1. Home
  2. Student
  3. Student finance facts and stats 2023

Student finance facts and stats 2023

Confused.com C icon
Our expert panel review all content. Learn more about our editorial standards and how we operate.

This page includes relevant UK student finance facts and stats for 2023, such as:

  • How much student debt is expected to rise
  • The average level of student debt across the UK
  • How much the UK government spends on maintenance loans

Feature image with title

According to the latest student finance facts and statistics, there were around 2.86 million students across the UK in the 2021-22 academic year. Government spending on tertiary education (those in education above school age) for 2021-22 amounted to £4.71 billion, averaging at £1,647 per student. 

After the introduction of tuition fees in 1998, students were initially charged £1,000 a year to attend university. This rose to £3,000 a year in 2006, and then £9,000 from the start of 2012-13. As of 2022-23, tuition fees now sit at £9,250 a year.

Given these drastic changes, and the current cost of living crisis, we’ve collated a range of student finance statistics for 2023. This includes:

  • Average student loan debts
  • Student loan interest rates
  • Government spending figures on maintenance loans
  • The UK government spent over £4.5 billion on higher education in 2022-23
  • As of 2022, the total value of student maintenance loans stood at £206.3 billion (up 13% from 2021)
  • In 2023, the average student maintenance loan in the UK was £5,820
  • The UK average student debt in 2021-22 was £29,545
  • Average student debt was over 3 times higher in England (£45,150) than Scotland (£14,840) in 2021-22
  • In 2020-21, around 1.2 million people took out a student loan, to the value of £17.9 billion
  • As of 2022, total UK student debt exceeded £206 billion
  • By 2047, total outstanding UK student debt is predicted to exceed £458 billion
  • According to the Natwest student living index, Bournemouth is the best UK university for student cost of living
  • As of 2022-23, the amount of interest paid on student loans stood at £8.35 billion (+78% from the previous academic year)

As of 2022-23, the UK government spent £4.55 billion a year on higher education – a 3.4% decrease from the previous year. 

A breakdown of how much the UK government spends each year on higher education (2009-23)

Bar graph showing how much the UK government spends per year on higher education from 2009-2023

Since 2010-11, the UK government has gradually spent less on higher education. This fell from around £15.78 billion to a low of £4.37 billion in 2019-20, representing a fall of 72% in a 9-year period.

How much does the UK government spend on student maintenance loans?

Between 1990 and 2006, the annual number of student maintenance loans taken out jumped from 180,000 to 881,000 – an increase of nearly 390%. 

In 2015, the average maintenance loan for students was £4,000. This jumped to £6,100 in 2016, and £7,000 for those starting university in 2021-22.

A breakdown of how much the government spends on student maintenance loans

Bar chart to show how much the government spends on maintenance loans between 2012 and 2022

As of 2022, the total value of student maintenance loans stood at £206.3 billion – an increase of 13% from 2021. 

Since 2012, there’s been year-on-year growth in the amount spent on maintenance loans by the UK government. Between 2012 and 2016, this figure almost doubled, from £46.2 billion to £89.5 billion. 

In 2017, total maintenance loan spending exceeded £100 billion, and grew by approximately £20 billion a year up until 2023. 

As of 2021-22, the average student loan debt across the UK was highest in England (£45,150), followed by:

  • Wales (£33,830)
  • Northern Ireland (£24,360)
  • Scotland (£14,840)

A breakdown of the average student loan debt statistics in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Stacked bar chart showing average student debt statistics in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland between 2014 and 2022

Average student loan debt statistics in England reveal it more than doubled (+113%) between 2014-15 and 2021-22. This represents the largest growth of all UK countries during this time period.

In other parts of the UK:

  • Scotland’s average student loan debt rose nearly 57%
  • Typical student debt in Wales increased by more than three-quarters (78%)
  • Average student loan debt in Northern Ireland rose by more than a third (35%)

A breakdown of UK student loan statistics between 1990 and 2021

Year Number (thousands) Value (£ million) Average value (£) % of eligible taking loans

(Source: House of Commons Library)

As of 2020-21, almost 1.2 million students took out a student loan, to the value of nearly £17.9 billion. This resulted in an average student loan value of £15,030 per student, with 95% of eligible students taking out a loan. This is in contrast to 1990-91, when just over 1 in 4 (28%) of eligible students took out a loan for university.

Since 1990-91, there’ve been some significant changes in UK student loan statistics, including:

  • A 560% increase in the number of students applying for student loans in the UK
  • A rise of more than 25,000% in the value of student loans, when the value stood at just £70 million for 1990-91
  • An increase of 3,700% in the average value of student loans, from a low of £390 in 1990-91
  • A 239% rise in the number of students eligible for student loans over this 30-year period

What’s the total value of UK student loan debt?

