-level course, but could not get a maintenance loan because this is her second degree. Marta will be expected to agree to a full claimant commitment, and if her course means this is impossible she won’t be able to get Universal Credit.

Alec

Alec is a single father to a six-month old. He is also doing a full time degree-level course and also didn’t qualify for a maintenance loan, but because his son is under one Alec has no work related requirements so is able to claim Universal Credit.

3. How much Universal Credit will I get?

Universal Credit includes amounts for

  • Basic expenses
  • Housing costs
  • Children
  • Disabilities

Universal Credit will be calculated based on your income. This will include your income from student loans for maintenance and student grants.

If you could get a student loan for maintenance but do not claim it, your Universal Credit will be calculated as if you had been given the loan.

Universal Credit is calculated monthly but student loans are paid every term. This can make it hard to calculate how much Universal Credit you should get. Your student loan should be averaged out across the year and £110 per month should be ignored. If it has not been treated this way, or you think your Universal Credit is being calculated wrong, you should get help from an adviser.
 

4. Can full-time students claim Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Income Support?

Most people cannot make new claims for Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Income Support. If you already have a claim for one of these benefits, it is possible you might be able to continue claiming it while you study.

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

Even if you are unemployed and looking for work, you will not be entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) (income-related or contributory) if you are a full-time student.

The exception to this is;

  • If you are a lone parent
  • A member of a couple with a child where both of you are full-time students and you claim during your summer holidays.
  • If you are attending a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) related course or scheme for a limited period (seek specialist advice in this case)

You may also be able to get JSA for a limited period after taking time out from study.

If you receive student support in the form of a grant or loan, this will probably reduce the amount of income-based JSA you can get.

Income Support

Most full-time students are not entitled to Income Support. However, you may be entitled to this benefit as a full-time student if you are:

  • A lone parent with a child under five

  • A lone foster parent of a child under 16

  • Receiving long-term Incapacity Benefit

  • A refugee who is learning English to obtain employment

  • Under 21 or reached 21 whilst enrolled on or accepted on a full-time non-advanced course and you are without parental support.

If you receive student support in the form of a grant or loan, this will probably reduce the amount of Income Support you can get.
 

5. Can full-time students get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

Contributory ESA

If you are not able to work due to illness or disability, you may be entitled to contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) while you are a full-time student if you have previously worked and paid national insurance contributions.

Income-related ESA

It is no longer possible for most people to make new claims for income-related ESA. Income-related ESA has been replaced for new claimants by Universal Credit.

As a full-time student, you will only be able to claim income-related Employment and Support Allowance if you are also getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP). or Armed Forces Independence Payment

If you are a full time student who is getting DLA, you count as having limited capability for work without having to have a Work Capability Assessment.

If you receive student support in the form of a grant or a loan, this will probably reduce the amount of income-related ESA you can get.

Work Capability Assessment

You are only entitled to ESA if you satisfy the Work Capability Assessment. If activities you do as part of your course suggest that you do not meet this test, you could lose this benefit. For example, if you are getting ESA because you said you have problems with walking and your course involves a lot of physical activity, this could cause your ESA claim to be reviewed.

If you are claiming Universal Credit as a student who has limited capability for work, you will need to satisfy the Work Capability Assessment. If activities you do as part of your course suggest that you do not meet this test, you could lose this benefit.

6. Can full-time students get Housing Benefit?

Most people cannot make new claims for Housing Benefit. If you already have a claim for Housing Benefit, it is possible you might be able to continue claiming it while you study. Otherwise, any help with housing costs will be paid through Universal Credit.

Housing Benefit

If you are a full-time student, you can get Housing Benefit if you meet one of the following examples of  conditions:

If you are under Pension Credit age and receive student support, in the form of a grant or loan, this will usually reduce the amount of Housing Benefit you can get; unless you also get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, in which case you will automatically receive your maximum entitlement to Housing Benefit.

 

 

7. Can full-time students claim disability benefits?

Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance

You can get Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance even if you are a full-time student.

If you have disabilities, are aged under 65 and need help with your personal care or mobility needs, you can get Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you need help with personal care and are aged 65 or over, you can get Attendance Allowance.

PIP and Attendance Allowance are not means-tested. This means any income (including student grants or loans) or savings you have are ignored.

If activities you do as part of your course suggest that your health has improved, your PIP or Attendance Allowance may stop. For example, if you are getting PIP because you said you have problems with walking and your course involves a lot of physical activity, this could cause your award to be reviewed.

