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What are Equivalent or Lower Qualifications (ELQs)?

Learn about Equivalent or Lower Qualifications and the rules about fees for ELQs.

An ELQ is defined as a study programme for a qualification that is equivalent to, or lower than, a qualification that a student has already been awarded. For example, a Master's degree in screenwriting followed by an honours degree in film studies.

Students categorised as studying for an ELQ may be charged a higher rate of tuition fee than the standard published rates.  This is because in 2008 the government announced that it would no longer provide funding to support universities teaching students who were ELQ.

This decision applied to Home and EU students no matter when or where their current qualifications were gained and includes qualifications gained outside of the United Kingdom.

As a result universities are revising the fees they charge to students who are studying for an award that is equivalent or lower than their existing qualification.

Exemptions from the ELQ policy

Certain programmes of study and students in receipt of the Disabled Students Allowance from UK Government Student Support Funding are currently exempt from paying the higher fee.

Some qualifications are exempt from the new policy, these include:

  • Foundation degrees
  • Full time courses leading to registration as an architect or landscape architect
  • Programmes supported by NHS  bursaries
  • Programmes leading to initial teacher training

Integrated Masters programmes (except the MPharm) have been identified as postgraduate when determining ELQ status. Therefore, students qualified up to degree level will not be considered to already have an equivalent qualification.

The MPharm is considered undergraduate for ELQ purposes and the ELQ status of students should be determined in the same way as for any honours degree.

Students who are in receipt of a Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) from UK Government Student Support Funding are also exempt from the ELQ policy.

Students who are studying certain Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects (SIVS) will not be exempt from the ELQ policy, but they may not be charged a higher fee due to the way that some of these programmes are funded. The provision for SIVS programmes is reviewed periodically by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). 

Students who think they will be categorised as studying for an ELQ are advised to seek advice from the university's Enquiry Unit about which programmes are affected and the range of study options available.

Please note: the ELQ tuition fee charges do not apply to students who have been assessed as paying tuition fees at the international rate. International rates can be found here.

More on ELQs

Tuition fees

See the range of fees for ELQs.

Frequently asked questions

Go to the Higher Education Funding Council website for more information on ELQs.

Tuition fees

See the range of fees for ELQs.

Frequently asked questions

Go to the Higher Education Funding Council website for more information on ELQs.