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Average student borrowing across the UK in 2015-16: not as different as you might expect

December 2, 2016

Yesterday the Student Loans Company published its annual student funding statistics for England, Northern Ireland and Wales. The Scottish figures were published in October. Links to all the data are at the foot of this post.

The average annual loan taken out in each nation in 2015-16 is shown below. The figures cover  borrowing for maintenance and, excluding Scotland, for fees.  The relatively narrow gap between Scotland and the other  devolved nations reflects the relatively low levels of maintenance grants here, and therefore higher dependency on loans to fund living costs.

The average will understate borrowing at low-incomes in Scotland, where low-income students borrow more in the absence of access to as much grant,  but will overstate borrowing levels at low incomes in the other nations, especially high-grant Wales.

The SLC figures do not show borrowing by income, but the Scottish ones do, so they are also included here.


There are more non-borrowers in Scotland, mainly from higher incomes: around 30% of Scottish students did not borrow in 2015-16, compared to fewer than 5% in the other nations. So the average across all students, including those who borrow nothing, would show larger differences between Scotland and the rest  – but would also be an even more unreliable  guide to the relative position of those at lower incomes.

Scottish degree students tend to study for a year longer. These annual figures bring out that over the course of a degree many students, particularly those from low incomes, are likely in practice to emerge with similar or more debt in Scotland, compared to Northern Ireland or Wales.

Source: Table 4D for England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Table A6 for Scotland.

Note: maintenance grants have been abolished in England for new entrants from this autumn. These figures pre-date that change.




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