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The 2015 HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme

Conclusion of the 2015 Postgraduate Support Scheme

The 2015 HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme was available to students beginning taught Masters degrees at English universities in the 2015-16 academic year.

The information on this page is maintained for reference purposes only, in order to answer any questions about the scheme as it was offered.

However, the scheme has been replaced by postgraduate loans for Masters degrees, available across the UK from 2017-18.

You can also read about other funding opportunities for UK Masters students, here on FindAMasters.com.

An overview of the 2015 Postgraduate Support Scheme

In the 2015 academic year, HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) will make a total of £50 million of funding available for students on taught postgraduate Masters courses at universities across England. This money will be offered as part of a new Postgraduate Support Scheme (PSS), following the success of a similar pilot programme in 2014-15. The 2015 PSS funding will enable 10,000 new postgraduates to take up the opportunity of further study. It will be followed in turn by a full postgraduate student loans scheme to be introduced from 2016.

The PSS 2015 finance is to be allocated on a matched-funded basis. Universities will receive £5,000 per PSS award and combine this with another £5,000 of their own funding to create a £10,000 bursary (or its equivalent) for each eligible student.

We’ve put together a simple guide to help answer any questions you might have about the PSS 2015 scheme. You should bear in mind, however, that individual universities will have the freedom to make their own decisions about the allocation of awards and the specific subject areas they will be available in.

10,000 Reasons in 10 simple questions: making sense of the HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme as a prospective Masters student

1. Who is eligible for the 2015 HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme awards?

The PSS funding is intended to benefit students who will complete their undergraduate degrees before the postgraduate loan system is introduced from 2016 and to support widening participation by individuals who might not otherwise study a Masters degree.

So, in order to be eligible for a PSS award, you will need to be a current UK or EU undergraduate student and have paid the higher rate of tuition, introduced in 2012-13. You will also need to be a student from an under-represented background at your chosen university.

Specific criteria for this will vary between institutions and may include the requirement that applicants be graduates of the university in question. See question 4 for more information.

2. Where can I study a PSS funded Masters in 2015?

The PSS 2015 scheme is administered by HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) and will therefore be available at all universities in England who choose to participate in it.

To help you find a PSS award in the subject area that interests you, we've brought together all of our Masters listings for universities participating in the HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme.

Remember though, that PSS awards are not restricted to English students. In fact, all EU nationals who have studied an undergraduate degree in the UK since the 2012-13 academic year (and paid the higher rate of tuition) may be eligible for PSS funding to study a Masters in 2015, provided they meet the specific eligibility criteria set by individual universities.

3. How many awards are available at each university?

The final allocation of PSS 2015 awards at participating universities has now been confirmed. Universities have decided how much of their initial funding allocation to accept and match with their own resources. HEFCE has also released all previously reserved funding.

4. How do I know if I qualify as a student from an under-represented background?

Universities will take applications for PSS funding from students looking to begin their studies in 2015 and will be required to demonstrate that the recipients they select are under-represented amongst their taught Masters students.

Exact eligibility criteria will vary between institutions (based on their recruitment history). The following are examples of individuals who may qualify as under-represented for the purposes of PSS funding:

  • A student from a low-performing socio-economic background or area. This can be established based on household income or using statistics such as HEFCE’s own POLAR (participation of local areas) data. You may also qualify as under-represented if you are the first in your family to attend university or to continue to postgraduate study.
  • A student with a disability that would normally make it difficult or more expensive for you to continue to postgraduate study. Evidence of this may include medical documentation or evidence of your status as a care leaver.
  • A student from a background that is under-represented in the specific discipline you wish to study (for example, a woman wishing to study traditionally male-dominated STEM subjects such as engineering).

Note that these are illustrative examples only. Your university will have the freedom to determine its own widening participation criteria and to distribute its PSS awards accordingly. This may include restricting funding to specific groups of students on specific courses.

