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Designation for student support purposes

The Government provides financial support for tuition fees and living costs for specific groups of HE students. These are:

  • students who live permanently in England for legal purposes (those who are ‘domiciled’ in England)
  • students from the European Union, who are studying in England.

The Student Loans Company makes this support ('student support') available as grants or loans. The fees are paid direct to the HE providers on the student's behalf, and the maintenance support is paid direct to the student.

Student support is governed by regulations made under the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998.

The current regulations are the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011 (as amended). These regulations govern the types of course that can attract student support, and the conditions that qualify a HE provider's students to receive it.

'Institutional designation'

All HE courses which meet these regulations in HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, further education colleges and other institutions maintained or assisted by a local education authority, are automatically designated as eligible for student support.

This is known as 'institutional designation'.

A voluntary agreement covering these institutions is in place with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. The agreement sets out the conditions of  this arrangement.

How are courses at other providers designated?

The Secretary of State for Education designates HE courses in other providers as eligible under the student support regulations on a course-by-course basis.

These providers must make an application that demonstrates that they meet the Government’s criteria and conditions at the time their course is designated for student support and from that time onwards. See how to apply.

The criteria and conditions lay down requirements concerning academic quality, financial sustainability, management and governance. See details of the criteria and conditions.

The HEFCE register of HE providers lists courses and providers whose courses are designated on a course-by-course basis.

The Student Loan Company’s (SLC) obligation to pay student support is set out in the Education (Student Support) Regulations.

To receive tuition fee and maintenance loans, a provider must, among other things, have an eligible student, a designated course, confirm the student's attendance and confirm the student’s registration with the awarding body.

In paying support to eligible students, SLC relies on accurate and timely information from HE providers. Providers must ensure that this information is fit for purpose.

The voluntary agreement and the specific-course designation criteria and conditions specify this requirement. Detailed service definitions are in place between SLC and providers.

SLC also relies on designation decisions made by the Department for Education (DfE), together with ongoing compliance monitoring against designation terms and conditions provided by HEFCE. A memorandum of understanding is in place between HEFCE and SLC, supported by an annual exchange of letters of assurance between the two organisations.

Page last updated 15 September 2015

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