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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 good news about UK Masters degrees is that tuition fees are typically a lot lower than those for most undergraduate programmes.
Whilst a Bachelors degree can cost £9,000 a year (or more) in the UK, the average cost of a Masters is between £6,000 and £8,000 a year for a full-time course (and remember, most Masters programmes are only one or two years long).
However, funding for Masters study in the UK is a bit more complex than for undergraduate courses. Though Masters student loans have been introduced, they vary across different parts of the UK. They're also only available to UK and EU students.
But don't worry. A wide range of other options are available – including funding that's specifically designed for international postgraduates.
We've put this page together as a checklist of the different funding types that could be available to you, with links to our in-depth resources and detailed guides. To make things simpler, we've also created a handy comparison table.
Let’s start with the big one. The UK Government offers postgraduate Masters loans for English-resident students at universities across the UK. These loans currently provide up to £10,609, to be repaid once graduates are earning over £21,000 a year.
You can read more in our guide to postgraduate loans, or check out our handy overview of repayment costs and information on how to apply.
Though this scheme is targeted at English resident students, other parts of the UK have introduced their own Government-backed loans, meaning that postgraduate support is available to students across the country.
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.
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.
Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDLs) are currently offered by the Co-operative Bank. Unlike typical bank loans, the UK Government pays your interest whilst you study. PCDLs can be a good source of support if you aren’t able to apply for other forms of funding.
Repayment requirements can be stricter than those for student loans, but the eligibility criteria may be more relaxed.
You’ll need to meet certain credit criteria to qualify for a Career Development Loan for postgraduate study, but you can borrow anything between £300 and £10,000.
Please note that the PCDL scheme is closing and that the deadline for final applications is 25 January 2019.
Don't restrict your postgraduate search to England. The UK is home to one of the oldest and most prestigious higher education systems in Europe, with excellent Masters courses available across Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish universities.
Better yet, 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.
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).
And Erasmus+ also offers its own Masters Degree Loans to postgraduate students studying abroad in Europe. Students from Spain, Italy (Emilia Romagne region) and Turkey can take out an Erasmus loan to study in the UK.
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.
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.
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.
It’s important not to overlook the assistance that might be offered by the institution you’re going to study your Masters at. 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.
Investigating university scholarships for postgraduate funding usually means getting in touch with institutions and asking what kinds of support they offer.
You can speed this process up by using the course search here at FindAMasters.com – lots of programmes have information on scholarships included in their listings and all of them have contact details available if you need to get in touch with universities for more information (they’ll be very happy to hear from you).
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.
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).
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.
Don't forget to check out our very own FindAMasters scholarships. Each year we give away £12,000 of funding to postgraduate students in the UK. That’s right – we won’t just help you find out what funding’s available to you: we’ll actually give you some ourselves!
This year there’s one £5,000 scholarship available as well as four £500 scholarships to help students meet some of the costs of postgraduate study. Find out more about our scholarship competition.
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:
|Funding||2018 Value||Students||Other Eligibility|
|English Postgraduate Loans||£10,609||UK & EU||English-resident students & EU students in England|
|Welsh Postgraduate Loans||£13,000 (extra support to study in Wales)||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|
|Career Development Loans||£10,000||UK||Based on application|
|Erasmus Loans||€18,000||Italy (Emilia Romagne region), Spain & Turkey||Must be studying abroad for the first time & from a participating country|
|FindAMasters Scholarships||£5,000||UK, EU & international||Applications and selection are competition-based|
|Please note that other details and specific eligibility criteria will apply to each of these funding options. See our full guides for more information.|
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Last updated 29/10/2018