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Advice and Counselling Service

Increasing income

On this page we explain some possible ways that undergraduate students paying the Home rate of tuition fee may be able to increase their income to top up Government Student Finance.

Postgraduate FundingWhat you may be eligible for will depend on your circumstances. Please also read our Planning your budget webpage to work out how much money you need to find to pay for your expenses.  

You are welcome to contact a Welfare Adviser for confidential advice about planning your finances.

Financial Assistance Fund  

This fund at Queen Mary is to help students who are in financial hardship. You may be eligible to apply for a grant, depending on your circumstances. More information is available on the Financial Assistance Fund page.  

Student bank account 

Most banks offer a student account to university students who are paying regular income into it, for example a Maintenance Loan. The main advantage of opening a student account or switching an existing current account to a student account is that most student accounts come with an interest free overdraft facility. This allows you to spend more money than you have in your current account, up to the overdraft limit set by the bank, without you being charged interest for this. This can be helpful at times when you have cashflow difficulties.   

Banks sometimes increase overdraft limits each academic year, but some banks offer a high overdraft limit from year one and will not increase it later on – you can check this when you are comparing accounts.  

Many banks offer incentives for opening a student account, such as cash, a railcard, or a Totum card. The Moneysavingexpert website and the Save the Student website both compare different student bank accounts, including information on overdraft limits and anything the bank is giving away when you open an account. They also give information and top tips on opening and running an account.  
You can usually open a student account once you have a confirmed place at university. If you get Student Finance, you need a bank account in time for your first Maintenance Loan instalment to be paid directly into it in September. To open the account, you will need proof of address and identity, such as passport, birth certificate or UK driving licence. You’ll also need your UCAS code or confirmation letter.  

If you need to apply to the Financial Assistance Fund at Queen Mary you would normally need evidence you have applied for an overdraft, and that you are using it. If you have been refused an overdraft, ask the bank for a letter confirming this, to include with your FAF application. If you choose not to take an overdraft which would otherwise be available to you, the Bursaries Office will usually add a notional amount to your level of income in the assessment of your FAF application. 
Can everyone get a student bank account with an interest free overdraft? 
If you are a UK student paying your Student Finance into the account, you should be able to get a student bank account with an interest free overdraft. However, if there is an issue with your credit rating you might find the bank will not offer you a student account. If you are refused one, check with the bank what the reason was. You should keep a copy of any bank correspondence refusing you an interest free overdraft so you can submit these with any Financial Assistance Fund application you make.  

Students who are eligible for a Student Finance tuition fee loan only might not be able to get an interest free overdraft facility in the same way as a UK student. However, you may be able to negotiate one with your bank if you have other regular and reliable income such as earnings, if you have an account with the bank in your home country or if you have lived in the UK for some time. 
What happens if I exceed my agreed overdraft limit? 
Make sure that you keep a close check on your account so that you do not exceed your agreed overdraft limit, as banks can impose large penalty charges. Check the terms and conditions of your account. If you feel that you will need an increased overdraft limit for a period of time, try to plan ahead and negotiate with your bank so you avoid paying excessive fees and charges for an unauthorised overdraft. 
If you cannot manage to bring your overdraft back within the limit to stop being charged fees, contact a Welfare Adviser who can advise on any possible options for increasing your income, such as the Financial Assistance Fund.

It is sometimes possible to reclaim bank charges and the moneysavingexpert website has information about this.


Many students work part-time while they are studying, and during vacations to increase their income. Please read our webpage on working during your studies.  

Trusts and charities

It can occasionally be possible to obtain small amounts of funding from trusts and charities. However this can only ever be a top-up to the core funding you already have, not a replacement for it. You will almost always be expected to have explored all other means of financial support before applying.  

In general, you need to have exceptional circumstances for charitable funding to be a realistic option. For example, help may occasionally be available for final year students in severe financial hardship and for whom a small payment would enable them to complete their course. Some trusts and charities only provide help with specific costs, and many trusts do not help with tuition fees at all. Many trusts and charities have only restricted available funding, with some charities not making any awards to students. 

If you contact them directly by phone or email in advance of making any written application, most will be able to give you an idea of whether they are making any awards and the amount of money successful applicants can expect to get. If the amounts they offer are quite low, and if they offer very few awards each year, make sure you have considered all other available options before deciding whether to invest the time and effort needed to apply for this type of funding.

How can I find trusts and charities to apply to?  

Turn2Us, a charitable service, has a database of trusts and charities accessible via a grant search which may provide financial assistance to students.  

We mention some trusts and charities specific to certain groups of students on our webpages. For example: 

  • care experience students  
  • Refugees and asylum seekers  
  • Students who are not taking a Maintenance Loan for faith reasons  

There are some specific trusts and charities that support students studying Medicine or Dentistry:

BMA Charities 
The Royal Medical Benevolent Fund 
BDA Benevolent Fund  

When should I apply? 

