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This guide is not relevant in England and Wales
For a version of this guide that covers England and Wales, please click here.

Use this guide to:

  • work out when you might have to make payments to your student loan;
  • understand what happens if you have student loan arrears; and
  • work out whether your student loan may be written off.

Student loans help to pay for the cost of your university tuition fees and living costs. The type of help, and how much you can get, depends on when you started your university course. The rules around when they need to be repaid and your options if you can’t afford to pay are different depending on whether you took out your student loan before September 1998, or from September 1998 onwards.

New-style student loans

Student loans taken out from September 1998 onwards are sometimes called ‘new-style’, or ‘income contingent’ student loans. What type of help and how much you can get depends on:

  • when you started your university course;
  • whether you are a full or part-time student;
  • whether you live in England or Wales;
  • the type of course you are studying; and
  • your personal circumstances.

For more information about the type of help you can get and how to apply, see the Student Awards Agency Scotland website www.saas.gov.uk.

Apply as soon as possible

Don’t wait until you have confirmed your place or started your studies before applying for funding. The earlier you apply the more likely it is that you will receive your first loan or grant payment in time for the start of term. Remember you will need to reapply for each year of study.

Repaying your new-style student loan

You are not expected to make repayments on a new-style student loan until the April after you graduate. Even then, you will only begin repayments if you earn over a certain amount (your ‘income threshold’).

If you started your course from September 1998 onwards

For students starting their course from September 1998 onwards, the income threshold is:

  • £31,395 per year; or
  • £2,616.25 per month; or
  • £603.75 per week.

The amount you pay towards your loan is 9% of the difference between your actual income and the income threshold.

How to work out repayments

  • Refat earns £35,000 per year.
  • This is £3,605 more than the £31,395 threshold.
  • 9% of £3,605 is £324.45 .
  • Refat will repay £324.45 per year, as long as she stays on the same salary.

Your repayments will usually be collected by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) through your employer. This means the money will be taken from your wages before you get them.

Interest on the amount you owe is linked to inflation. The amount of interest you will pay can go up and down and will be applied for as long as the loan lasts. The Student Awards Agency Scotland will have the most up to date information about rates of interest. See Useful contacts at the end of this guide.

If you are not part of Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

  • If you are self-employed, you will repay your loan through your self-assessment tax returns.

  • If you are outside the UK tax system, you will have to repay the Student Loans Company directly.

Student loans taken out before 1 September 1998

What is a fixed-term student loan?

Fixed-term student loans were introduced by the Student Loans Company (SLC) in 1990. They were replaced by the new-style ‘income contingent’ student loan system in 1998. They are sometimes known as ‘old-style’ or mortgage-style’ student loans. Although they were originally looked after by the SLC, these pre-September 1998 loans were later sold to three private sector companies: Erudio Student Loans, Honours Student Loans and Thesis Servicing.

If you were a student and took out a loan to study between 1990 and 1997, it is likely you have this type of loan. It is important to understand which type of loan you have, as the rules about interest and repayments are different.


The interest charged on your loan is linked to the rate of inflation and adjusted in line with the retail price index (RPI).

Interest is calculated daily from the date your loan started and is added to your account at the end of each month. You can find the latest information on the interest rate you need to pay on GOV.UK.


Repayments would usually have been due in the April following your graduation.

The SLC should have written to you in the February after graduation to warn you that repayments would soon be due.

Repayments were usually made over five years by monthly direct debit, unless you deferred or fell behind with payments. The monthly repayment is worked out by dividing the total amount borrowed, plus interest (based on the rate if inflation), by the total number of months over which you will repay.


Old-style student loans are regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This means that you should expect to receive any letters that are required to be sent under the Act, as they would with other fixed-term loans.

This also means that if you default on a fixed-term student loan, enforcement would be carried out in the Sheriff Court, in the same way as any other CCA-regulated loan agreement. The collection company would need to obtain a decree, which they could then enforce if you don’t pay.

Deferring your loan

If you earn under a certain amount, you may be able to defer your student loan repayments. ‘Deferment’ means postponing your student loan repayments for a period of 12 months.

Am I eligible to defer?

