Postgraduate student loans for Masters degrees in the UK are now available for courses starting on or after 1st August 2016.
If you're an English-resident, or EU national, you may be eligible for a loan of up to £10,000 to study a taught or research Masters in any subject.
|What?||Student loans for postgraduate Masters degrees in all subjects, including taught and research programmes. Available for full-time, part-time and distance learning courses.|
|How much?||Up to £10,000, in three instalments per year. Part-time loans capped at £5,000 per year.|
|Who?||UK nationals ordinarily resident in England. EU, EEA or Swiss nationals ordinarily resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland.|
|Where?||Any UK university.|
|When?||For courses beginning on or after 1st August 2016.|
|Repayment?||6% of income over £21,000 per year, commencing from April 2019. Interest charged at RPI+3%.|
|Restrictions?||Applicants must be under 60, without existing qualifications at Masters-level or above.|
|Applications?||Available online from the end of June. Click here for more information.|
The new postgraduate Masters loans are subject to eligibility criteria based on age, nationality and residency. These have been substantially updated with the Autumn 2015 announcement, removing a previous age limit of 30 and a restriction to English universities.
The main requirements are that:
Yes, you can receive a postgraduate loan to study in England as an EU student. You will need to have been resident in the EU for at least three years prior to the beginning of your course. Periods of residency that are purely for the purpose of education will not count towards this three year requirement.
As an EU student you will be subject to the same loan offer and repayment requirement as domestic applicants.
Note that EU students will normally only be able to receive loans to study a Masters at a university in England. This includes on-campus and distance learning options.
Exceptions may apply if you have been ordinarily resident in England for three years prior to the beginning of your course. If so, you will count as an English domiciled student and can take out a loan to study anywhere in the UK.
No. Until the UK actually leaves the EU, all current treaties apply. This means that EU students continue to be eligible for student loans in the UK - including the new Masters loans.
Possibly. Citizens of non-EU EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland are also eligible for postgraduate loans, provided they are working in the UK, have worked in the UK or are seeking work in the UK.
Under normal circumstances, Masters loans will not be available to international students in the UK. In order to be eligible you will need to be a UK national or EU citizen, as above.
Exceptions may apply if you have the right to reside permanently in the UK. This could the result of refugee status or other humanitarian protection. Family members of EU citizens may also be eligible for loans.
Your university's international office may be able to provide help if you are unsure what conditions apply in your case.
These loans are intended for English students. However, eligibility for postgraduate loans is based on English-residency, not English-nationality. If you are Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish, but normally live in England, you will be able to receive a loan.
In order to be eligible you must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least three years on the first day of the academic year in which your course begins. In addition, you must have most recently been resident in England.
Probably. Following the announcement of postgraduate loans for English students, other parts of the UK have begun investigating similar schemes and Northern Ireland has recently become the first country to confirm its own loans.
So far the situation is as follows:
The best way to ensure you hear about postgraduate loans in other UK countries is to sign up for our newsletter. We'll keep you updated with any future developments.
Yes, postgraduate loans are available to citizens of the UK and Islands, subject to other eligibility and residency criteria.
In order to be eligible for a postgraduate loan, you will need to be under 60 at the beginning of the academic year in which you begin your Masters course.
For courses beginning in Autumn 2016, this will be 1st September. Note that this replaces the initial date of 1st August set in the consultation documents.
Unfortunately not. The primary aim of the new loans is to broaden access to postgraduate education for those who have not yet been able to study for a Masters degree.
However, possession of a Masters degree will not prevent you from receiving a separate PhD loan.
The restriction on applying for a loan with existing postgraduate qualifications only applies to full Masters degrees.
You should still be able to apply for a loan to study a new Masters if you already hold a postgraduate qualification below Masters level - such as a postgraduate certificate or diploma. Remember though, you won't be able to receive a loan to study one of these courses. Loans are only available for full postgraduate Masters degrees.
