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Application process for postgraduate loans

Postgraduate Loans - Application Guide

This year sees the introduction of £10,000 loans for Masters degrees in the UK. Great news if you're looking to start a Masters. Even better news is that the application process for the postgraduate loans is now live.

Applications are available online at the Student Finance England website.

We've updated our guide, with detailed walkthroughs of the online application process for UK and EU / international students, as well as a guide to applying by post.

Or, if you've got other questions why not check postgraduate loan application FAQs.

And remember, to learn more about the loans themselves (including information on eligibility and repayments) see our full guide

Postgraduate loan applications - the key details

Postgraduate loans will be handled by the Student Loans Company, in a similar way to undergraduate loans. So, if you've had a student loan before, the application process will be quite familiar.

Here are the key details:


Applying for a postgraduate loan
When can I apply? The application service for postgraduate loans went live on the 27th of June.
How do I apply? You can apply online via Student Finance England or download and print application forms to apply by post.
What will I need? You'll need to provide details of the course you want to study as well as your address history. Details of your passport, National Insurance number and UK bank account will also be required before the application can be completed.
Will I need to do anything else? You'll need to print, sign and send a declaration form to complete your application.
When will I receive my loan? You'll receive the first part of your loan once you've registered at university and begun your Masters degree. See our full guide for more information on postgraduate loan payments.
Who can apply? You can apply for a postgraduate loan if you're English-resident, under 60 and beginning a Masters in the UK for the first time. Other criteria apply to EU students. See our guide for more information.

For more information on the application process see the walkthroughs below - check out the FAQs at the bottom of this page.

Before you apply

Applying for a postgraduate loan is actually quite simple. They aren't based on your financial circumstances and most of the information you'll need to provide relates to the course you wish to study.

There are a few things to do before you begin though:

1. Find a Masters!

Before you can apply for a loan for a Masters course, you'll need a Masters course to apply for a loan for.

The application service will ask for details of your intended degree and university. This will be checked against a database of eligible courses.

Note that you don't actually have to have applied for a Masters before you apply for a loan (but you will need to be registered on one before you receive any payments). You can also change your mind about your degree or university later.

So, the first thing to do is to find your ideal Masters course. And it just so happens you're already in the best place to start looking.

Ready to find your Masters?

Ready to apply for a loan, but not sure which exact course you want to study? Our database lets you search and compare thousands of eligible Masters programmes. Why not take a look?

2. Decide whether to apply online, or by post

There are two ways to apply for a postgraduate loan:

  • You can apply online using a new or existing account with Student Finance England.
  • You can apply by post, using forms downloaded from the UK Government website.

Applying online will normally be faster, but applying by post may be necessary in some circumstances.

For example, if you have previously applied for student finance from Student Finance Wales or Student Finance NI you will need to apply by post. This is because you cannot create a second online student finance account.

EU students can apply online or by post, but are more likely to require additional supporting documents.

However you apply, you will need to send some documents by post. These will include a signed declaration form (generated at the end of your application) plus any evidence requested by Student Finance England.

Online application walkthrough: UK students

The following is a step-by-step walkthrough of the online application process for UK students. This is the pathway you will follow when you tell the system that you are a UK national.

It offers a preview of the various questions you'll be asked and the information you'll need to submit during the application.

EU students should see the separate walkthrough, below.


1. Provide details of any postgraduate qualifications

You'll first be asked whether you hold an existing postgraduate degree. This is to make sure you don't already have a qualification at Masters level or above.

If you don't hold a postgraduate degree you can answer 'no' and skip this step.

Otherwise, a range of options will be available to select from. Those in red will make you ineligible for a loan. Those in green will not affect your eligibility:

  • A PhD (or other doctoral degree)
  • A Postgraduate Masters (such as an MA, MSc or MRes)
  • An Integrated Masters (such as an MArch, MChem or MPhys)
  • A Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
  • A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) or Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip)

If you hold a postgraduate qualification that is not listed above you can select 'other'. This may be necessary if you hold an overseas qualification. You will then be prompted for more information about your course, subject and university.


2. Provide details of your university

Next you will be asked to enter the name of the university at which you wish to study a Masters. The name you type will be matched with an institution in the system's database.

If you cannot find your university, check you have typed its name correctly and that it is eligible to accept students with postgraduate loans. Eligible universities must be based in the UK, with degree awarding powers.


3. Provide course details

You will now need to enter information about your course.

First state whether your programme is full-time or part-time and what its course duration is.

  • Full-time courses can be one or two years long
  • Part-time courses can be two, three or four years long

Next you will be asked for the name of your course. You should give the course title as it appears on the university website (or in the FindAMasters database).