As of 2022, total UK student loan debt reached £206.3 billion – a 13% increase from 2021, when the figure stood at £181.8 billion.

A breakdown of total UK student loan debt statistics by year

Area graph showing total UK student loan debt statistics between 2006 and 2022

Data from the House of Commons Library shows that UK student loan debt has gradually risen over time. In 2006, it stood at £17.7 billion, increasing to £89.5 billion just 10 years later (+405%).

In 2017, total UK student loan debt surpassed the £100 billion mark for the first time, and has continued to rise.

Is UK student loan debt expected to rise?

As of 2021-22, the total amount of outstanding UK student debt stood at £160.7 billion. By 2031-32, this is expected to double, reaching £321.3 billion.

A breakdown of how UK student debt statistics are expected to increase between 2021 and 2067

Area graph showing UK student debt statistics are expected to increase between 2021 and 2067

Total UK student debt is expected to rise year-on-year between 2021-22 and 2046-47, where it’s forecast to reach a peak of £458 billion. After this point, long-term government predictions suggest a fall in the amount of UK student debt, to around £375.4 billion in 2061-62.

A breakdown of projected student loan outlays between 2022 and 2028

2022/23 (£bn) 2023/24 (£bn) 2024/25 (£bn) 2025/26 (£bn) 2026/27 (£bn) 2027/28 (£bn) Changes 2022/23 to 2027/28
Advanced Learner Loans

(Source: House of Commons Library)

As of 2022-23, the projected loan outlays for UK students is around £20.1 billion. This is forecast to grow year-on-year to 2027-28, when it could reach £24 billion (+20%).

We see a similar pattern in the student loan statistics for undergraduate students. Their loan outlays are projected to rise by almost a fifth (19%) between 2022-23 and 2027-28 (£19.2 billion vs £22.8 billion). 

Postgraduate students are expected to see the biggest percentage increase in student loan outlays between 2022-23 and 2027-28 (+31%), growing from £0.8 billion to £1 billion.

A breakdown of the projected number of students receiving loans between 2022 and 2028

2022/23 (thousands) 2023/24 (thousands) 2024/25 (thousands) 2025/26 (thousands) 2026/27 (thousands) 2027/28 (thousands) Changes 2022/23 to 2027/28
Advanced Learner Loans

(Source: House of Commons Library)

Student finance statistics from the House of Common Library reveal the following trends:

  • The number of students with a loan is expected to grow by 6% between 2022 and 2028, from just over 1.5 million to more than 1.6 million.
  • In 2022-23, around 9 in 10 (89%) student loans were for undergraduates, accounting for almost 1.35 million students. By 2027-28, this figure is predicted to rise to 1.45 million (+7%).
  • Postgraduate students accounted for less than 7% of student loans in 2022-23. Their numbers are expected to rise by 9% by 2028, but will still account for a similar percentage of the total for the year.
  • Advanced learner loans are predicted to fall by 11% between 2022 and 2028, from 56,000 to 50,000.

How does the student loan interest rate affect repayments?

Full-time UK undergraduate students starting in the academic year 2022-23 are predicted to borrow an average of £42,100 over their time at university. This is typically over a 3-year period.

Of these, more than a quarter (27%) are expected to repay their loan in full, rising to 61% for the 2023-24 cohort.

The UK government is anticipated to subsidise more than a quarter (28%) of student loans for the financial year 2022-23, at a cost of nearly £6.7 billion.

For the financial year 2022-23, the government issued almost £20.1 billion in student loans. This was made up of:

  • 94% plan 2, full-time higher education loans
  • 4% Master’s loans
  • 2% plan 2, part-time higher education loans
  • 1% advanced learner loans

A breakdown of how student loan interest rates affect student loan repayments

Comparative bar chart showing how student loan interest rates affect student loan repayments

Statistics on student finance show:

  • The amount of interest paid on student loans stood at £8.35 billion, as of 2022-23. This is a 78% increase compared to figures from 2021-22.
  • Between 2016 and 2019, the interest paid on UK student loans more than tripled, from £1.75 billion to £5.73 billion. This figure dropped slightly during the pandemic years to around £4.7 billion, before rising again in 2022-23.

During the same period, student loan repayment statistics followed a similar pattern of growth and decline, but with less extremes. Student loan repayments in 2016-17 stood at £1.77 billion, and more than doubled by 2019-20, reaching a peak of £4.8 billion. This figure dropped to around £3 billion between 2020-22, before rising again to nearly £4.3 billion as of 2023.

A breakdown of how the average graduate pays back their tuition fees

Year Salary Debt Interest rate % Paid this year Interest this year Total paid Total interest

(Source: Wordsrated)

As of 2023, the average graduate earns almost £26,500 when they leave university, and has accumulated an average student debt of just over £45,000. Assuming an interest rate repayment of 1.25%, they’ll pay off £564 in their first year of repayments, with £563 worth of interest.

