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However, international postgraduate fees in the UK are usually higher than those for ‘home’ students. You might also find that some funding sources aren’t available to you.
Thankfully, there is a wide range of scholarship schemes that are specifically designed to support international postgraduates.
This page explains the kinds of funding available for international Masters students in the UK: from postgraduate loans to government scholarships and overseas exchange programmes.
We can’t list every funding opportunity here, but we’ve done our best to cover most of the main options that might be available to you. We’ve also made sure that all of this information is up-to-date for 2020.
Postgraduate loans allow you to borrow against the cost of your Masters and pay the money back when you graduate. Lenders can be governments, private banks or other organisations.
There are two different types of student loan for postgraduate study in the UK: UK Government postgraduate loans and loans from the Erasmus+ international study programme.
We’ve explained each of them below.
These are student loans offered by the UK Government.
Students only repay these loans when they are earning a certain amount. Interest rates are also lower than they would be for a typical ‘private’ loan.
All parts of the UK extended student loans to Masters degrees (and some other postgraduate qualifications) in 2017:
These loans are provided by the UK Government to support UK postgraduates. This means that they aren’t usually available to international students.
However, students from outside the UK may be eligible if they meet certain criteria.
Students from other parts of the EU can take out a postgraduate loan in much the same way as a UK student.
Some restrictions do apply to EU students, however:
This eligibility will not be immediately affected by Brexit. EU access to UK fees and funding has been guaranteed across the UK for courses beginning in the 2020-21 academic year.
Students from outside the EU won’t automatically be eligible for a UK postgraduate loan. Exceptions may apply if you are eligible to pay home fees.
For example, EEA and Swiss workers (and their families), children of Turkish workers and students with refugee status, humanitarian protection or long-term residence in the UK may be eligible for a loan.
Postgraduate loans for courses in the UK are also available through the Erasmus+ programme.
Unlike the UK Government’s own loans, these are specifically intended for students seeking to study a Masters abroad.
They offer up to €12,000 for a one-year course, or €18,000 for a two-year course.
The Erasmus loans are only available to nationals of an Erasmus programme country to study a complete Masters abroad in another Erasmus programme country.
They aren’t offered directly by the Erasmus+ programme itself. Instead loans are provided by participating banks and universities, according to guidelines and guarantees set by Erasmus.
Loans are available from banks in Italy (Emilia Romagne region), Spain, Turkey, Croatia and Romania for students from these countries to study a Masters abroad.
Students from other Erasmus countries can also access these loans to study a Masters in Spain.
Universities in Luxembourg and Cyprus offer loans to students from other Erasmus countries to study there.
The UK Government administers a series of scholarship schemes aimed at funding talented international postgraduates to study in the UK. These include the Chevening programme, Commonwealth Scholarships and Scotland’s Saltire Scholarships.
Chevening is a prestigious UK Government postgraduate funding scheme specifically for international students in the UK. It covers full payment of your Masters tuition fees, travel and visa costs, as well as a monthly living allowance.
For more information on eligibility criteria and the application process, please read our guide to Chevening Sholarships.
The Commonwealth Scholarships programme is aimed at supporting citizens of the 53 Commonwealth countries (nations that were part of the former British Empire). It’s organised by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) on behalf of the UK Government.
Over 800 Commonwealth Scholarships are available, but most postgraduate opportunities are provided to citizens of developing Commonwealth countries.
There are three main Commonwealth Scholarship schemes for international Masters students.
These opportunities are offered to citizens of developing Commonwealth countries. They offer support for one-year UK Masters degrees (not including MBAs) at partner universities.
To qualify you must be a citizen of an eligible developing Commonwealth country, a refugee or a British protected person. You must also be ordinarily resident in a developing Commonwealth country.
You should normally apply through a national nominating agency in your home country. You should not apply directly to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission itself. Applications for the scholarship open in the August of the year before the Masters starts.
Selection will be based on your academic merit as well as the potential benefit of your qualification to your home country.
Successful applicants normally receive:
Additional support may be offered to help cover other expenses associated with your course.
Find out more about Commonwealth Masters Scholarships.
These provide funding for international students who have not studied extensively abroad and would not otherwise be able to study a Masters in the UK.
Unlike the standard Commonwealth Scholarships for Masters study, Shared Scholarships are partially supported by UK universities.
In order to be eligible you must be a citizen of a developing Commonwealth country, a refugee or a British protected person, permanently resident in a developing Commonwealth country.
You must also hold either:
You must also not have studied (or worked) for more than one year in a developed country and not have the means to pay for study in the UK yourself.
You should make your application to a UK university participating in the scheme. They may then put you forward for a scholarship. Note that only certain universities and courses are eligible for this funding.
If successful, you will normally receive:
Other expenses may also be covered, either by the Commonwealth Scholarships Commission, or by your university.
Find out more about Commonwealth Shared Scholarships.
These provide specific support for international students to study a UK Masters degree while living in their home country.