The same restriction applies to PhD holders as to those with existing Masters degrees. You will not be able to apply for a Masters loan if you already hold a qualification at Masters level or above.
Unfortunately not. The new loans are designed to make postgraduate study more accessible and won't be available to existing Masters students. In order to apply for a loan your course will need to begin on or after 1st August 2016.
No, you can't receive a loan for part of a Masters degree, only for a full course. You can still apply for a loan to study a new Masters after completing a PGCert of PGDip, but this will need to be a full degree.
The new Masters loans won't replace the existing Professional and Career Development Loans system. These are available for a wide variety of postgraduate courses, including PGCert and PGDip qualifications, as well as Masters degrees. What's more, you don't have to be resident in England to apply. Find out more with our guide.
Postgraduate loans will be available for all postgraduate Masters degrees at UK universities.
A course should be eligible for a loan if it:
For more details on eligible and ineligible courses, check the following FAQs. Or you can jump straight to the table at the end of this section.
Yes. All taught, research and professional Masters programmes are eligible for the postgraduate loans. This includes MBA courses.
Bear in mind, however, that the full cost of an MBA programme will often be greater than the maximum £10,000 available via a postgraduate loan.
Yes. MRes (Master of Research) degrees are now eligible for postgraduate loans regardless of whether a university defines them as taught or research qualifications.
Yes. The MPhil (Master of Philosophy) is regarded as a Masters-level research degree, at level 7 of the UK's Qualification Framework. This means that MPhil degrees are eligible for loans.
Note that this only applies to 'standalone' MPhils. If you are registering as an MPhil student with the intention of upgrading to a PhD, you will not be able to receive a Masters loan. You may be able to receive a PhD loan instead, but this funding will not be available until 2018.
No. Postgraduate loans are only available for full Masters degree programmes. These courses are usually worth 180 credits and include a dissertation or equivalent individual project. Loans will not be available for shorter postgraduate courses such as Postgraduate Certificates or Postgraduate Diplomas.
The government has determined that these 'Other Postgraduate Courses' (OPG) are easier to access alongside existing employment and do not pose the same financial challenges to candidates.
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) courses and other initial teacher training (ITT) qualifications are not eligible for the new Masters loans. However, you may be able to receive existing funding for a PGCE or other postgraduate teacher-training from the Department of Education.
Note that you can receive a loan to study a postgraduate Master of Education (MED) degree.
Possibly. Postgraduate loans are not available for courses below Masters level and this includes shorter diplomas and certificates such as the LPC. However, many LLM (Master of Laws) programmes include an LPC qualification. In such cases you can take out a loan for an LLM and receive the LPC as part of it.
No. The GDL is a Postgraduate Diploma, not a full Masters degree and is not eligible for a Masters loan.
Some Masters qualifications are offered as four year, undergraduate programmes. These are defined as undergraduate, rather than postgraduate courses. As a result, they will not be eligible for postgraduate loans.
However, you can usually receive an undergraduate student loan to complete a four year Masters programme.
No. The MArch is normally an an integrated Masters course. These are already supported by undergraduate finance (see above).
You can now receive a loan to study a postgraduate research programme, provided it awards a Masters degree and lasts no longer than two years full time. This may potentially include some MPhil programmes, but will not cover PhD degrees.
A separate system of £25,000 doctoral loans has been confirmed for 2018. You can read a guide to these PhD loans at FindAPhD.com.
PhD loans have now been confirmed for UK students. They won't be introduced until the 2018-19 academic year, but that leaves plenty of time to complete your Masters degree. You can read more about eligibility criteria, repayments and other details here.
No. You can only receive a loan to study a standalone Masters degree. Qualifications that are awarded as part of the pathway to a PhD are not eligible.
The following table summarises the information in this FAQ, offering a quick 'at a glance' look at course eligibility for postgraduate loans.
