General advice on funding your architectural studies
If you've decided that becoming an architect is the career path for you, then you've already taken the first step on an exciting journey! However, now is the right time to think about how you are going to fund your studies, bearing in mind that if you study on a full-time basis - though there are lots of alternative routes available - you are likely to have five years of university ahead of you. This means there are several potential costs that you should consider. These could include:
- tuition costs
- cost of living, such as accommodation and everyday expenses
- field trips
- digital costs such as a suitable laptop
- materials costs such as sketchbooks and printing
It is important to discuss these costs with your family and support network before you start studying.
Budgeting and finding out where funding will come from (tuition and maintenance loans, parental support, scholarships and bursaries, part-time work etc) will help you ensure that you are financially prepared for your studies.
You can also find out more about the many scholarships and bursaries offered by the RIBA.
Tuition fees can seem high and many students might be concerned about these, given the length of architecture education. But most students don’t need to pay their tuition fees upfront, as these should be covered by a tuition fee loan. Maintenance loans are also available to help with living costs. Both these loans accrue interest and you'll start to pay them back after graduation, depending on your future income. Additionally, depending on the university you study at, and your family income, you may be entitled to apply for grants and bursaries that you do not need to repay.
Cost of living
The cost of living will vary depending on many factors, including the location of your university and your lifestyle costs.
You should research the cost of living associated with your prospective universities. Some useful search terms are ’living costs at xyz university’ and ‘the cost of living as a student in xyz university’.
Click below to view useful websites to assist you with budgeting your living costs:
- Advice and information from the National Union of Students (NUS)
- Information for students from the National Association of Student Money Advisors (NASMA)
- Advice from Money Saving Expert
- Budgeting and debt management advice from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)
Additional costs associated with studying architecture
You will need to budget annually for printing, materials, digital equipment, travel for site visits and field trips. These additional costs will vary depending on what school you attend and the stage you are at in your education. In order to be financially prepared, it is advisable that you speak to the school in regards to the expected additional spend per year, and they should be able to give you some guidance. Attending an open day is a great way to find out more about the school, as well as an opportunity to ask lots of questions.
Student finances available if you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland
Eligible full-time students for whom their Part 1 degree is their first course of Higher Education may be eligible to receive tuition fee loans, loans for living costs and supplementary grants for both Part 1 and Part 2, which are viewed as a single course (subject to various conditions), even if the student is additionally awarded a postgraduate degree at the end of their studies (such as a Master of Architecture). Where studied as part of a single course, the Student Loans Company (SLC) considers the duration of the course to be at undergraduate level so fee caps will apply to both Part 1 and Part 2 for Approved (Fee Cap) providers.
Part 1 and Part 2 architecture courses are considered a ‘single course’, and therefore a designated course for undergraduate student support under the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011, where the student has:
- Not withdrawn from their course between completing Part 1 and commencing Part 2
- Not changed their mode of study from full-time to part-time between completing Part 1 and commencing Part 2
- Not undertaken a specialist Master’s programme after Part 1, prior to starting Part 2
- Not broken their period of eligibility due to an excessive gap between completing Part 1 and commencing Part 2 (more than 3 years)
An excessive gap is considered to be a break of more than 3 academic years between Part 1 and Part 2. However, where the gap exceeds 3 academic years, SLC has discretion to consider this a single course if the student has maintained a connection with architecture.
Students can still be considered to be taking Part 1 and Part 2 as a single course if they change providers (as long as both are designated for student support, which normally means that the providers should be registered with the Office for Students). Each part should be prescribed by ARB.
If Part 2 is not considered to be taken as part of a single course, this may impact on the funding that the student can receive and also on the rate of tuition fee charged.
Students enrolled with their universities as 'year-out' students between their Parts 1 and 2, for example on a 'sandwich' programme, may be entitled to apply for student loans for that year, even if they are undertaking paid practical experience. Students should seek advice from Student Finance England and from their student services department.
Eligible part-time students studying for Part 1 as a first degree may be able to receive a tuition fee loan and part-time maintenance loan for their Part 1 degree and can find further information on the student finance pages at Gov.uk
The single course provisions do not apply to part time students and no undergraduate funding is available to students studying for Part 2 on a part time basis. This is because standalone Part 2 courses (those not considered to be undertaken as part of the single course) are not designated courses under the regulations governing undergraduate student support. Such students may also be charged a higher tuition fee.
Master's degree/postgraduate loans
Students who are not eligible for undergraduate student support may be eligible for a Postgraduate Loan for a Part 2 Master of Architecture course. These loans are available for full-time and part-time courses, subject to the relevant criteria being met.
Funding for studying abroad as part of a UK Higher Education course
Combined study courses between UK and abroad can be designated for student finance where at least 50% of the teaching and learning that comprise the course takes place at a UK provider. The determination of 50% is based on the number of weeks of study.
Options available if you normally live in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
Student finance is a devolved matter and funding arrangements are made by each of the UK's nations. Please see the websites below for information:
Student Awards Agency for Scotland
Student Finance Northern Ireland
Equivalent or lower qualifications (ELQs) - do you already have a degree?
The provision of student funding is generally focussed on those students studying a higher education qualification for the first time. This means that students will generally not be able to receive funding for an equivalent or lower qualification than that already held. However, the regulations governing undergraduate student support make an exception for architecture students wishing to start studying a designated full-time course in architecture from Part 1. These students can receive loans for living costs and targeted grants for the duration of their course, to include Part 2 if taken as part of a single course. However, they will not be eligible for a tuition fee loan and students may be charged a higher tuition fee.
Note that students who undertake a postgraduate qualification between Part 1 and Part 2 will not be eligible to receive support for their degree following conferment of the postgraduate qualification.
You should seek further advice from Student Finance England.
Changes of circumstances and over-payments by the student loans company
If it becomes clear following an application for funding or following a reassessment of circumstances that an individual student has been incorrectly awarded student funding, then the Student Loans Company is entitled to withdraw funding and has a statutory duty to recover this money. This is the case even if the student had originally been informed they were eligible for support. Regulations 117-119 of the Education (Student Support) Regulations are the relevant references. The recovery of the overpaid amount will be conducted on a case by case basis.
The student finance application process requires students to sign a declaration to agree that they will repay any over-payment.