Managing your money, More

Getting the funding right for your placement year or study abroad

Siobhan and Tania from our Advice and Money Team explain what students need to do to apply for funding for a work or study placement year.


Photo credit: Hugh Doyle, BA History, George Washington University, USA

It’s nearly that time of year again when you have to reapply for your funding. If you are going on a placement during 2019/20, the application this time will be slightly different because next academic year you will be working or studying elsewhere, maybe even outside the UK. We get a lot of queries in the Advice and Money Team from students who are on placement and their funding isn’t correct – this can be tricky if they are in a remote part of the world. We are here to help you get it right first time, or to guide you if things go wrong!

Tip 1: Apply for funding in time

We know it’s not the most exciting thing to do: filling in your student finance application, but if you do it early enough you will know exactly how much you are eligible for and when it will be paid, before the placement starts. This can help you budget and plan other things such as how much rent you can afford. If you have applied early and there are problems, you also have plenty of time to sort it out before starting the placement.

You can usually start applying for funding for the following academic year in the February or March before. Keep an eye on SFE, SFW, SFNI or the SAAS for and their social media platforms, to see when applications for 2019/20 open. You may get a reminder email from them to apply anyway.

It’s helpful to know where your placement will be when you apply, but if you don’t know, don’t worry. You have until mid-June to apply and still get your money on time in September. You can still prepare for the application by talking to anyone you are financial dependent on (your parents or partner perhaps) and getting them to collect all the financial details of their income ready so when you know your placement, you are good to go.

Tip 2: Double check your funding entitlement

The type of placement will affect how much funding you are entitled to. It’s a popular misconception that all unpaid placements attract full funding. This is not true. You have to be undertaking certain “unpaid service” placements to be eligible for full means tested funding.

Full means-tested funding means the maximum amount of funding available to you, which includes an element based on the household income of anyone you are dependent on, usually parents or a partner.

“Unpaid service” placements are defined as:

  • Unpaid research in a Higher Educational institution in the UK or overseas or
  • Unpaid work in a Local Authority or Voluntary organisation in the UK working within health, welfare or care of children and young people or
  • Unpaid work in a Hospital / Public Health Laboratory or Primary Care Trust in the UK or
  • Unpaid work in a Prison or Probation and aftercare service in the UK or
  • Unpaid work in a Strategic Health Authority / Local Health Board / Special Health Board / Health and Social Services Board or
  • Unpaid work at the Houses of Parliament

If your placement does not come under one of the above categories, you will only be eligible for a reduced, non-means tested Maintenance Loan.

For Student Finance to assess you as being on an Unpaid Service Placement (so you get your full Maintenance Loan and possible SFW Maintenance Grant, you must send them a letter from your Placement Co-ordinator confirming it is an “unpaid service” placement. If you don’t send them a letter, they will automatically assess you for the reduced non-means tested Maintenance Loan only.

Tip 3: Get the fees right

You will need to tell Student Finance how much tuition fee you are charged on the application, in order for them to assess you correctly. For those on work or industrial placement years, you are charged 20% of the usual fee. For UK and EU students this is usually £1,800. For International students the fee for work placement years is usually 20% of the normal fee.

For those on ERASMUS or a study year abroad, the fee is 15% the normal fee, which is usually £1,350 for UK and EU students. For International students the fee for study abroad is usually 15% of the normal fee.

For those on the work-based learning year of the BSc/MArch Architecture course, the fee is 50% the normal fee, so usually £4,500 for UK and EU students.

To check how much fees you are charged, you can check the Tuition Fee pages.


Photo credit: Emma Newton, BA French and Spanish, Paris, France

Tip 4: If your work placement year is abroad, do not tick to say you are studying abroad

You will be asked this question on your finance application

We get a few queries every year from students who are undertaking their work placement year abroad (often called Professional Training Year) but Student Finance think they are studying abroad.

You are studying abroad if you are enrolled at another University, going to lectures and submitting work to that University. If you are undertaking a placement year at another University but conducting research, you are not studying at that University, you are on an unpaid research placement. You should indicate that you are on a work placement on your Student Finance application.

The only exception to this rule is students studying Chemistry with a Year Abroad. Although you will be undertaking unpaid research at an overseas University, you are registered as students through the International Exchange scheme in Global Opportunities, and will need to undertake distant learning modules with Cardiff University. You are treated as Studying Abroad and should indicate this on your finance application.

If you indicate the wrong placement type, your Student Finance body will not pay the correct fee on your behalf to Cardiff University. If you make this mistake, it can be solved, but it will be less stressful for you by getting it right the first time.

Please be aware that you will not be eligible for a Travel Grant if you undertake a work placement abroad. The only exception is if the work placement falls under the Erasmus+ scheme.

Tip 5: If in doubt contact us!

If you want to double check your eligibility for funding or want help with the application process, we are holding two drop-in sessions on:
Tuesday 29 January – 12:00 – 14:00
Thursday 31 January – 12:00 – 14:00

We are situated on the 3rd Floor of the Students’ Union Building, within Student Support, and are open Monday to Friday, 09:00 – 16:00. Make the most of us before you go on your placement!

If you need to contact us while you are on your placement, please call 029 2087 4844 or e-mail us:

If you do encounter problems with Student Finance while on placement, we can help you. In most cases we will need to speak to Student Finance to find out what the issue is and how we can resolve it. Student Finance will not speak to us without you first giving permission to do so. You can find out how to give permission and set up Consent to Share on our intranet pages. Search for ‘Help with your funding body’

If you anticipate there might be problems with your funding, it is worth setting up Consent to Share before you start your placement. This is especially true if your placement is abroad as time differences can make communicating with Student Finance difficult, and it can be expensive from overseas. If Consent to Share has been set up, we can call Student Finance on your behalf.


Best wishes
Siobhan and Tania, Advice and Money Team


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