(Graduate Diploma in Law)
(Master of Law)
(Legal Practice Course)
|No||Only eligible as part of an LLM|
(Master of Arts)
|Yes||As a separate postgraduate qualification|
(Master of Architecture)
|No||Covered by undergraduate funding|
(Master of Business Administration)
(Master of Education)
(Master of Engineering)
|No||Covered by undergraduate funding|
(Master of Fine Arts)
(Master of Letters)
(Master of Music)
(Master of Philosophy)
|Yes||As a standalone degree (not part of a PhD)|
(Master of Research)
(Master of Science)
(Master of Science in Engineering)
|Yes||As a separate postgraduate qualification|
(Postgraduate Certificate in Education)
|No||Covered by separate funding|
(Doctor of Philosophy)
|No||Covered by separate postgraduate research loans due in 2018|
Postgraduate loans are available for Masters degrees awarded by UK universities. Further restrictions on your location of study may also apply in some cases.
In most cases the following must apply:
The government has revised the scope of the Masters loans to include all universities with degree awarding powers in the UK. This means that UK nationals can receive a loan to study a Masters in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
However, this does not alter English-residency criteria. UK nationals must be ordinarily resident in England, regardless of where they wish to study.
Other UK countries have begun considering their own postgraduate funding schemes and are encouraged to do so by the UK government.
Northern Ireland recently became the first country to confirm its own postgraduate loans, commencing from 2017.
Recommendations for loans for Scottish students are also under review, whilst Wales is considering its own funding changes.
Note that other forms of funding and financial support are already available to study a Masters at one of the many excellent universities in Scotland, Wales and eern Ireland.
Under normal circumstances, EU nationals can only receive a loan to study a Masters in England. This can include distance programmes awarded by universities elsewhere in the UK, provided you undertake the course in England.
EU students are also restricted from undertaking overseas placements as part of their Masters. Your course must take place in England and you must live in England whilst you study.
Exceptions to these rules apply if you are a non-UK EU student, ordinarily resident in England. If so, you may qualify as English-domiciled and be able to study anywhere in the UK.
Distance learning programmes can be awarded by any UK university, but you must study them in England.
This means that you cannot study a distance learning Masters awarded by a Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish university in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
In order for your degree to be eligible for a postgraduate loan, it must be delivered and awarded by a UK university.
You can still receive a loan to study a Masters that includes an overseas placement or exchange, provided this does not account for more than 50% of your course.
The Masters loans being introduced in 2016 are primarily intended to support English students. However, eligibility for the Masters loans is based on residency, rather than nationality.
The main residency restrictions are as follows:
This may seem a silly question, but it's potentially one of the more confusing aspects of the loans eligibility. Put simply, if you normally live in England, you will be able to receive a Masters loan.
Don't worry: this doesn't mean you can't have left England at all for three years. But any absences must have been temporary (see below).
Students who have studied (or are studying) in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will be eligible for a Masters loan, provided they are normally resident in England.
Time spent studying elsewhere will be regarded as a temporary absence and will not affect your English-domiciled status.
Residence in England that is purely for purposes of study will not qualify you as ordinarily resident.
This means that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students who are already studying at English universities will not be able to continue to study there with a Masters loan.
You may be eligible for a loan in England if you can prove that you are already living there normally. This means that you haven't remained in the country purely to access a loan. The Student Loans Company's assessors will judge this on a case-by-case basis.
Probably not. Your address history would show that you have moved to England very recently, which would appear suspicious. You would need to convince assessors that you had moved to England for another reason and hadn't originally intended to study. This is unlikely to be convincing.
It is therefore not recommended that you relocate for the purposes of loan eligibility.
The application process for the loans will ask you for three years of address history.
This will be used to determine your ordinary place of residence. In most cases this will be a simple process, but the Student Loans Company's assessors will review your evidence if necessary.
If any periods of residence outside England are temporary, you will be able to prove this (see below).
No, your parents' address will not count as proof of residency unless it is also your own ordinary residence.
Temporary absences or changes of address will not make you ineligible for a loan. However, you will need to demonstrate that they are temporary.
