Can I Claim Universal Credit As A Student?

Are you a student wondering whether you can claim universal credit? We take a look at student eligibility...

Written byHolly Barrow
Published on
Read time7 min read

If you're a student in the UK wondering whether you can claim universal credit, this comprehensive guide aims to cover everything you need to know.

We'll explore everything from the basics - what exactly is universal credit? - to the more complex stuff - am I eligible for universal credit? Does this change depending on whether I'm a full-time or part-time student? - so make sure you stick around to get to the nitty gritty...

Unfortunately, this advice may not apply to students in Northern Ireland; we'd recommend checking this guidance out if you're not studying in England, Scotland or Wales.


What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit was introduced under Theresa May's government in 2013, aiming to bring together a range of working-age benefits into a single payment.

This replaced six previous 'legacy' benefits including working tax credit, housing benefit and child tax credit.

Universal Credit takes the form of a monthly payment - or twice a month for some people in Scotland - and is designed for those who are out of work, unable to work or who are on a low income.

Who is eligible for Universal Credit?

To be eligible for Universal Credit, some of the key requirements include that you must be aged 18 or over (although there are exceptions to this for some 16 and 17 year olds); you must live in the UK; you must be under State Pension age; and you must have £16,000 or less in money, investments and savings.

You must also be able to demonstrate that you need help with living costs or that you're on a low income.

As a student, you may be able to claim Universal Credit in some circumstances - let's go through some of the exceptions so that you can establish whether you're eligible...


Can full-time students claim Universal Credit?

Full-time students aren't typically entitled to claim UC. However, there are exceptions to this for the following people:

  • Those who are aged 21 or under, in full-time non-advanced education (more on this below) and who do not have parental support

  • Students with disabilities or health conditions that have been assessed as having limited capability for work by a Work Capability Assessment before starting their course AND who are entitled to at least one of the following:

    • Personal Independence Payment

    • Disability Living Allowance

    • Child Disability Payment in Scotland

    • Attendance Allowance

    • Armed Forces Independence Payment

  • Those who are responsible for a child - this includes an adopted child or a foster child

  • Those who live with a partner who is eligible for Universal Credit

  • Those who have reached State Pension age and live with a partner who is below State Pension age

Full Time Students

What is classed as a full-time course and what is non-advanced education?

Non-advanced education

Non-advanced education includes any qualification up to A Level, with full-time non-advanced education courses including the following:

  • National Qualification Framework level 3 or the Scottish Qualification framework level 6

  • General Certificate of Education Advanced level (A Level)

  • AS Level

  • Advanced Diploma

  • National Diploma, Certificate or Award

  • Level 3 NVQ, Award, Certificate or Diploma

Those studying in full-time non-advanced education who are under 21 and who do not have parental support may be entitled to claim Universal Credit if they started the course/training before turning 21 and can continue to get UC until the end of the academic year in which they reach age 21. This includes those who may have left care provided by the local council.

It's important to note that those under 21 studying in full-time non-advanced education but who do have parental support may still be able to claim UC if they do not get a student loan or maintenance grant and are available for work, however it only applies from 1st September following their 19th birthday.


Full-time courses

A full-time advanced education course can include:

  • Postgraduate degrees or the equivalent

  • A first degree or the equivalent

  • A diploma of higher education

  • A higher national diploma

  • Any other course of study of a standard above either advanced GNVQ or a Scottish higher or advanced higher national qualification

Your academic institution or training provider will typically outline whether your course is classed as 'full-time'. Something worth noting is that you'll still be classed as studying on a full-time course even if you attend on a part-time basis!

Can part-time students claim Universal Credit?

As a part-time student, you'll only be eligible to claim Universal Credit if you can prove that your course/training won't interfere with your ability to take up work-related activities.

You might also be required to give up your course if you get a job offer, which could be a deal breaker.

For the purposes of UC, you'll be considered a part-time student if one of the following applies:

  • You're not in 'relevant education' (this is those aged under 20, in non-advanced education or approved training that began before they turned 19, and the course is 12 or more hours a week)

  • You're not attending a full-time course

  • Your course doesn't prevent you from carrying out your work related requirements

Work related requirements depend on personal factors including your health, caring responsibilities and employment status.

If I have a break from studying, can I claim Universal Credit?

If you take a break from studying, you may be eligible to claim Universal Credit depending on the reason you have taken time out.

You may be eligible to claim UC if the reason you're taking a break from studying falls under one of the following:

  • Illness or caring responsibilities

  • Pregnancy (you must qualify for UC while studying in order to be eligible for it when taking a break from studying)


Can international students claim Universal Credit?

Unfortunately, international students are exempt from claiming any benefits in the UK including Universal Credit.

Non-UK citizens who are living in the country under a short-term visa such as the Study Visa are typically subjected to the 'no recourse to public funds' condition, which means they are unable to claim most welfare benefits.

If you have refugee status, however, this may not be the case!

You may be eligible for UC if you have refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave with recourse to public funds.

International Students

Financial support for students

There is a wide range of support available to students to help you throughout your studies, including a loan to cover your tuition fees and maintenance costs.

There are also certain grants and hardship funds available for those experiencing financial difficulties; contact your university to find out whether you're eligible for extra support.

It's also worth checking out these scholarships, bursaries and grants which can make a huge difference to your student budget.

Finally, TOTUM is here to help students save as much as possible through our wide range of student discounts with leading brands such as Co-op, ASOS, Samsung, Amazon Prime and more.

TOTUM More For Less Banner

Join TOTUM Digital for FREE to access hundreds of student discounts on big-name brands like ASOS, Apple, Myprotein, boohoo, Samsung, and more!

Sign up for FREE, download our amazing app, and enjoy the latest offers, vouchers, coupons and more at your fingertips. Find out more here or download the app for Apple or Android to get started today.

Join the TOTUM club!

Join TOTUM Student for FREE to access hundreds of student discounts on big-name brands like ASOS, Apple, MyProtein, boohoo, Samsung, and more!

Sign up for FREE, download the TOTUM app, and enjoy the latest offers, vouchers, coupons and more at your fingertips. Find out more.

Download The TOTUM App

Google PlayStoreApple App Store
Join TOTUM and download our app

Stories like this

Related offers