By 2044, the average graduate from 2023 can expect to earn around £44,000 a year. In the 20 years since graduating, their student debt should drop by around £15,000, to just over £29,000. In total, they’d have paid back more than £28,000, yet accumulated more than £11,000 worth of interest over this period.

How many years of student finance can you get in the UK?

Usually, student finance is only available for your first higher education course. You can have a maximum of 16 years of part-time funding. Anything over this is likely to be self-funded.

How much maintenance loan should I get?

The amount of maintenance loan you should get depends on your household income, where you’ll be studying while at university, and where you normally live. In 2023, the average maintenance loan for students was £5,820 for the year. But, this will vary depending on which part of the UK you’re from and studying in.

What’s the household income threshold for student finance in the UK?

The household income threshold for student finance in the UK varies depending on which part of the UK you’re from and where you’ll be studying. For example, students in England wishing to live at home while at uni, and from a household earning £58,291 get a minimum maintenance loan of £3,698. This figure rises to £4,651 for students living away from home, studying outside of London, with household earnings of at least £62,343.

Do parents' savings affect student finance in the UK?

Yes, in a way. The amount of money in your parents’ savings doesn’t directly affect the amount of money you’re eligible for. But, any interest earned from savings must be declared as unearned income.

Student finance classifies household income as any money you get from your own savings, investments, or property, like dividends or rent. It may also include your parent(s) or partner’s income, depending on who you live with at the time of applying. That said, all student finance applications are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Does working part time affect student finance in the UK?

In theory, working part-time shouldn’t affect your student finance application, providing your job isn’t your only source of income. Student finance is mainly affected by your parents’ income, where you’ll be studying in the UK, and your residential status.

How long does it take for student finance to be approved in the UK?

It can take up to 6 weeks for a student finance application to be approved. Although, the average application processing time in the UK tends to be around 3 weeks. This depends on the volume of applications at the time of sending, and whether all of your evidence is correct and in order.

What percentage of student loans are repaid?

The UK government expects that just over a quarter (27%) of full-time undergraduates starting in the 2022-23 academic year will repay their student loans in full. The prediction is this will rise to 61% for those starting their studies in 2023-24.

When is student debt written off in the UK?

When your student debt gets written off depends on which repayment plan you’re on. For example, students on Plan 1 will have debts written off 25 years after the April they were first due to repay (providing this was on or after 1 September 2006). If this was after 1 September 2006, your student loan will be written off when you turn 65 years old.

What’s the average student loan debt in the UK?

As of 2021-22, the average UK student loan debt stood at £29,545. This figure was highest in England (£45,150) and lowest in Scotland (£14,840).

How is student loan interest calculated?

Student loan interest is charged from the day you get your first student loan payment, up until your loan has been repaid in full or written off. Interest is added to your existing balance each month, and is charged at either the Retail Price Index (RPI) or BoE base rate plus 1% (whichever is lower). As of 21 July 2023, the current student loan interest rate for Plan 1 student loans stood at 6%.

Why is university so expensive?

The cost of university is more expensive in 2023 compared to previous years largely thanks to the rise in tuition fees, from £1,000 a year in 1998 to £9,250 a year. This is driven by increased running costs (i.e. wages, energy bills, cost of materials, upgrades, etc.). Rather than absorb these additional costs, universities have passed them onto the students. Secondly, the UK cost of living is higher in 2023 compared to previous years. This has had a knock-on effect for all aspects of student living, including food, accommodation, transport, and social activity costs.

Household income threshold

The amount you need to be earning in order to qualify for a maintenance loan. There’s a maximum and minimum threshold depending on which part of the UK you’ll be studying, and whether you’ll be living at home while at university.

Maintenance grant

Additional money given to students by the government that helps pay towards living costs. You can apply for a maintenance grant at the same time as a student loan through your student finance application. But, unlike a maintenance loan, you don’t need to pay this money back.

Maintenance loan

A student loan provided by the government that helps pay towards living expenses while at university. This is usually used for rent, bills, food, and nights out. You apply for the maintenance loan through the same process as the tuition fee loan. Once you start making repayments, this will be a joint sum of the two loans.

Student bursary

Money offered to a student based on their academic abilities, household income, or a mixture of both. Sometimes called a scholarship, this can help pay towards various university expenses, such as tuition fees, learning resources, and transport costs. Funding can last anywhere between 1 year and the full length of the course, and doesn’t have to be repaid (unless you leave the course early).

Tuition fee loan

Money that you apply for to help cover your tuition fees. This is paid directly to the course provider, and repayments begin after you finish the course and start earning over a given salary threshold.











Share this article