If you can't find your course make sure you've entered the correct title and selected the right mode of study and duration. One year full-time programmes won't appear if you've previously stated that you're studying for three years part-time, for example.

Remember: you can change your course (and university) later

You need to specify an eligible university and Masters degree when applying for your loan, but these don't have to be your final choice. You can change either or both later (though your loan won't be paid until you register as a student).

4. Provide passport details

You'll need to provide details of your UK passport during your application and will be prompted to do so now.

If you have your passport to hand you can enter your surname, given name, passport number, date of issue and date of expiry.

Alternatively, you can skip this step and provide your passport details later.

If you don't have a UK passport you will need to provide alternative proof of identity. Student Finance England will ask for this when you submit your application.


5. Provide address details

The next step in your application is very important. In order to establish your eligibility, Student Finance England need to confirm your residency status during the three years prior to the start-date of your course.

They will do this by asking for your permanent home address.

This doesn't include a temporary address or a student address (somewhere you are only living or have only lived whilst studying a Bachelors or other degree). Instead you should give an address you permanently own or rent. Or, if you live with parents or family you should give their address.

  • The system will first ask for your permanent home address on 1st September 2013 (three years before the start date of a Masters beginning in 1st September 2016).
  • It will then ask if this will still be your permanent home address on 1st September 2016 (the beginning of the upcoming academic year).

If your address has not changed you will have provided three years of address history and can proceed with your application. If this is not the case you will need to provide details of other addresses you have lived at, or will live at, between 1st September 2013 and 1st September 2016.

Remember: your permanent home address isn't necessarily your university address

You don't have to live at your permanent home address during your Masters course (or have mail relating to your postgraduate loan application sent there). But you must give an accurate and genuine permanent home address. If this is outside England you may not be eligible for a loan as a UK student.

6. State how much you wish to borrow

You will now state how much postgraduate loan you are requesting. This can be any amount between £1 and £10,000.

Remember that you can change the amount you wish to borrow later - this can be done at any point up until one month before the end of a one year course or one month before the end of the second year of a longer course.

If you are applying for a course that lasts longer than a year you will next be asked how much money you wish to request for your first year. The maximum you can borrow in your first year is £5,000. This means that:

  • If you are requesting £5,000 or less you can request up to your full loan amount in your first year.
  • If you are applying for more than £5,000 you can only request up to £5,000 in your first year. The rest will then be paid in your second year.

Note that, whatever your full loan request, you will only receive money in the first and second years of your course.


7. Request additional funding for a disability, mental-health condition or learning difficulty

Postgraduate loans do not affect your eligibility for Disabled Students' Allowance. This is a non-repayable grant that can help with the cost of your studies.

You can indicate a wish to request Disabled Students' Allowance at this point. If so you will be provided with a form to complete after you submit your Masters loan application.


8. Provide your National Insurance Number and banking details

You'll need a valid UK National Insurance and a UK bank account to receive postgraduate loan payments. The system will ask for these now.

You can complete your loan application and have it approved without giving NI and banking details at this point, but your loan won't be paid unless you subsequently provide this information.


9. Give the address of a named contact

You will now be asked to name at least one family member or friend for the Student Loans Company to contact if they lose touch with you.

This person is not involved in your loan application: they are not your guarantor, they do not need to support your application and they are not financially liable for it in any way.

You should seek permission from any contact you name.

When you have named one contact you will be asked if you can provide another, at a different address. This is optional.


10. Agree to the terms and conditions

Before you can complete your application you must confirm that you have read, understood and agreed to the terms and conditions for your postgraduate loan.

You can view (and download) these in a PDF document, here. That PDF document isn't particularly long or complicated and we recommend you read it carefully before you apply.

Important details include the following:

  • Your postgraduate loan application will create a contract between you and the Student Loans Company. This will happen when you sign the declaration form after submitting your application.
  • You must provide correct information in your application and are responsible for keeping this up to date. This includes change of address, change of course (or university) or plans to leave the country for more than three months. If you do not keep the SLC updated, you could be liable for a penalty charge or early full repayment of your full loan and interest.
  • Regulations for your postgraduate loan may change in future. You will always be able to find up to date information at the UK Government website.

If you do not agree to the terms and conditions, you cannot apply for a postgraduate loan.


Once you have completed all of these steps you can submit your application. You will have the option to review and change any information first.

Submitted applications must be reviewed by Student Finance England in order to check your eligibility and identify any further information or evidence that may be required from you. This process can take between four and six weeks. You can read more about what happens next below.