Repayments can be deferred for a year at a time if your income is below the threshold, which is set at 85% of the national average earnings.

Under the rules in place from 1 September 2023 to 31 August 2024, this means that if your gross income is £3,187.92 or less per month (equivalent to £38,255 per year), you may be eligible to apply for deferment. Your gross income is the amount you earn before any deductions (such as Income Tax or National Insurance) are taken from your pay.

How to apply for deferment

You need to complete and return an application form to apply for deferment. The application form you complete and where you send this back to will depend on which company is dealing with your student loan.

Your student loan will be dealt with by one of the following companies:

  • Erudio Student Loans;

  • Thesis Servicing; or

  • Honours Student Loans.

See Useful contacts at the end of this guide for details of how to contact your company.

You will need to provide proof of your gross income, or evidence of how your living costs are covered if you aren’t employed or receiving benefits. Only your income is taken into account you do not need to provide income details of your spouse, partner, parents or any other relatives.

If you are not sure which company is dealing with your student loan, contact us for advice.

Evidence required for deferment

Different forms of evidence will be required depending on your situation. For example, wage slips, a benefit letter or confirmation that are you are still a student. Check with the company dealing with your loan about what they require.

Once your repayments have been deferred

Your repayments will be deferred for a period of 12 months. During this time, you will continue to be charged interest on your outstanding balance.

You will receive a letter just before your deferment period is due to end to tell you when your repayments are due to start again and how much they will be. You will also be given the opportunity to apply for a further 12 month deferment at that time.

Can my loan be written off?

Under certain circumstances your liability to repay your loan may be cancelled.

For example, providing you haven’t defaulted, your loan may be cancelled if:

  • you were under the age of 40 when your last agreement for a student loan was made and you reach the age of 50;

  • you were aged 40 when your last agreement for a student loan was made and you reach the age of 60; or

  • your last agreement for a student loan has been outstanding for 25 years.

If you are permanently unfit for work and can provide evidence that you receive a disability related benefit, your liability to repay your loan may also be cancelled.

Student loan arrears

If you do not defer payments and a payment or payments are missed, the company dealing with your student loan will start recovery action. They may pass the debt to collection agents. Debt collectors are not sheriff officers and have no power to enter your home.

They could also apply to recover the debt through the Sheriff Court. If they do this, your credit rating will be affected and you also risk further enforcement action, such as sheriff officers or an earnings arrestment. If you are being threatened with court action, contact us for advice.

Try to avoid court action by contacting the company dealing with your student loan as soon as possible if you have missed a payment, or you have forgotten to defer. See Useful contacts at the end of this guide.

You can find more information on our Sheriff court action guide.

Credit reference agencies

Unless you have deferred payments or are keeping to a repayment arrangement, after 28 days your account will be registered with a credit reference agency. The company dealing with your student loan can agree not to register your details if you have special circumstances.

You will find it harder to get credit, such as a mortgage, if there is information about arrears on your file. You can check what is on your file and, in some circumstances, ask the credit reference agency to add a note. See our Credit reference agencies guide for more information.

Bankruptcy and trust deeds

Student loans are not included in bankruptcy or trust deeds. This means your student loan would not be written off by either of these forms of insolvency.

Useful contacts

Student Awards Agency For Scotland (SAAS) For loan and bursary information and applications. Phone: 0300 555 0505 www.saas.gov.uk

Student Loans Company For loan repayments. Phone: 0300 100 0611 www.slc.co.uk

National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) For information, advice and signposting on student money matters. www.nasma.org.uk

National Union of Students (NUS) Information and advice on all aspects of being a student. www.nus.org.uk 

Turn2us For benefit entitlement checks and charitable grants information. www.turn2us.org.uk

TV Licensing www.tvlicensing.co.uk

UK Council for International Student Affairs Information, advice and signposting for international students studying in the UK. Phone: 020 7788 9214 www.ukcisa.org.uk

Erudio Student Loans Phone: 0333 033 7188 www.erudiostudentloans.co.uk

Honours Student Loans Phone: 0333 033 7257 www.hsloans.co.uk

Thesis Servicing Phone: 0333 004 5045 www.thesis-servicing.co.uk

Credit reference agencies guide

Sheriff court action guide

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