Disability Living Allowance

You cannot make a new claim for Disability Living Allowance but if you are already claiming it, you can continue to get it when you become a full-time student, as long as you still meet the criteria.

If you are still getting Disability Living Allowance, you will be reassessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

See When will I move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

If activities you do as part of your course suggest that your health has improved, you could lose your benefit. For example, if you are getting Disability Living Allowance because you said you have problems with walking and your course involves a lot of physical activity, this could cause your claim to be reviewed.

8. Can full-time students get help with Council Tax?

Most full time students do not have to pay Council Tax if everyone in the property is a full-time student.

If you live with one other person who is not a student, they might be able to get a discount on the Council Tax.

If you are a full-time student and are being charged Council Tax, you should get support from your university/college or you should find an adviser.
 

9. Full time students and other benefits

Carer’s Allowance

You cannot get Carer’s Allowance if you are in full-time education, even during holidays. For Carer’s Allowance, full time usually means a course at any level that the school, college or university says is full time.

Child Benefit

If you are responsible for a child, as a full-time student you can still claim Child Benefit.

Pension Credit

If you are a full-time student who is over Pension Credit age and you have a low income, you may be able to get Pension Credit.

If you get Pension Credit (Guarantee credit), you will automatically receive your maximum entitlement to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.

Tax Credits

It is no longer possible to make new claims for tax credits. If you are already getting tax credits you may be able to carry on receiving them. Otherwise, you will need to make a claim for Universal Credit.

You can get tax credits even if you are a full-time student.

If you or your partner are working and have a fairly low income, you may get Working Tax Credit; however, in some cases you need to be aged 25 or over. How many hours you need to work will depend on your circumstances.

If you are responsible for children as a lone parent or as a member of a couple, you may get Child Tax Credit.

See the Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit information guides for full details about who can claim.

Most student support income is ignored but some additional payments may count as income.
 

10. Benefits during time out from study

If you are a full-time student, whether you can get benefits during time out from study depends on the reason for taking time out and the benefit concerned.

You can continue to get Universal Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance during your time out from study if you are a student who can get these benefits while studying.

Illness or caring responsibilities

If you are a full-time student and you need to take time out, for example due to illness or because you need to care for someone temporarily, you still count as a full-time student. You will therefore only qualify for the benefits you could get while studying.

If you aren't eligible for a student grant or loan, you may be entitled to Universal CreditJobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support for up to a year once your illness or caring responsibilities have come to an end. This is while you are waiting to re-join the course (for example, until the start of the next academic term).

You may be treated as having student support income, such as student loans or grants during this period. 

Pregnancy

If you are a full-time student and you take time out from your studies because you are pregnant, you will not be able to get most means-tested benefits, unless you are a student who can qualify for these benefits while studying.

Once the baby is born, you may then be able to get

Other reasons

If you are a full-time student and are taking time out from your studies for other reasons, such as to re-sit exams, you will still be treated as a full-time student and will not be able to claim means-tested benefits, unless you are a student who can get these benefits while studying.

11. Further Information

Students and benefits is a complex area therefore advice should always be sought from an experienced specialist adviser or student service.

You can seek advice in your local area by using our Find an Adviser tool and you can also obtain assistance from the organisations listed below.

Student Advice Services/ Welfare Office at Colleges/Universities

Most universities and colleges will have a student advice/welfare service.  The university offices normally provide advice on a range of issues including housing, benefits and student financial support.  Students may also be able to access 'Hardship Payments' through student support offices. Services offered by colleges maybe more limited.

Disabled Students Helpline

Disability Rights UK run a free specialist helpline to advise and support disabled people aged over 16 in England, who are studying or wish to study full-time or part-time.

Tel: 0800 328 5050 (Tues 11.30 – 13.30 and Thurs 13.30 – 15.30) Email: students@disabilityrightsuk.org

General information is also provided to disabled students in Scotland and Wales.

Scotland Tel: 0131 228 9441 or 0800 999 2568                                            

GOV.UK website - Student Finance

Detailed information on financial support for students can be accessed from the GOV.UK website.

National Union of Students (NUS)

Comprehensive range of student information provided including an advice section on website. Visit the National Union of Students (NUS) website for information.

National Apprenticeship Helpline

The helpline provides  guidance on accessing apprenticeships and related issues. You can obtain further information from the GOV.UK website

Tel: 0800 015 0400 or 0247 682 6482 Email: nationalhelpdesk@apprenticeships.gov.uk