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Advanced Learner Loans Explained

SFE administers the Advanced Learner Loan for students aged 19 and older. Access to this financial support can help to fund your college or training course costs.

This section explains how the funding for advanced learner loans works in England, the application process, and how to make the repayments.

So, What is an Advanced Learner Loan?

This type of student finance is available on approved qualifications (levels 3 to level 6) at one of the approved providers in England.

Advanced learner loans are not means tested and you do not need to undertake any credit checks to meet the eligibility criteria.

As a result, you can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan no matter what your employment status is – or how much you are earning.

Note: The availability of financial help for adult learners, and procedures for claiming it, differ when studying in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

Advanced Learner Loan Repayments

The rules for repaying your student loan depend on which of the three plans you are on. But, repayments would need to start when your income goes over the ‘threshold’ amount.

Despite that, Student Finance England (SFE) will start charging interest on an Advanced Learner Loan from the day you receive the first payment.

If You Complete an Access to HE Course

As a rule, SFE would cancel (write off) any outstanding balance of an Advanced Learner Loan owed for an Access to Higher Education course once you complete it.

Therefore, providing the higher education course qualifies for undergraduate student finance, you would not need to pay it back.

How the Loan Bursary Fund Works

The Advanced Learner Loan Bursary Fund can help you pay for certain expenses associated with studying. So for example, you might get money towards the cost of childcare or course materials (further details below).

Note: The Money Advice Service explains more on how to work out the true cost of borrowing and the total cost of repaying the debt.

Advanced Learner Loan Amount

The minimum amount you can borrow is £300 but you do not receive the payment. The money would go directly to the college or the training provider.

Even so, the total amount learners can get from this kind of loan would depend on several factors, including:

  • What level course you are taking.
  • The fees for the course.
  • The upper threshold (maximum loan) available for the course.

There is no requirement to borrow the full cost of the course. So, you can choose whether to pay some of the fees yourself.

How Many Advanced Learner Loans Can You Get?

The maximum number of loans you can apply for is four (4) if your course started before the 1st of August 2016. But, you would not get all the learner loans all together at the same time.

Also, you cannot make an application for an additional loan if it is for the same level of a course. So for example, the same level qualification in Italian if you already received a loan for the same level in French.

In case you were wondering:

You would be able to apply for up to four (4) loans – and get more than one at the same time – providing your course started since the 1st of August 2016.

The rules now allow you to apply for an additional loan to take the same level of a course. So for example, taking the same level qualification in Mathematics if you already received a loan for the same level in History.

Note: They will allow only one loan application if it will be for an Access to Higher Education (HE) course.

Funding Courses for A Levels

Learner loans can fund each course taken towards A Levels (up to a maximum of four A Levels). Hence, taking each A Level as two separate courses (in the same subject) would mean you can have up to eight (8) loans.

You can get three (3) extra loans for non A Level courses either before or after the course of A Levels.

Note: Student Finance England produce a PDF guide to the terms and conditions of Advanced Learner Loans.

Advanced Learner Loan Eligibility Criteria

Besides your age and nationality (residence status), qualification for an Advanced Learner Loan will also depend on the course and the college or training provider.

Courses Started before 1st of August 2016

Eligibility would depend on you being at least 24 years old on the first day of the course, which must be:

  • A Level 3 or 4 qualification (e.g. A Levels).
  • Taken at an approved college or training provider in England.

Courses Started Since 1st of August 2016

Eligibility would depend on you being at least 19 years old on the first day of the course, which must be:

  • A Level 3, 4, 5, or 6 qualification (e.g. A Levels or graduate certificate).
  • Taken at an approved college or training provider in England.

Note: Another section explains more about what qualification levels mean or you can check with your college or training provider.

Rules for Nationality or Residency Status

As a general rule, all these must apply to your circumstances:

  • Living in the United Kingdom on the first day of the course.
  • Were living in the UK, Channel Islands, or Isle of Man for at least three (3) years before starting the course.
  • Be a United Kingdom national or have ‘settled status’ (meaning there are no restrictions on how long you can stay).

You may also meet the criteria for qualification if you are:

  • A UK national (or someone with settled status) living in one of the countries in the EU and EEA.
  • A European Union national or a family member of one.
  • Not a United Kingdom national but you lived in the UK for at least twenty (20) years (half of your life can also apply).
  • A refugee or a relative of one.
  • A migrant worker.
  • The child of a Swiss national or a Turkish worker.
  • Under humanitarian protection or a relative of someone who has been granted it.
  • Staying in the UK as a stateless person (or their family member) and the course begins on or after the 1st of August 2018.
  • A serving member of the United Kingdom armed forces (or their spouse, civil partner, or a dependent parent or child living with them) doing a distance learning course from outside the UK that started on or after the 1st of August 2017.

How to Apply for Advanced Learner Loan

  1. The first step is to check whether your chosen course qualifies. Your college or training provider will confirm whether is does or not.
  2. Get a ‘Learning and funding information’ letter from them containing the details about your course. You will need it to complete the application process.
  3. You can apply online through the GOV.UK website (after registering) or by post (further details below).
  4. As a rule, you will get a confirmation letter within fourteen (14) days to confirm the loan arrangement (it can take longer for postal applications).

You can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan even if you do not have a NI number. But if not, you would need to apply for a National Insurance number before they will pay out the loan.

Nonetheless, you must have your ‘learning and funding information letter’ before making an application.

Postal Applications

Proving Your Identity

It is best for UK nationals to include their UK passport details in the application as proof of identity. You can also send your birth or adoption certificate you do not have a UK passport (or it has expired). Thus, use the ‘Birth or adoption certificate form‘ for this purpose.

You would need to send your EU passport or identity card for the first application if you are from one of the other European Union countries.

Sending Supporting Information

The ‘Evidence return form‘ is for anyone who needs to send extra information to support their application (e.g. proof of residency status).

How to Change an Application

You can use your student finance login facility to make changes online once they have approved your application. Use the ‘Loan request form‘ if you only want to change the loan amount.

Loan Bursary Fund

After getting approval for an Advanced Learner Loan, you may also apply to get additional funding from the Loan Bursary Fund. You can use money from the Loan Bursary Fund to pay for certain expenses, such as:

  • Accommodation and travel
  • Childcare
  • Classroom assistance for students with a disability or learning difficulty (after being assessed by the college or training provider).
  • Course materials and equipment

Applying for Bursary Funding

Different types of colleges and training providers have their own criteria for awarding student financing. They tend to take individual circumstances into consideration before granting any payments.

Note: Talk to student services department for more information about what evidence you may need to supply.

As a rule, the college or training provider pays the money direct to the student. But, you can also ask them to make the payments to someone else instead (e.g. a childcare provider or a landlord).

Important: This kind of funding may need repaying, such as when experiencing a temporary financial difficulty.

Bursary Fund Eligibility Criteria

You can apply for bursaries even if you are getting other types of funding, such as the Disability Living Allowance benefit or Professional and Career Development Loans.

But, you would not be able to apply if you are:

Note: You should contact your college or training provider if you want to appeal a decision given to you from the Loan Bursary Fund.

Advanced Learner Loan Application process in United Kingdom