Examples of temporary absences could include:
EU students will need to have been normally resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland for three years.
You do not need to have been most recently resident in England. But, if England is your normal place of residence, you may be assessed as an English-domiciled student. If so, you will be able to study anywhere in the UK (EU students are normally restricted to studying in England).
Higher education funding in the UK is devolved. This means that the regional governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland manage their own higher education budgets and fee administration.
The postgraduate loans being introduced in 2016 are funded through the budget for higher education in England. This means they are currently only available for English students.
This is an understandably strange (and potentially frustrating) part of the eligibility criteria. Surely Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students count as EU citizens and should be eligible for the same funding as those from Germany, Italy or France?
Unfortunately, this isn't the case. EU law prohibits member states from making funding policies that discriminate against citizens of other member states. But Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students aren't citizens of another member state. They are UK citizens, subject to funding restrictions within the UK.
This situation is not unique. For example, Scottish and EU students do not pay undergraduate fees in Scotland, but English students do.
It's not very satisfying - but plans have been put forward for loans in Scotland, whilst Northern Ireland has confirmed its own loans for 2017. You can also read our guide to postgraduate funding in other parts of the UK.
Unfortunately, postgraduate loans for Welsh, Northern Irish or Scottish students won't be available in 2016. However, both Scotland and Northern Ireland have put forward future plans for their own loans and Wales is considering the viability of a scheme. Other funding is also available across the UK - including Professional and Career Development Loans.
The new Masters loans are designed to support the existing postgraduate study system. This means that they are planned to be available to students studying part-time and distance-learning courses, subject to certain conditions.
Key details are as follows:
Yes, but your loan will be spaced out across your programme. Part-time students will receive £5,000 in each of the first two years of their programme. This will be paid out in three ‘tranches’ per year.
Note that you won't receive additional payments if your Masters lasts longer than two years. Your full loan will be paid out in the first two years of your programme, regardless of its total length. See below for more information on the distribution of loan payments.
In order to qualify for a part-time Masters loan, you need to be studying at an average intensity of 50%.
Put simply, this means that you need to progress through your course at at least half the 'speed' of someone studying it full time. Or, to put it the other way around, your degree must take no more than twice as long to complete part-time as it would full-time.
In practice, this means that:
The vast majority of part-time Masters programmes will already be organised in a way that meets these requirements.
Note that your course doesn't need to be evenly split across each year of study. An original requirement for part-time students to complete at least 50% of their course in year one has been removed.
Yes. Though excluded from initial proposals for the scheme, distance-learning Masters programmes are eligible for postgraduate loans under the government's updated plans.
Yes, two-year Masters courses will be eligible for loans. This is the case regardless of whether they are classed as taught or research programmes.
Note that the total amount you can borrow is still set at £10,000. If your course lasts longer than a year, your loan amount will be distributed across the first two years of your course.
The maximum amount borrowable with a postgraduate loan is to be set at £10,000. You may be able to borrow less than this, but cannot borrow any more.
Key financial terms for the loans will be as follows:
You can read more about postgraduate loan payments below
The government is offering loans as ‘a contribution to the cost of an eligible postgraduate Masters qualification’. You can use a loan for tuition fees, living costs and other study expenses as you see fit.
In practice, the £10,000 maximum amount should be sufficient to cover tuition fees for most eligible taught Master programmes (calculated at an average of just over £8,000 by research carried out in support of the consultation). However, it will not necessarily cover all of the accommodation and living costs you may incur whilst completing a postgraduate degree.
Some Masters courses may also cost more than £10,000. This is particularly likely for MBA programmes.
No, the £10,000 is the maximum amount you can borrow with a Masters loan, but you won't have to borrow this much. If you wish to borrow a smaller amount to cover fees (or living costs) you will be able to do so.
There is no minimum loan amount.
Yes, you can subsequently can alter the amount of your loan request. But you must do so within one month of the end of your loan payment period. For one year courses this will be one month before the end of the academic year. For longer courses this will be one month before the end of your second academic year of study.
