What is an alternative provider?
An alternative provider is any provider of higher education courses that:
- does not receive annual funding through the UK funding councils
- does not receive any other form of direct annual public funding (for example, from a local authority, or the Secretary of State for Education)
- is not a further education college.
Can I access government loans when studying at an alternative provider?
It depends if your course has been designated by the Department for Education in the process known as specific course designation.
If your course is designated in this system, you will be able to access student loan support if you are eligible.
How do I know if my course has been designated?
The HEFCE Register is a searchable tool that shows how the Government regulates higher education providers in England.
For most providers with courses that have been specifically designated for student support, the Register provides detail of each course including whether new students studying on the course can apply for student support (this includes undergraduate and postgraduate student support and disabled students’ allowances).
Does this system cover the whole of the UK?
The information provided on the HEFCE website relates to students living in England.
Different rules and funding limits may apply for students living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
How much can I access?
Alternative providers are not regulated in quite the same way as publicly funded providers and this means there are some important differences for students.
Eligible students on designated undergraduate courses at alternative providers can access student support in the same way as they could at a publicly funded provider. However, there is a £6,000 limit on loans to cover course fees. If your course costs more than £6,000 you will have to pay the difference from your own personal finances.
Students at providers who participate in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) may be able to access the £6,000 loan plus an inflationary increase. You should contact the provider you wish to study at for more information.
Student support for masters courses will made available to students studying at alternative providers from the academic year 2017-18.
Eligible students on designated masters courses at alternative providers will be able to access the postgraduate masters loan in the same way and at the same value as they could at a publicly funded provider. Individuals will be able to borrow up to £10,000.
Students on postgraduate courses that do not lead to a masters qualification will not be eligible to receive the postgraduate masters loan.
Disabled students’ allowance
Eligible students will be able to access the disabled students’ allowance if their course has been granted:
- designation for undergraduate support
- designation for the postgraduate masters loan
- designation for disabled students’ allowance
- or any course at a provider who has been granted institutional level designation.
Why does the designation for my course show an end date of 31 July on the HEFCE Register?
Alternative providers (that do not hold degree awarding powers) receive designation from the Government on an annual basis. The HEFCE Register reflects the current designation status and will be updated as soon as a new designation end date is confirmed.
Your provider may have made an application for designation for the following academic year but not yet have received a decision from the Government.
You should contact your provider if you have any queries about their designation status.