Classroom calculations

Supporting younger generations from school to uni

From student text books to new uniforms, supporting a child at school or university can add up. We’ve highlighted some of the most common fees and expenses, and suggested ways you could help with the costs.

Contributing towards the cost of education could be a rewarding way to support younger family members, and is likely to be appreciated. At the moment, students attending university can build up thousands of pounds in debt to cover the cost of tuition fees and living costs1. Helping them get ahead can pay huge dividends for them later down the line, as post-18 education plays a central role in enabling social mobility and lifetime remunerative employment, according to a recent government report2.

Knowing how much education really costs will help you decide if and how you can lend a hand, from saving towards a lump sum gift to buying individual items that children need while they study3.


Most students may be able to borrow money to help pay for university tuition fees, which are up to £9,250 a year in England and Northern Ireland, or up to £9,000 a year in Wales, in 2019/204.

Scottish students attending university in Scotland can be charged up to £1,820 per year for tuition, according to the Complete University Guide5, but the Student Awards Agency for Scotland will pay this in full if they are eligible, so most Scottish students studying in Scotland will not pay any fees at all. Tuition fees vary if students study abroad.

After fees, accommodation is one of the biggest expenses for students, but the cost can vary widely depending on where they are studying, and whether they are in university halls of residence (which is typical for their first year) or private rented accommodation (more common from the second year onwards).

For example, a single room in a self-catered hall at the University of Liverpool costs £138 per week, compared to £289 at the London School of Economics1.

Wherever they go to university, students will also need to factor in the cost of books, course-specific equipment, field trips, computer equipment, and travel to work placements.

Example of monthly student costs



Books and equipment


Utility bills


Broadband internet


Travel card (outside London)


Travel costs in central London




Mobile phone

£10 - 30

Source: Times Higher Education1

Students can save money by getting a Totum card (previously NUS Extra) which offers discounts and deals both online and on the high street.

The thought of your grandchild covering all these costs on their own might be worrying, and you may want to help them out financially.

However, to help with these costs, students can apply for a maintenance loan, in addition to the loan to cover fees. They can borrow up to £11,672 a year in England, although the amount depends on where they study, and whether they live with their parents or away from home6. Interest will be added to your loan, and the rate will depend on your circumstances. The support available varies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Bear in mind that these figures are for the 2019/2020 academic year.

Your grandchild will only start to repay their students loans once they have left university and started working. Even then, the loan is only repaid once their salary reaches a certain level.

What’s more, after a certain amount of time student loans are written off (as long as they’re not in arrears). For instance, if a loan is taken out on or after 1 September 2012, it will be cancelled 30 years after the student has become eligible to repay it7.

Gap year

Before students start university, some opt to have a gap year. How students use this time can vary widely, from travelling or volunteering abroad to gaining work experience. A typical organised trip abroad lasting 12 weeks costs between £3,000 to £4,000, according to gap year specialists Year Out group, depending on the programme8.

Grandparents and other family members can help students with all these costs by planning ahead and saving earlier in the child’s life.

Tax-efficient cash or investment ISAs or Junior ISAs are a popular way to save over the longer-term.

Parents, grandparents and other family members can save up to £20,000 a year into their own ISA, or contribute up to a total of £4,368 a year into a Junior ISA (for 2019/20). However, control of the money passes to the child when they turn 18. 

Find out more about our adult ISAs. Barclays doesn’t offer Junior ISAs at the moment, but you can read some useful FAQs on our website.

Another option is a Barclays Children’s Instant Saver – an adult can open and operate the account as trustee for a child under 18.

“As most investments for grandchildren are likely to be over a reasonable time period, say 10 years or more, stocks and shares ISAs may outperform cash,” says Patrick Connolly, from Chase de Vere, an independent financial adviser. However, bear in mind that investments can fall as well as rise in value and you may get back less than you invested.

Caroline Anstee, managing director of Anstee & Co Limited, a financial adviser, points out that it can be tricky to strike the right balance between wanting to help younger relatives out and not jeopardising your own financial situation.

She says: “Create a budget that includes all your income and outgoings to ensure all essential costs are covered before gifting money. If there is an excess to your requirements, then it makes sense and is very enjoyable to help others.”

Vocational training and specialist courses

Not every young person will embark on an undergraduate degree when they leave school – other options are vocational training, apprenticeships, technical qualifications or specialist courses.

Costs vary and there may be financial help available from their employer. For example, trainee accountants with an ACA training agreement will normally find their employer supports them with the cost of accountancy exams.

However, young people may still need help from parents or grandparents with living costs while they qualify in their chosen profession.

School (five to 18-years-old)

Families might assume that if a child goes to state, as opposed to private school, the costs will be minimal. However, research by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People shows that families typically spend more than £1,200 per child each year on the “hidden costs” of going to school9. These include school meals, transport, school uniforms, voluntary contributions and equipment for lessons.

The research found parents spend an average of £109 per child on school uniforms and £431 on school transport each year alone.

However, the costs for a private school education can easily run into the tens of thousands.

Any grandparents who are able to help out financially can make a huge difference to the bills – and reduce their inheritance tax (IHT) liability too, says Andrew Hall, a Barclays Wealth planner.

“If you’re able to make regular gifts to your grandchildren, you can give away up to £3,000 a year, and it won’t be added to your estate for inheritance tax purposes.” This £3,000 gift allowance is known as your ‘annual exemption’. 

And while many will be familiar with this £3,000 limit, some grandparents may be able to help further in a tax-efficient way.

Andrew adds

Those who are in a position to set up a regular pattern of giving cash gifts out of their normal income - without it having an impact on the rest of their spending – can do so without it affecting their IHT liability.

This is called ‘gifting from surplus income’. Typically, you might contribute towards school fees or pay into a grandchild’s savings account.

“To be able to qualify for this exemption, it’s extremely important that you keep excellent records of your gifts.

“The rules are complex - for example, these gifts must be regular, so you need to be committed to keeping up with making these gifts,” says Andrew.

It is important to both record your intentions, and a budget of your annual income and expenditure. Always consider seeking professional advice before you start to make any such gifts.

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