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Funding Your Masters – A Guide for 2020

After deciding to take up the challenges and opportunities of a postgraduate degree, the next step for most students is working out how to pay for it!

The actual cost of a Masters may be lower than you think, but funding is a bit more complex than it is for undergraduate degrees.

This guide is here to help. We've put together a checklist of the different funding types that could be available to you, with links to our in-depth resources anf FAQs. To make things simpler, we've also created a handy comparison table.

Not thinking of a Masters in the UK? Check out our guides to postgraduate funding in other popular countries.


UK postgraduate loans

Let’s start with the big one. Postgraduate student loans are now available across the UK.

Here's what you can get for a Masters starting in 2020:

  • England – up to £11,222
  • Scotland – up to £10,000
  • Wales – up to £17,489
  • Northern Ireland – up to £5,500

All of the loans are repaid based on your income. They're available to UK and EU students in 2020.

Don't confuse these loans with the now-defunct Professional and Career Development Loan (PCDL), a government-supported commercial loan scheme that closed in January 2019.

Read more: postgraduate loans

Each UK country offers a slightly different postgraduate loan scheme. Check out our guides to support in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for 2020.


Funding for international students

Unfortunately, UK postgraduate loans are generally only available to UK and EU citizens. But that doesn't mean funding isn't available for students from elsewhere.

In fact, a number of schemes exist specifically to support international Masters students, including prestigious government programmes such as Commonwealth Scholarships and Chevening Scholarships.

Read more: international funding

Our guide introduces the main sources of international postgraduate funding. We've also put together information on international fees and UK living costs as well as a guide to student visas.


Research Council funding

The seven UK Research Councils represent one of the most important sources of postgraduate funding in the UK. It’s their job to provide support for research projects and for the training of potential new researchers – like you!

Though most of their resources are now directed towards PhD programmes, you can sometimes receive Research Council funding for Masters degrees – particularly 1+3 or New Route PhD programmes. These begin with a taught Masters degree in the first year, followed by a 3-year PhD programme. Funding usually covers course fees and a tax-free maintenance grant.

Masters degrees which have the opportunity for research council funding will be advertised as such. You can find a number of these programmes listed at FindAPhD.com. They’ll usually be referred to as ‘4-Year’, ‘1+3’ or ‘New Route PhD Programmes’ and some will include the name of the Research Council in the project title.

Read more: Research Council funding

Research Council funding isn't generally available for Masters degrees, but some support is offered for certain courses. Read our introduction for more information, or visit FindAPhD to learn about full Research Council studentships for postgraduate research.


Funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

There's more to studying in the UK than studying in England. Other UK countries all offer their own unique funding opportunities for domestic and international students. That’s why we’ve put together a specific guide to postgraduate funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

And remember, all parts of the UK have their own postgraduate loans.

Read more: funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Looking beyond England for your Masters? Read our guide to postgraduate funding across the UK.


Erasmus funding

The European Commission's Erasmus+ Programme isn't specific to the UK, but it does support students to study abroad at universities across Europe (and beyond).

You can study at multiple universities with a Joint Masters Programme scholarship or spend shorter periods of study or training abroad with a Masters Mobility Grant.

And Erasmus+ also offers its own Masters Degree Loans to postgraduate students studying abroad in Europe. Students from Spain, Italy (Emilia Romagne region), Turkey, Croatia and Romania can take out an Erasmus loan to study in the UK.

Read more: UK Erasmus funding

Our guides explain Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degrees, Erasmus loans and other grants. For now, all of this funding is unaffected by Brexit.


Charities and alternative funding sources

You may be surprised to learn that a lot of funding for postgraduate study is actually available from charitable trusts and learned societies.

All sorts of organisations are interested in helping promote new research and training in particular fields and, as a talented postgraduate, you could be just the sort of person they’re looking for. Grants from charities and similar organisations tend to be relatively small – between £100 and £1,000 on average – but there’s no reason why you can’t combine lots of them to cover your costs. In fact, this approach to financing postgraduate study has become so popular it’s even got its own name: ‘portfolio funding’.

You can learn all about this approach in our guide to Masters funding from charities and trusts.

Read more: postgraduate funding from charities and trusts

Putting together a portfolio of postgraduate funding using smaller grants can be tricky. Our guide to Masters funding from charities and trusts will help get you started.


Other UK Masters funding

The guides in this section cover some of the most important types of postgraduate funding for students in the UK. There are other sources of financial support for Masters degrees though. Here are a few that are worth bearing in mind.

University scholarships

Universities are keen to encourage and support good applicants to their postgraduate programmes and some will have significant financial resources available to help them do this.

Our guide to Masters funding from universities explains what sort of support might be available and includes a handy index of university funding resources.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding involves asking for lots of small donations towards the cost of your Masters. This kind of approach requires plenty of organisation. You'll also need to set out a compelling reason for people to support you.

But, if you can come up with a strong campaign, you might find that postgraduate crowdfunding can help offset some (or maybe even all) of your Masters fees.

Sponsorship from your employer

This won’t be applicable to all students, but it can be worth asking an employer about the possibility of support to gain new qualifications.

Of course, this strategy is more likely to be successful if your Masters is going to help develop skills that are relevant to your job. Asking for money to study Victorian poetry when you’re actually working in an IT consultancy firm might not be a great idea unless your boss is remarkably generous (or a big fan of Alfred Tennyson).

Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)

Completing a Masters whilst managing a disability, illness or learning difficulty can be challenging, but it's not impossible.

It's also possible that additional funding may be available to help support you during your studies. Find out more with our guide to Disabled Students' Allowance for Masters students.


Postgraduate funding compared

So, which type of postgraduate funding is best? We can't answer for you, but we can do our best to help you decide.

The following table compares some of the main options discussed on this page:


Postgraduate Funding Options
Funding Value Students Other Eligibility
English Postgraduate Loans £11,222 UK & EU English-resident students & EU students in England
Welsh Postgraduate Loans £17,489 (including a grant) UK & EU Welsh-resident students & EU students in Wales
Scottish Postgraduate Loans £10,000 UK & EU Scottish-resident students & EU students in Scotland
Northern Irish Postgraduate Loans £5,500 UK & EU Northern Irish-resident students & EU students in Northern Ireland
Erasmus Loans €18,000 Varies Must be studying abroad for the first time & from a participating country
Please note that other details and specific eligibility criteria will apply to each of these funding options. See our full guides for more information.


Further information

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Last updated 16/06/2020

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