No, the postgraduate Masters loans are not means-tested. You can apply regardless of your existing income or savings.
No, the decision to offer you a postgraduate loan won't be based on your personal credit rating or credit history.
The only exception applies if you are in arrears to the Student Loans Company for an existing loan. This may apply if you have missed payments or travelled outside the country without informing the SLC. If so, you should contact them and discuss your account.
In some cases, yes. Receiving other postgraduate funding or finance from your university or a third party (such as a charity) won't normally affect your eligibility. This is because the loans are not means-tested (as above).
However, if other public funding is available for the whole of your course, you may not be able to apply for a postgraduate loan. This is one of the reasons why integrated and undergraduate Masters are not eligible.
Note that this information only concerns your eligibility for a postgraduate Masters loan. It is possible (though unlikely) that taking out a loan may affect your eligibility for other grants or finance.
You can read more information about specific funding options below.
Yes. Your entitlement to Disabled Students’ Allowance is distinct from any other financial support you receive. You can claim DSA in addition to a postgraduate loan and applying for a postgraduate loan will not affect your right to receive Disabled Students’ Allowance.
Possibly not. Some NHS bursaries - for subjects such as nursing and midwifery - supersede postgraduate loans. Check with your provider for more information.
Yes. The new system is designed to be an affordable option for graduates who want to continue on to further study. Repayments will occur concurrently with your undergraduate loan and won’t be due until you are earning enough to afford them.
Your loan will be distributed in three ‘tranches’ per academic year:
Loan payments will be made directly into your bank account. You will then be responsible for using the money to meet tuition fees and other expenses as you see fit.
You will receive the first instalment of your loan payment when your university confirms attendance on your course.
Note that if you do not currently have a UK bank account you will need to open one in order to receive postgraduate playments. This applies to all students, including those from outside the UK. You can apply for a loan without having a UK bank account, but you will need to open one subsequently.
See our guide to opening a UK bank account for more information.
Payment of your postgraduate loan will be subject to confirmation of attendance provided by your institution. Loan instalments will cease if you exit your programme early or transfer to a different course that is not eligible for a Masters loan. (Transfers between eligible courses may be permitted, see below).
If you exit your programme early you will still be liable for your loan and must repay any amount you have borrowed as normal.
In most cases, no. You can only apply for a single postgraduate loan. You may be able to increase your loan amount, but would not be able to borrow more than the maximum of £10,000. Your course will also need to last less than two years full-time or four-years part time.
Exceptions may be made if you can demonstrate compelling personal reasons. Decisions will be made by Student Loan Company assessors on a case-by-case basis.
Yes, you can maintain your loan when transferring Masters provided both courses are eligible and you are not repeating the same component of a course. It will not normally be possible to exist one course and apply for a fresh loan to complete another.
The Masters loans are designed to remove financial barriers to postgraduate study and repayment terms are therefore intended to be affordable. The government has also relaxed repayment terms following responses to its public consultation.
The main repayment terms for the Masters loans are as follows:
RPI stands for ‘Retail Prices Index.’ It is an annual percentage measure of inflation, based on the price of goods and services in the UK.
Interest rates for the postgraduate Masters loans are to be set at RPI+3%. This means that the interest charged on the balance of your loan will be the current RPI percentage, plus an additional 3%.
In practice this is a favourable interest rate, intended to beat the market cost for a debt of an equivalent amount.
In 2016 the interest rate for postgraduate loans will be 3.9%.
Interest will begin accruing on your loan as soon as the first payment is made to you by the Student Loans Company.
No. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, you won’t have a percentage of your entire salary deducted for repayments – even if you have both an undergraduate and postgraduate loan.
This is because you only make loan postgraduate (and / or undergraduate) repayments on a given percentage of your income over £21,000. Sources that calculate a combined percentage of your total salary are failing to take this income threshold into account.
