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Professional and Career Development Loans for Masters Degrees

Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDL) are government-supported bank loans to pay for postgraduate courses and training that help advance your career or get you into work.

A PCDL can provide up to £10,000, contributing toward tuition fees, living expenses, and other postgraduate study related costs.

But there are some key differences between PCDLs and other postgraduate funding – particularly when it comes to course eligibility and repayment terms. Our guide makes sense of PCDLs for Masters students.

Professional and Career Development Loans – the key details
What? A bank loan for students and professionals to study career-advancing courses. Available for full time, part time and distance learning programmes.
How much? From £300 - £10,000, in up to four equal instalments.
Who? UK resident for 3+ years, planning to work in UK, EU or EEA after graduation.
Where? Any UK university on the Learning Providers list. Courses up to 2 years in duration, or 3 years with 1 year work experience.
When? Apply up to 3 months before the start of your course.
Interest? Commences one month after course completion at 9.9% APR.
Repayment? Repayments start one month after course completion. 1-5 years repayment duration, or in one lump sum.
Restrictions? Applicants must be 18+ and cannot have savings over £16,000.
Applications? Via the Co-operative Bank. Click here for more information.

What is a Professional and Career Development Loan?

Career Development Loans were introduced in 1988 to help students and professionals advance their career or help get them into work.

The PCDL can be used for a vocational course that’s provided by an organisation on the UK Register of Learning Providers.

The course must provide skills to help you get a new job or advance your current one (e.g. NVQs, Open University degrees or postgraduate courses).

If accepted, you will be able to borrow between £300 and £10,000 in the form of a bank loan. As of 2017 these loans are currently only offered by The Co-operative Bank.

How does it work?

Your bank will pay course fees funded via the loan directly to your learning provider. If your course costs £2,000 or more and is over three months long, payments will be made in up to four equal instalments. Funds for other learning-related costs and/or living costs will be paid directly to your account by the bank.

If your course lasts for more than a year, the bank will pay the living costs element of the loan in stages throughout the academic year. It’s important to discuss your individual circumstances with the bank so you fully understand how this will work.

The government pays the interest on the loan while you are studying, but once the course has ended you will have to start repaying the loan. Interest will start accumulating on the loan one month after you finish your studies.

Student eligibility and course requirements

PCDLs are subject to various eligibility requirements. In particular, the postgraduate course you wish to study must provide vocational skills and training. You must also intend to use your qualification and/or training within the UK, EU or EEA after graduating.

Student eligibility

To be eligible to apply for a Professional and Career Development Loan, you must:

  • be 18+ years of age
  • have been living in the UK for at least 3 years before your course starts
  • plan to work in the UK, European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) after the course

Course eligibility

For your chosen course to be eligible for the loan, the course must:

  • only last up to 2 years, or 3 years if it includes 1 year of work experience
  • be provided by an organisation on the PCDL UK Register of Learning Providers
  • help with your career – it doesn’t have to lead to a qualification

Other restrictions and requirements

You are ineligible for a PCDL if either of the following is applicable:

  • you have savings over £16,000
  • if it’s for your first full-time degree, i.e. Undergraduate

Anyone taking out a loan has to sign a legally binding agreement with the bank stating that they need the loan for course fees or living expenses.

About 70% of loans are used to fund course fees, which are paid directly to the provider. You have to show evidence of what you're borrowing the money for, as using it for other purposes would be classed as fraudulent activity.

Interest fees and repayments

Professional and Career Development Loans have to be paid back in full. You start repaying the loan (plus interest) one month after leaving your course.

Note: You have to repay your loan even if you don’t complete the course or your course provider goes out of business.

Bank jargon – key terms explained
APR Annual percentage rate – the interest rate calculated across the lifetime of your agreement, including any fees (total cost of credit).
Per annum / pa Per year
Representative Lending decisions are based on personal circumstances, so the rates offered may vary between customers. When products are advertised, banks use representative rates to show what the majority of customers may be offered.

While enrolled on your course, the government pays the interest on the loan for you, so you won’t be charged any interest until one month after you finish.

From then on, the bank will charge you interest at a rate of 9.9% per annum on your outstanding balance. The interest charges will be added to your loan balance quarterly until the loan is repaid in full.

Note that banks will set a representative APR for Career Development Loans and it may not be clear what the actual interest rate is when you apply. It is important you call the banks and get a quote for your loan based on your personal circumstances so there are no surprises later on.

Repayment period

Your first monthly repayment will be due in the second month after your course has ended. These monthly repayments will need to be made by standing order.

If at the end of the first month after completing your course you are unemployed, you can ask the bank to let you defer repayments. This can initially be done for up to five months, but you can request two further extensions of six months each after this if need be.

Remember that you will continue to accrue interest on the loan all the time that you defer repayments.

Loans can be repaid over 1 to 5 years, on 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 48, 54 or 60 monthly repayments. By spreading your loan over a longer term, your monthly repayments may be lower, but remember that the overall cost of borrowing may be higher.

Early repayment

Early repayment of a PCDL is possible. However, the Co-operative Bank may charge you an early settlement fee equal to one additional month’s interest calculated on the balance outstanding.

Applying for a Professional and Career Development Loan

You can apply for a Professional and Career Development Loan online, through the Government website.

If your application is successful, you will be sent two documents which will need to be signed and returned to the bank:

  • A credit agreement which you must sign and return to them
  • A Course Start Notification form – to be signed by the course provider.

Note: The bank will not release any funds until the learning provider has confirmed your actual start date and returned the form to it.

You should apply 3 months before your course starts to give the bank enough time to process your application. It may take up to 4 weeks for your application to be processed.

If your application is successful, the bank will release the funds when the learning provider has confirmed you’ve started your course.

More information

For further information on Professional and Career Development Loans and how to apply, you can visit or contact the following:

Alternative postgraduate funding

If you’re not sure that the Professional and Career Development Loan suits your individual circumstances, there are alternative sources of funding for your postgraduate course.

New UK Government Postgraduate Loan Scheme

Postgraduate loans will be available across the UK in 2017. Unlike Career Development Loans, these don't need to be paid back until you're earning above a certain threshold. Other eligibility crtieria also vary.

For more information, see our guides.

Student loans for PhD programmes have also been confirmed, but will not be available until the 2018-19 academic year; allowing plenty of time to finish your Masters degree!

The PhD loans will provide up to £25,000 and can be used at any UK university. For more information, please visit our page on new UK PhD Loans.

UK Research Councils

Research projects in the UK can receive public funding, which is distributed by seven Research Councils. They will normally cover your tuition fees in full, plus a maintenance grant to help with accommodation, living costs and other study related expenses.

For more information, please visit our page on funding from UK Research Councils.

Looking for more UK funding information?

Professional and Career Development Loans are great for certain students and courses, but don't worry if this funding isn't appropriate or attractive to you. There are plenty of other options covered in our UK funding guides.

Last updated - 22/02/2017

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