Many trustees meet only once or twice a year to assess applications, so it is important that you apply before the relevant deadlines. These should be stated on the trust or charity’s website.

How do I apply?  

You will need to carefully research the criteria of trusts and charities and then make separate applications to each relevant trust or charity, explaining your situation and how you meet their specific criteria. You will usually be able to apply online. Make sure you explain your situation fully, which maximises your chances of success. If you are writing an explanation of your situation, you can contact a Welfare Adviser if you would like us to check this. If the trust or charity requires any evidence of your academic ability, you would need to request this from your personal adviser, tutor or student support officer in your academic school.  

Your application for funding should ideally explain:  

  • How you meet the eligibility criteria – for example if the trust only helps people in a certain age group, or who live in a particular area, state clearly at the beginning of your letter your age, or the area where you live. If it is not clear to the trustees that you are eligible to apply, they might reject your application. 
  • About your studies - Explain what course you are studying and where, which academic year you are in and when you expect to complete the course. Trusts and charities usually have very limited funds, and they want to be sure that any money they give you will enable you to complete your course. For this reason many trusts are more likely to help final year students, so if this is the case, emphasise this strongly. If you are not in your final year, try to explain how you plan to fund any future years of your course, so that the trustees can see that you will still be able to complete your course. 
  • It can also be helpful to explain why you are studying this course, for example, what career you hope to do after graduation. This helps to demonstrate how serious you are about the course and how important it is for you to complete it, which can make your application more compelling. 
  • Why you are in financial need - The trustees need to understand your financial situation and why you are asking for financial support. If you have a main source of funding but it is not quite enough to cover all of your costs, explain this. If your main source of funding has been temporarily disrupted or it has ended, explain this. If you have exceptional circumstances, such as long term illness or disability, or childcare responsibilities, explain this. Make it clear whether your financial difficulties are a one-off problem, affecting you only in the current academic year, or if they will continue throughout your course. 
  • How much money you need - You usually need to present a clear budget listing all of your income and essential expenditure, so that the trustees can see your shortfall (how much money you need). If you are applying part way through an academic year, you will just need to show how much money you need to complete the academic year. You can use the budgeting guidance on our website to help you. If you need further help with this, contact a Welfare Adviser. 
  • Where else you are applying - Explain how many other trusts and charities you are applying to, so that the trustees understand that you are not expecting them to give you enough money to cover your entire shortfall. If you have already been granted money from another trust or charity, or from the University, make this clear, and if possible include evidence, such as the award letter. 

Raising funds from the general public

This is a way of gathering relatively small amounts of money from individual members of the public, which when combined might raise the total amount of funds to pay for a project. This is commonly done using a crowdfunding website. A few students have had success raising funds, using this system to pay for their studies but these tend to be for postgraduate courses.  

If you are eligible for undergraduate student finance you would usually be expected to apply for this rather than crowdfunding. To crowdfund you would usually need to be able to show that this is your only way of affording university.  

The Savethestudent website has useful advice about how to crowdfund studies. 


Unless you are ineligible for UK government student finance, you should think very carefully before deciding to take out any other kind of loan. This is because most lenders will charge high rates of interest and require you to start making immediate repayments which you might struggle to pay from your income.  

However, if you feel that you have no other options available and that you need to consider taking a loan, you should first check whether the loan company is authorised by the FCA so you can protect yourself from fraud or other unauthorised activity. The FCA website explains how you can do this and where you can check the register of authorised firms.   

Next, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of the loan you are offered before you sign any agreement. Try and find out as much information as you can such as: 

  • when will you need to start making repayments 
  • how much you need to borrow 
  • how much in total you will end up repaying 
  • how much your (minimum) monthly repayments will be 
  • what the interest rate is and whether this is fixed or variable 
  • the length of the loan agreement 
  • the frequency and timing of payments 
  • whether you can reduce the amount you need to borrow by exploring other sources of funding or reducing your spending 
  • how you will repay the loan from your future earnings 
  • at what point in your studies to take the loan – this will depend on your own circumstances; some students may need the money earlier in their studies whereas  others may need it later  
  • what happens if you take longer to complete your studies than originally planned 

Loan Sharks 
Loan sharks are illegal money lenders who know many students experience financial hardship and cash flow issues. They usually operate by word of mouth. They can be a 'friend of a friend' or even a fellow student. They offer cash loans quickly without the need for paperwork. However, if you fall behind with repayments, huge sums of daily interest can be added to the original loan along with threats to your personal safety if you don't pay what you owe. If you think you are borrowing money from a loan shark, you can report them to StopLoanSharks and you can also get confidential advice about your options. Contact a Welfare Adviser if you are worried or unsure. 
Shariah-Compliant Loans   
Please read our information about this.  

Welfare Benefits

Most full-time undergraduate students cannot claim welfare benefits. However students in a limited number of situations may be able to. Please read our webpages on:

Contact a Welfare Adviser for advice if you think you may be eligible for welfare benefits.  

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