View a full list of eligible distance learning Masters.
To qualify for a scholarship you will need to be a citizen of a developing Commonwealth country, a refugee or a British protected person, permanently resident in a developing Commonwealth country.
You must also hold an undergraduate degree equivalent to a 2.1 (‘upper second-class honours). Lower qualifications may be considered in some cases.
Universities will offer a scholarship of up to £18,000 to fund your course. This should cover tuition fees and other expenses.
When you apply for the scholarship through the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s application system, you’ll need to hold an offer to study an eligible distance learning Masters.
Find out more about Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships.
The GREAT Scholarship programme is a joint initiative between the UK Government and the British Council, offering scholarships of at least £10,000 for students from the following countries to study a Masters in the UK:
We’ve written a full guide to the GREAT Scholarship scheme, covering eligibility, applications and more.
This programme is organised by the Scottish Government to promote the country as an international study destination.
Funding is available for study at all levels, including Masters degrees. Individual awards provide up to £8,000 per student, for tuition fees during one year of study.
Masters-level programmes in the following subject areas – at any Scottish university – are eligible for Saltire Scholarships:
You can view guidelines for courses here, including examples of subjects than fall within the above categories.
Your course must also be studied full-time. You cannot receive a Saltire Scholarship for a part-time or distance learning Masters.
To be eligible for a Saltire Scholarship you must be an international student from Canada, India, Japan, Pakistan, the USA or China (including Hong Kong).
You must have an offer to study at a Scottish university on an eligible course and not have previously studied a full Bachelors degree in Scotland.
You must also be able to demonstrate that you can cover the remaining tuition fees and living costs for your Masters yourself (the Saltire Scholarship will only provide up to £8,000).
Applications for Saltire Scholarships usually open in the spring, for courses in the autumn of the same year.
You must complete an application form available from the SSS website.
Note that you cannot apply without already having an offer to study an eligible Masters at a university in Scotland.
Another way to narrow down your search for Masters funding is to look at specific funding for students from your home country.
There’s a wide range of scholarship programmes that are targeted in this way, aiming to support talented graduates with their studies in the UK. These might be the result of partnerships between the UK and other countries, or part of a broader exchange scheme that encourages students to study abroad.
Here is a selection of countries with funding options in place for their students to study a Masters in the UK:
The Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) or ‘German Academic Exchange Service’ is one of the world’s largest and longest-running international exchange and funding programmes.
DAAD maintains a London branch and offers support for UK students to study a Masters in Germany, or for German students to study a Masters in the UK.
You can view up-to-date details of DAAD scholarships on the DAAD website.
The US-UK Fulbright Commission exists to encourage cultural and scholarly exchange between the USA and UK.
Like the DAAD, it offers funding for international study: supporting UK students to study in the USA and US students to study in the UK.
Fulbright Postgraduate Awards can be used to support one year of Masters study at a UK university, offering a tuition fee waiver and a generous maintenance grant (which varies from university to university. Applications open in the April of the year before the proposed Masters is due to start.
Other Fulbright funding is also available. See the US-UK Fulbright Commission website for more details.
Like Fulbright, this programme also funds American students to study in the UK.
Scholarships are specifically available for graduate (Masters-level) study at a UK university. There is no restriction on subject areas, but certain types of course (such as MBAs) are not eligible.
Scholarships are normally awarded for two years of study, but one-year options are also available in some cases.
Applications are highly competitive and usually open in the autumn for study beginning in the next academic year. More information is available on the Marshall Scholarships website.
Individual UK universities also offer their own funding for international students and, with over 150 universities in the UK, we can’t possibly list all of those here.
But what we do do is list the Masters degrees available at those universities – and provide detailed information about them.
Once you’ve found a course that suits you, take a look at the university’s own website (you’ll find a link in our listings). There you should be able to investigate international funding options.
If you can’t see anything, contact the university – politely – and ask if support may be available for someone in your situation.
We’d recommend that you don’t simply send an email asking for funding. Instead, specify the course you’re interested in and make it clear that you’re a genuine student looking for assistance to study it.
In addition to the funding sources we’ve already mentioned, there are plenty of charitable organisations and trusts that provide scholarships for talented graduates to study abroad. Here is a selection of organisations that might be well-placed to help you finance your postgraduate opportunity:
There are many other sources of postgraduate funding, but most of them are far smaller than the organisations described on this page.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get support from smaller charities or educational foundations: you’ll just have to work harder to find it.
Our guide to postgraduate funding from charities is a good place to start.
Hopefully this page has demonstrated the breadth of funding that’s available to international students in the UK, and pointed you in the right direction to find out more.
If you’re looking for further guidance on studying in the UK, we recommend visiting the following organisations:
Hopefully we've managed to highlight some useful funding opportunities on this page. But how much will your UK Masters course actually cost? We've put together a separate guide to UK Masters fees for international students.
Last updated - 11/08/2020