Equivalent or Lower Qualification
Information for students who already have a higher education qualification.
What is ELQ (Equivalent or Lower Qualification)?
If you are a new student who already has a higher education (HE) qualification and are starting an undergraduate programme, you may find that you are not eligible for funding for your fees or living costs.
The UK government will not provide funding for fees or living costs for students taking second qualifications, apart from for a few specific subjects. This means if you already have a degree you will have to pay for your own fees and living costs. If you hold a HE qualification such as a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) and you wish to study a degree, you may find that you are not eligible for a tuition fee loan for one or more years.
Who ELQ affects
The rules apply to:
- students who study for a qualification which is equivalent to or lower than a qualification already held
- whether you studied in the UK or abroad
- whether you self-funded or publicly-funded
- whether you studied full time, part time, distance or compressed.
The rules do not apply to students who:
- are topping up to an Honours degree from an HND, HNC or Foundation Degree (see below for more information).
- meet Student Finance England residency criteria and are studying Diagnostic Radiography, Midwifery, Nursing (Adult, Children’s, Learning Disabilities, Mental Health), Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Radiotherapy and Oncology from 2017/18 or later because these courses are exempt from the ELQ rules. Please note if you are funded by Student Finance Wales, there is no exemption and the ELQ rules will apply. Therefore you will not be eligible to apply for any funding from Student Finance Wales apart from the Grants for Dependants and Disabled Students Allowances. View information about funding for healthcare courses.
- are studying Architecture, Social Work, Veterinary Science or Initial Teacher Training. Although you will not be entitled to receive tuition fee loans for these courses, you may be entitled to the Maintenance Loan, Grants for Dependants and Disabled Students Allowances.
- meet Student Finance England residency criteria and are studying on a part-time course in any Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subject including:
- medicine and dentistry
- subjects allied to medicine
- biological and sport science
- veterinary sciences
- agriculture, food and related sciences
- physical sciences
- mathematical sciences
- engineering and technology
- geography, earth and environmental studies.
Fees and funding
You will pay the same level of fees as a UK undergraduate without any qualifications.
The only funding available to you is supplementary grants from Student Finance, such as the Childcare Grant. You will not be eligible for the Fee Loan, Maintenance Loan, Maintenance Grant or the UWE Bursary.
The Disabled Students Allowance is the only funding available to part-time ELQ students, unless you are studying a STEM subject and meet Student Finance England residency criteria.
Topping-up to an Honours degree
Previous study may affect your entitlement to fee loans for some of the years of your ‘top-up’ course, depending on how many years you took to achieve your lower level course.
For example, if you have an HND from two years of study, you would be entitled to a tuition fee loan for each year of your top-up course as long as you entered at level 2. If you enter at level 1 of your ‘top-up’ course, you would need to pay the tuition fees yourself for the first year.
You should continue to be eligible to apply for the Maintenance Loan, Grants for Dependants and Disabled Students Allowances until you achieve your Honours degree.
It is important to check out your entitlement with your funding body (such as SFE/SFW) before you start your course and become liable for fees.
Exempt subjects and funding
If you already have a degree but would like to study one of the the courses below, please see guidance on funding eligibility.
Social Work, Veterinary Science, Initial Teacher Training and Architecture
Students taking Social Work, Veterinary Science, Initial Teacher Training (ITT) (at undergraduate level) and Architecture receive a reduced package of funding.
If you are a UK student, you will be able to apply for the Maintenance Loan, Grants for Dependants and Disabled Students Allowances.
Social Work students may be eligible for the Social Work Bursary in years two and three of their course. Not all students receive a Social Work Bursary, and this should be discussed with your academic team.
Students starting full-time PGCE courses of up to two years in length will be eligible to apply for the full package of fee and maintenance support even if they hold an equivalent or higher level qualification, as long as it is not a PGCE.
Students who meet Student Finance England residency criteria and are taking one of the following courses will receive the same level of funding as those without an HE qualification:
- Diagnostic Radiography
- Nursing (Adult, Children’s, Learning Disabilities, and Mental Health)
- Occupational Therapy
- Radiotherapy and Oncology.
Students who meet Student Finance Wales residency criteria will not be eligible for any funding apart from the Grants for Dependants and Disabled Students Allowances.
Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths
As long as you study on a part-time basis, you will be eligible for the Tuition Fee Loan and part-time Maintenance Loan. You must be studying in one of the above subjects or a combination of those subjects and study must be at least 25% intensity of a full-time equivalent course. Funding is available for four times the ordinary duration of the full time equivalent (up to a maximum of 16 years).
Degree holders are not eligible for the UWE Bursary.