When studying, eligibility for benefits is dependent on many factors; but in general, full time undergraduate and postgraduate students are excluded from making claims for key benefits such as Universal Credit. Exceptions to this rule occur, mainly for students who are disabled or students who are responsible for a child under 16, or 16-19 in full time education.

Part time students can usually continue to claim, or initiate new claims for most benefits, but restrictions will apply, and there will be an expectation that all benefit conditions are met.

Details of the main benefits you may encounter as a student that are means and non means tested or can be claimed by eligible full-time students based on their individual circumstances are listed below.

As rules are complex, we would always recommend that before making any changes that could impact on your current or future claim for benefits, you seek advice on your situation from your local Citizens Advice team.

Council tax

Most full-time students are eligible for Council Tax exemption. If you are in a household made up only full-time students, then this would normally result in a full exemption from the tax. In households made up of a mix of full-time students and part-time students or non-students, this may result in a reduction to the tax due for the property, not a full exemption.

Part time students studying less than 21 hours a week for at least 24 weeks out the year are not eligible for Council Tax exception.

Depending on the Council area you are living in, you may be required to show proof that you are a full-time student. Please read more information about Council Tax and the process for applying for exemption at Council Tax.

Child Benefit

You can claim this benefit as a full time or part time student if you are responsible for bringing up a child who is under 16, or under 20 and in approved education or training.

You may have to pay a tax charge if you or your partners income exceeds £50,000 in any tax year. information on Child Benefit

Scottish Child Payment

All students who look after a child under the age of 16 and are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, can claim the Scottish Child Payment to help towards the cost of supporting your family.

Scottish Child Payment: How to apply (

Funded early learning and childcare

All students can get up to 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare a year (around 30 hours a week in term time) if your child is 3 or 4.  This is non means tested and available to all students subject to availability. In some circumstances, if you are in receipt of certain benefits or you or your child has experience of care, you may be entitled to these childcare hours for your child from the age of 2. Parent Club provides a great starting point for finding out more about eligibility and how to apply for this support.

As a university, we have a Childcare Fund which form part of our main Discretionary Funds, allocated to us from the Scottish Government. This fund can help to support students studying full-time with the cost of childcare if studying on an eligible course. More information about these funds and how to apply can be found on our Discretionary and Assistance Fund page.

Disabled Student Allowance

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is support offered to cover the study-related costs you have because of a mental health problem, long-term illness, or any other disability.

This can be on its own or in addition to any student finance you get.

The type of support and how much you get depends on your individual needs - not your household income.

If you’re applying for DSA for the first time, you should make an appointment to speak to a member of the Accessibility and Inclusion team.

More information about applying for DSA.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a means tested benefit for working-age people who are struggling financially. It's designed to help you meet your basic living costs. Most full-time students are not eligible to apply for Universal Credit. However, exceptions to this rule occur, mainly for students who are disabled or students who are responsible for a child under 16, or 16-19 in full time education.

Student income counts as income when calculating Universal Credit. There are a few exceptions, such as the Lone Parents Grant which are disregarded. You will be expected to inform DWP of your annual student income and your course start and end dates each year. It is important that this is done to ensure that your Universal Credit has been calculated correctly. 

If you have a partner, your claim for Universal Credit will need to be made jointly.

The rules for this benefit are complex, please read over the Government information on Universal Credit and students in relation to this. If you have never claimed this benefit before, then please seek advice from Citizens Advice on starting your Universal Credit claim, as making a claim could have an impact on other benefits you may be in receipt of, or be entitled to. 

Tax credits

This benefit is no longer available to new claimants and has been replaced by Universal Credit. Some students may still historically be claiming this benefit and are yet to be moved over to Universal Credit. Tax Credits are made up of two potential elements. Child Tax Credits (which may also include an award towards childcare) and Working Tax Credits.

Child Tax credits could be claimed by students who were responsible for at least one child or young person.

Working Tax Credits could be claimed but those who were working a minimum number of hours per week but still on a low income.