The best way to confirm whether you are eligible for a PSS bursary at a particular institution is to check their own information. Most universities will make this available online as they confirm their PSS allocations (a process that should be completed by the end of March).

5. What postgraduate courses and subject areas can I study on a PSS award?

PSS awards are potentially available to support students on taught Masters degree programmes at English universities. Some MRes (Masters by research) programmes are also eligible, provided they are defined as taught programmes by your university.

HEFCE itself makes no restrictions on subject areas for PSS funding, but individual universities will only have a limited number of awards available and will not necessarily make these available across all their Masters programmes. For example, a university seeking to increase participation by traditionally under-represented students in some fields may direct most of its PSS support to relevant subject areas.

So, whilst you can theoretically study any taught Masters with a HEFCE bursary, you should inquire with universities to confirm which programmes they are allocating funding to.

The only postgraduate degrees excluded from PSS funding are qualifications below Masters level (such as Postgraduate Diplomas and Postgraduate Certificates) heavily research-focussed Masters (such as some MRes courses), most MBA programmes and higher research degrees (such as MPhil and PhD programmes).

6. Is funding available for me to study a Masters part-time?

Yes – you can receive a PSS award to study a Masters degree part-time, for up to two years (so, a part-time PSS 2015 funded Masters would be expected to finish in 2017). Part-time awards will confer the same total funding amount as full-time awards, but this will be divided across two academic years. It is anticipated that part-time students will receive the £5,000 of HEFCE support during their first year of study and the equivalent amount from their institution during the second.

7. What is matched-funding and how does it work?

Universities will receive £5,000 from HEFCE for each PSS–funded student they accept and will match this to create an award with a total value of £10,000. This matched-funded component may be derived from existing university resources such as scholarships and endowments. It may also be made up – in whole or in part – by a full or partial waiver of the tuition fees normally applicable to the Masters programme in question.

This means that the manner in which you receive your PSS award may vary depending on the policy of the university you study at. Some institutions might choose to grant you the total amount up front, whilst others may award the £5,000 HEFCE bursary in the form of a maintenance grant and waive tuition fees up to the value of the remaining £5,000. Note that whatever system is used, you will always receive the full £10,000 or its equivalent value.

8. Do I have to pay any of the PSS award back when I graduate?

No – the HEFCE PSS 2015 awards are to be offered as bursaries to help increase participation in postgraduate study by students from under-represented backgrounds. As such you will not be required to repay any of the funding when you graduate with your Masters degree. This is one of the key ways in which the HEFCE PSS 2015-16 awards differ from the postgraduate loans scheme being introduced in 2016 (see below).

9. What if I want to study a Masters after 2015?

The HEFCE PSS 2015 scheme is only intended to support students commencing their Masters degrees in 2015. After this point the scheme will be succeeded by a national postgraduate loan system for Masters students. So, don’t worry if you aren’t due to graduate in time for the 2015 awards, or if you wish to take a break between your undergraduate and postgraduate studies: there will still be funding available for you to study a Masters from 2016!

The forthcoming postgraduate loans are similar to the PSS awards in some key respects: they also offer £10,000 and are available to students on UK Masters programmes. However, there are some important differences between the two schemes: their eligibility criteria vary and, unlike the PSS awards, the loans will be subject to repayment linked to graduate earnings.

For more information about the postgraduate loans system being introduced from 2016, check out the comprehensive guide and faqs at FindAMasters.com.

10. Where can I find out more about the scheme or learn how to apply for an award?

The allocation of PSS 2015 awards has now been completed.

For more information on the PSS 2015 (as well as any potential successor schemes), FindAMasters recommends you stay up to date with the information published by HEFCE on their own website.

For information on the postgraduate Masters loans being introduced from 2016-17, see our detailed guide.

You can also sign up to the FindAMasters newsletter to stay informed about future postgraduate funding news and opportunities – including our own Masters scholarships.

Last updated - 12/05/2017

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