You should also ensure that any calculations you read are based on up to date figures. Some sources are still referring to a combined repayment rate of 18% for undergraduate and postgraduate loans. This is now 15% (but only of income over £21,000).
Again, this calculation is incorrect because it fails to take account of the way income-contingent deductions work. It is also based on the original announcement of a 9% postgraduate loan repayment rate, rather than the updated figure of 6%.
Individual payments from your salary may add up to a total of 47% (9% for undergraduate loans + 6% for postgraduate loans + 20% for income tax and 12% for national insurance = 50%) but money isn’t actually deducted in this way.
Instead you make all of these payments at specific income thresholds and only pay on income above those thresholds. Your postgraduate loan repayment, for example, is only deducted on 6% of income over £21,000 – not on your total salary.
We’ve put together a detailed guide to postgraduate loan repayments that helps explain how they’ll actually work in real-world scenarios. We even made some handy pie charts to help visualise the different deductions.
Repayments for Masters loans will be due from April in the year after you complete your course. However, repayments for the first set of postgraduate loans will not begin until 2019.
This means that, if you take out a loan for a one-year Masters in 2016-17, you will have one repayment-free year after you graduate. You may make voluntary early repayments if you wish.
Note that, even after 2019, you will only make postgraduate loan repayments on 6% of income over £21,000 per year.
The proposed repayment terms and interest rates are planned to be fixed for a minimum period of five years. Repayment thresholds and interest rates should stay the same until 2021.
Yes, the proposed postgraduate loan scheme is designed on the principle that recipients will eventually repay their loans in full. This represents the government’s confidence in the financial value of a postgraduate degree and the future earning power of Masters graduates.
Your student loan debt will eventually be cancelled after 30 years, but the vast majority of graduates will already have repaid by this point.
It's important that you understand how much a postgraduate loan will cost you and how salary deductions will work after you graduate. That's why we've put forward a detailed guide to Masters loan repayments.
Applications for postgraduate loans will open in the summer of 2016. This means that loans will be available for Masters degrees starting this year.
Some details of the loan applications are yet to be finalised, but the following is confirmed:
Applications are likely to begin in summer 2016, but a specific date has yet to be set. Don't worry though: applications will open in plenty of time for the 2016-17 academic year.
More information is expected in April or May. We'll update this page when further details emerge. We'll also let you know via our newsletter.
No. The Masters loans are being introduced in time for the 2016-17 academic year. This begins in the Autumn of 2016. Courses that start earlier won't be eligible for a loan.
In future, loans should be available for a Masters starting in either term.
You can read all about applying for a postgraduate in our guide. This includes a summary of the key details and a step by step guide to the application process and a set of helpful FAQs.
You can read original documents detailing aspects of the loans scheme online. These include:
Further information is expected ahead of the loans being introduced in 2016. This should include confirmation of their availability in different parts of the UK and to students of different nationalities.
FindAMasters will keep this guide to the postgraduate loans scheme updated as more information is released. Why not subscribe to our newsletter and ensure you receive any news as it becomes available?
You bet! This news could be the best thing to happen to postgraduate education since the invention of the electric kettle!
On a more serious note, the importance of the Chancellor’s announcement extends well beyond the financial commitment it makes. By investing such a substantial amount of money in widening access to Masters courses the UK government is confirming the value of postgraduate education together with the professional skills and economic benefits it brings. So, next time someone questions your decision to stay on at university and study a Masters degree – just refer them to George Osborne!
The new loans represent a huge change to postgraduate funding in the UK, but they aren't the only source of financial support for Masters students. Take a look at our detailed Masters funding guide to learn about the other forms of postgraduate funding that might be available to you.
You can also use our dedicated postgraduate funding website to search thousands of Masters funding awards. It's called postgraduatefunding.com - we thought the name fit.
We’ll be keeping our guide updated as more information about the loans emerges – including application details. Why not sign up to our newsletter and ensure you’re the first to know?
Last updated - 27/09/2016