Online application walkthrough: EU & International students

EU students can also apply for a postgraduate loan online. To apply as an EU student you will need to answer 'no' when asked if you are a UK national. You should also do this if you are eligible to apply for a loan as an EEA or Swiss national, if you have refugee status, or otherwise have the right to apply for funding in the UK.

The first parts of the process is similar to that for UK students, above.

1. Provide details of any postgraduate qualifications

You must first tell the system whether you hold an existing postgraduate degree.

If you answer 'yes' to this question you will be asked if you possess one of the following. Those in red are qualifications at Masters level or above and will make you ineligible for a postgraduate loan in the UK.

  • A PhD (or other doctoral degree)
  • A Postgraduate Masters (such as an MA, MSc or MRes)
  • An Integrated Masters (such as an MArch, MChem or MPhys)
  • A Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
  • A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) or Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip)

Most degrees from European universities will fall into one of these categories. If yours does not, you should select 'other'. You will then be prompted to enter details of your qualification, its subject area and the university that awarded it.

When you submit your application Student Finance England will they will check to see if your existing degrees are equivalent to a UK Masters or not.


2. Provide details of your university

You must now select the university at which you will study your Masters. This must be a university in the UK.

The options available to EU students also depend on your residency status.

  • If you are ordinarily resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland, but not resident in the UK you can only live and study in England. This also applies to distance learning courses.
  • If you have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least three years and most recently resident in England, your eligibility is the same as a UK national. This means you can live and study in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England.

Note that, at this point, the application service does not know your residency.

This means you can select a university anywhere in the UK, but, if you subsequently provide an incompatible address, your application will end up being ineligible.


3. Provide course details

Once you have selected your university you can tell the system which Masters you will be studying

First state whether your programme is full-time or part-time and what its course duration is.

  • Full-time courses can be one or two years long
  • Part-time courses can be two, three or four years long

You will now be asked to enter the title of your course. This must be correct, or the application service will not be able to find it. Give the title as it appears on the university website (or in the FindAMasters database).

If you've typed your course correctly but can't find it can't find your course you may have entered the wrong information earlier in the application process. Courses will only appear if they match the university, mode of study and course duration you have previously selected.

Remember: you can change your course (and university) later

You need to specify an eligible university and Masters degree when applying for your loan, but these don't have to be your final choice. You can change either or both later (though your loan won't be paid until you register as a student).


4. Provide details of your nationality and residency status

You must now select your nationality from a dro-down menu. This list includes all nationalities recognised by the UK.

Next, you will be asked to give your residency status by selecting from a list. Your nationality must match with an eligible residency status in order for you to be eligible for a loan:

  • If you select an EU country (such as France or Italy) you will need to be ordinarily resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland.
  • If you select a non-EU EEA country (such as Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway) or if you select Switzerland you must have worked in the UK, be working in the UK or be looking for work in the UK.

If you have selected a non-EU, EEA or Swiss nationality, you should choose from one of the following options:

  • You have a family member who is an EU national.
  • You have a family member who is an EEA or Swiss national and who is working in the UK, has worked in the UK or is looking for work in the UK.
  • You are the child of a Swiss national who will be living in the UK on the first day of your course.
  • You are the child of a Turkish national who will be working in the UK on the first day of your course.
  • You, or your spouse / civil partner, or parents / step-parents have been granted 'refugee status' by the UK government.
  • You, or your spouse / civil partner, or parents / step-parents have been granted 'humanitarian protection' by the UK government.
  • You, or your spouse / civil partner, or parents / step-parents have been granted 'permanent residence' in the UK by the UK government, with 'indefinite leave to remain'.

Note that the application will proceed regardless of what you select at this point. However, you will be asked to send evidence of your residency status after submitting your application.

If none of the options above apply to you, you will not be able to apply for a postgraduate loan online.

However, you may still be able to submit a postal application if you have a history of 'long residence' in the UK. In order for this to apply as a Masters student you must:

  • Have spent at least half your life or at least 20 years in the UK, prior to the start of the first academic year of your course.
  • Have lived lawfully in the UK for at least three years immediately prior to beginning your course.

More information on the criteria for long residence in the UK is available here.


5. Provide address details

Once you have entered your nationality and residency, you must also provide details of your permanent home address.

This will be used to further assess your elibility criteria and support the information you have previously provided.

Your permanent home address can't be a temporary address or a student address (somewhere you are only living or have only lived whilst studying a Bachelors or other degree). Instead you should give an address you permanently own or rent. Or, if you live with parents or family you should give their address.

