factchecking myths and misconceptions about universal credit

“I won’t have work-related requirements placed on me if I’m a student”

The short answer:

Not always the case … it can depend upon the type of course you're on and whether you have student income

Full time study

Most people 'receiving education' - generally defined as people undertaking full time study or training, and young people over 16 treated as still in education - are excluded from universal credit entitlement unless they are a member of a couple where the other member is not receiving education or, they are covered by one of the following exceptions -

  • young people without parental support up to age 21 in full time non-advanced education;
  • students with a child or children in their benefit unit;
  • disabled students who have limited capability for work and are getting disability benefits such as disability living allowance or personal independence payment;
  • students over pension age in couple cases where their partner is under that age;
  • students who are living with a partner who is eligible for universal credit.

If you are entitled to claim universal credit either under the young person exception or because you have student income accounted for in the calculation of your claim, you must not have work-related requirements placed upon you.

However, if you are a full time student who doesn't have student income taken into account, you must be placed in the labour market regime based on your other circumstances and you will be expected to meet your work-related requirements if any apply.

NB - some students may be in full time education that is not classed as ‘receiving education’ and can then have work-related requirements placed on them - and in order to retain their entitlement will need to be prepared to rearrange or stop the study to complete work activities, avoid restricting availability for work, or take up work.

Part time study

Part time students, including post graduate degree students (with or without student income), are not classed as receiving education and so are entitled to claim universal credit. However, they will be placed in the labour market regime that fits their circumstances and will be treated as receiving education if the DWP considers that their course is not compatible with their work-related requirements.

Tip: If your part time course is work-related, your work coach should consider whether it is a suitable work preparation activity, and whether to deduct the time spent on the course from the hours of work search you are expected to do.

Law and case law:

Section 4 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 provides for the basic conditions of entitlement including the condition for not receiving education.

Regulations 12 to 14 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 provides details of the rules applying to students and exceptions to the ‘not receiving education’ condition.

Regulation 89 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 provides for when no work-related requirements may be placed on those receiving education (at subparagraph (1)(da) and (1)(e)).

Official guidance:

Students: eligibility, conditionality and student income from the House of Commons library (last updated March 2019).

Chapter H6 of Advice for Decision Makers provides guidance from the DWP on Students and Student Income.

Need more help?

If you need help in finding out more about your rights and the options available to you, do consider contacting a local independent advice organisation. 

Enter a postcode on our advicelocal site to find details of advice organisations in your area. They will usually be able to offer free advice and support, and help to answer any questions you have.

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