Tax credits do not take student income into account when they are calculated, but any award from Working Tax Credits would be considered when assessing how much student income you were entitled to.

You can find further information on the UK Government website.

Employment Support Allowance

Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is for people who have limited capability for work because of illness or a disability.

There are two types of ESA.

Contributory ESA (sometimes called ‘New Style’ by DWP)

This is for people who have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions (usually in the last 2-3 years). This is a non means tested benefit which in most cases can only be claimed for a maximum of one year.

Income related ESA

This is means tested and is therefore for people whose income and capital is low enough. You cannot make a new claim for this benefit as it is being replaced by UC.

A claim for either would require you to attend a ‘Work Capability Assessment’ to determine how your illness or disability affects your ability to work. After your claim has been assessed and is successful, you will placed into one of two groups.

  • A work-related activity group (you cannot work now, but can prepare to work in the future, for example by writing a CV). You will need to attend regular interviews with a work coach. Being in this group is called having ‘Limited Capability for Work.’
  • A support group (you cannot work now, and you’re not expected to prepare for work in the future). You do not have to go to interviews with a work coach. Being in this group is called having ‘Limited Capability for Work and Work Related Activity’.

Contributions based ESA can be claimed whether you study full time or part time, including if you are taking time out from your course because of ill health.

Income related ESA can be claimed by part-time students who have been deemed to have limited capability for work- or work-related activity. If you are a full-time student, you are only eligible if you get disability living allowance (DLA), personal independence payment (PIP) or adult disability payment (ADP). The same rules apply if you are taking time out from your course because of ill health. 

Rules are complex and claims can impact other benefits. 

Information on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (

Carers Allowance and Carers element of Universal Credit

Currently full-time students are not eligible to receive either Carers Allowance or the Carers Element of Universal Credit. If you have been in receipt of this benefit prior to commencing a course of study, you must inform the DWP that you are now a full-time student. Not notifying them of your change of circumstances can result in overpayments which you would be required to repay.

Part time students who satisfy the basic rules, may be eligible to claim Carers Allowance as well as the Carers Element of UC if a UC claim is being made. Being in receipt of Carers Allowance would negate the requirement for job searching in most instances.

Carers Allowance is being replaced in Scotland by Carer Support Payment. It is expected to be rolled out for new claims through 2024. If you are a part time student and already get Carers Allowance, then you will be moved over automatically to Carer Support Payment between February 2024 and Spring 2025.

It is anticipated that full time students will be eligible to apply for this benefit with some exceptions. More information about these changes can be found on - how Carer Support Payment can affect other benefits.

Housing benefit

Housing benefit is a legacy benefit is to assist you with payment of your rent if you are unemployed, on a low income or claiming other benefits. Housing Benefit has now been replaced by Universal Credit for new claims. There are two exceptions to this:

  • those who have reached State Pension age;
  • those who are in supported, sheltered or temporary housing.

More information about whether you can claim or continue to claim this benefit can be found at GOV.UK's website page about housing benefit.

Maternity benefits

Students, both full time and part time, are eligible for maternity, paternity, adoption, and parental bereavement benefits. However, rules exist around each of these benefits that must be met. A helpful guide to navigate through these rules and eligibility can be found on the CPAG Benefits for Students Handbook.

Adult Disability Payment Scotland (ADP)

If you are disabled, aged under Pension age, and need help with your personal care or mobility needs, then you can apply for this benefit regardless of whether you are a full time or part time student. 

How to apply for Adult Disability Payment (

Further sources of information and help

The rules around students and benefits are complex, so whether you are already studying and have had a change to your personal circumstances, or you are considering studying part time or full time and are concerned as to how this will impact your finances, you can contact the Money Support Team through the Student Services Hub or your local Citizens Advice Office for support.

There is also lots of useful resources online to help guide you.

Turn2us is a national charity that provides financial support and information on benefits for students.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) - is a Scottish based organisation who specialise in producing information on benefits and their website includes useful information specific to students, including a Benefits for Students Handbook.