  • The system will first ask for your permanent home address on 1st September 2013 (three years before the start date of a Masters beginning in 1st September 2016).
  • It will then ask if this will still be your permanent home address on 1st September 2016 (the beginning of the upcoming academic year).

If your address has not changed you will have provided three years of address history and can proceed with your application. If this is not the case you will need to provide details of other addresses you have lived at, or will live at, between 1st September 2013 and 1st September 2016.

Remember: your permanent home address isn't necessarily your university address

You don't have to live at your permanent home address during your Masters course (and will not be able to if it is outside the UK). But you must give an accurate and genuine permanent home address.

6. State how much you wish to borrow

You will now state how much postgraduate loan you are requesting. The amount you can borrow as an EU or international student is exactly the same as a UK student: anything between £1 and £10,000.

Remember that you can change the amount you wish to borrow at any point up until one month before the end of a one year course or one month before the end of a course that lasts for two years or more.

If you are applying for a course that lasts longer than a year you will next be asked how much money you wish to request for your first year. The maximum you can borrow in your first year is £5,000. This means that:

  • If you are requesting £5,000 or less you can request up to your full loan amount in your first year.
  • If you are applying for more than £5,000 you can only request up to £5,000 in your first year. The rest will then be paid in your second year.

Note that, whatever your full loan request, you will only receive money in the first and second years of your course.


7. Request additional funding for a disability, mental-health condition or learning difficulty

Postgraduate loans do not affect your eligibility for Disabled Students' Allowance. This is a non-repayable grant that can help with the cost of your studies.

You can indicate a wish to request Disabled Students' Allowance at this point. If so you will be provided with a form to complete after you submit your Masters loan application.


8. Provide National Insurance and banking details if you have them

If you have not lived and worked in the UK before you may not have a UK National Insurance (NI) number or a UK bank account.

If you do have either or both of these, you should enter their details now. If you do not, you may proceed with your application, but will need to provide further information later:

  • You will need a National Insurance Number if you work or claim benefits whilst studying in the UK. You can apply for one here.
  • You will need a UK bank account in order to receive payments from your postgraduate loan, but you don't need to open before you apply. See our guide to opening a UK bank account for more information.

9. Give the address of a named contact

You will now be asked to name at least one family member or friend for the Student Loans Company to contact if they lose touch with you.

This person is not involved in your loan application: they are not your guarantor, they do not need to support your application and they are not financially liable for it in any way. In addition, they do not need to be a UK national or resident.

You should seek permission from any contact you name.

When you have named one contact you will be asked if you can provide another, at a different address. This is optional.


10. Agree to the terms and conditions

Before you can complete your application you must confirm that you have read, understood and agreed to the terms and conditions for your postgraduate loan.

You can view (and download) these in a PDF document, here. That PDF document isn't particularly long or complicated and we recommend you read it carefully before you apply.

Important details include the following:

  • Your postgraduate loan application will create a contract between you and the Student Loans Company. This will happen when you sign the declaration form after submitting your application.
  • You must provide correct information in your application and are responsible for keeping this up to date. This includes change of address, change of course (or university) or plans to leave the country for more than three months. If you do not keep the SLC updated, you could be liable for a penalty charge or early full repayment of your full loan and interest.
  • Regulations for your postgraduate loan may change in future. You will always be able to find up to date information at the UK Government website.

You must agree to these terms and conditions in order to complete your postgraduate loan application.


Applying by post

A paper application for postgraduate loans is also available. You can use this instead of the online service if you prefer.

Some students must apply by post. This is currently the case for anyone who has previously received student finance from Student Finance Wales or Student Finance NI. If so, you will not be able to create an additional Student Finance England account.

All of the forms you need for a paper application can be downloaded from the UK government website.

Your paper application form will require the same information as the online application service. Depending on your circumstances you may also need to submit supporting evidence. This could include the following:

  • UK students without a valid, in date, UK passport will need to send their birth or adoption certificate. These documents will be returned.
  • EU and international students will need to send other materials depending on their residency status. These could include your passport, national identity card and / or birth or marriage certificates. If you cannot send additional documents you may be able to send certified copies. More information is available in the application form and supporting documents.

At the end of your application you will find a declaration form. You must sign this to confirm that the information you have provided is correct and that you accept the terms and conditions of your loan.

Completing your postgraduate loan application - what happens next

Once you've submitted your application it will be reviewed by Student Finance England. This will take place whether you apply online or by post. The time required will vary, but the standard window is quoted at four to six weeks.

What happens next depends on how much extra information is needed from you. There are three stages your application may now go through, depending on how much further information is required from you:

1. Submit any additional evidence

If you need to prove your residency, qualifications or other criteria, Student Finance England will request appropriate materials from you.

You may be informed of these requirements as soon as you submit your application or you may need to wait until it has been reviewed.

2. Print, sign and send your declaration form

Your declaration form confirms that you have supplied correct information to Student Finance England and have understood the terms and conditions of your loan. Signing it will enter you into a contract with the Student Loans Company.

Postal applications will already include a declaration form. Online applications will generate one for you to print and send once your application is submitted and processed.

3. Receive your loan entitlement letter

Once your application is approved and you have sent your declaration form you will receive an entitlement letter. This confirms that Student Finance England will lend you the amount you have requested.

You don't need this letter to collect payments (they will be paid directly into your bank account) but you may need to show it to your university when arranging to pay your Masters fees.

4. Receive your first postgraduate loan payment!

All that's left to do now is to get started with your Masters. Make sure you have a valid UK bank account by this point. You'll then begin receiving loan payments as soon as the university confirms your registration and attendance.

Loan payments will be made in instalments, according to your mode of study. You'll normally receive three payments per year. For more information see our guide.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Hopefully this page has answered most of your questions about applying for a postgraduate loan. The following FAQs may help if you still have any queries.

Do I have to apply online?

No. An offline application service is also available. Applying online may be quicker though.

How long will the application process take?

Student Finance England will process your request within 4-6 weeks. Some applications may take less time than this. Those that require additional evidence may take slightly longer to process - particularly if materials such as residency evidence need to be looked at by a Student Loans Company assessor.

The best advice is to apply as early as you can. This will help ensure your loan is confirmed in time for your course.

What if I don't have a UK National Insurance number?

If you're applying for a postgraduate loan as an EU student you may not yet have a National Insurance number. This can be given to you once you arrive in the UK.

What if I don't have a UK bank account?

You must have a UK bank account in order to receive postgraduate loan payments. However, you don't need a UK bank account to apply for a postgraduate loan. Provided you open an account in time for the start of your course you will be able to receive your payments.

There's more information on student bank accounts as part of our guide to Masters study in the UK.

What if I can't find my course when applying online?

The online application service uses a database to match students with eligible courses uploaded by universities. You should be able to find your Masters degree using this system. If you can't, it may be worth trying the following:

  • Check that you've entered the correct mode of study and course duration - You will only be able to see degrees that fit the filters you've set at previous steps of the application process. Courses that are only available full-time won't appear if you have selected part-time study, for example.
  • Check that the course is eligible - Courses that aren't eligible for postgraduate loans (such as integrated Masters) won't be eligible and won't appear in the database.
  • Check with the university - Universities have been responsible for entering their own courses into the Student Finance England database. It's possible that a course may have been missed by mistake.

Can I change my mind about my course or loan amount?

Yes. You can change your intended course before your loan is confirmed by logging back into the online service.

You can also change the amount you want to borrow at any point up to one month before the end of its payment period. This will normally be one month before the end of your course if you are studying full-time, or one month before the end of the second year of your course if you are a part-time student.

I have an undergraduate loan from the Student Loans Company - should I use my existing Customer Reference Number (CRN)?

Yes - you should always use an existing account for your postgraduate loan application, where possible. The system will not allow you to create additional accounts.

If you cannot remember your CRN (or password) you can recover them by contacting Student Finance England.

Is there a deadline for postgraduate loan applications?

Yes, but it is quite relaxed. You must apply for a loan within nine months of the start-date of the either the first or second year of your Masters.

This means that you can actually apply for a loan after you begin a course. Note that this only applies to students beginning a Masters from August 2016. You cannot apply for a loan if you are already studying a Masters before this point.

Do I have to be accepted onto a course before I can apply for a loan?

No - you can apply for a loan before you have been accepted to study a Masters. You can even apply for a loan before applying for a Masters.

However, you will need to specify your chosen university and programme during your loan application. And payments for your loan will only begin once your registration and study are confirmed.

This means that it's probably a good idea to find a Masters before you apply for a postgraduate loan.

Do I have to re-apply for a loan in subsequent years of study?

No - you only need to make one application for a postgraduate loan. You'll specify the amount you wish to borrow (up to the £10,000 maximum) and this will then be paid to you in intervals across the first two years of your course.

Where can I find out more about the postgraduate loans?

The best place to find more information on the new Masters degree loans is our detailed guide. We've done our best to make sure it's the most comprehensive source of information available, with a detailed FAQ and regular updates.

Last updated - 01/07/2016

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