Students across the UK will can apply for a postgraduate loan in 2017. Applications for English, Welsh and Scottish loans are now open. Applications for Northern Irish loans are expected to launch soon.
This updated guide explains the postgraduate loan application process, with walkthroughs for using the online systems (and advice on postal applications). We've also included a quick FAQ, covering some common questions and offering additional advice.
We'll update this page as more postgraduate loans open. You can also stay updated via our newsletter.
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 your residency, or the course you wish to study.
There are a few things to do before you begin though:
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 services 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 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 apply for a loan, but not sure of the exact course you want to study? Our database lets you search and compare thousands of eligible Masters programmes. Why not take a look?
There are four different postgraduate loan schemes in the UK, with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all offering their own systems.
It's important that you apply to the right one!
In most cases you should apply for a postgraduate loan from the country in which you are ordinarily resident. This is the country you normally live in when you aren't studying.
Note that the country you apply for a loan from won't necessarily be the same as that in which you will study your Masters.
This means you can normally study at a university anywhere in the UK with a loan from your 'home country'. (A possible exception applies to Scottish loans: these are only 'portable' across the UK if the course you wish to study isn't offered in Scotland).
EU students can apply for a postgraduate loan in any part of the UK, but must live and study in the country they receive a loan from. Exceptions apply if you are already living in the UK (not purely for the purposes of study). If so, you can apply for a loan on similar terms to UK students.
EU students can still apply for a postgraduate loan to begin a course in 2017-18. Fee and funding guarantees are in place across the UK.
If in doubt, contact the student finance body you are considering applying to and check your eligibility. The four UK student finance bodies are:
There are normally two ways to apply for a postgraduate loan:
If you have previously had an undergraduate loan (and your residency status has not changed) you should apply to the same student finance body, using an existing account. Doing this online will normally be faster.
If your residency status has changed, your postgraduate loan will be paid by a new student finance provider. If so you may not be able to create a second student finance account and should apply by post instead.
EU students can apply online or by post, but are more likely to require additional supporting documents.
These loans may be available to you if you are beginning a UK Masters in 2017 or if you began a UK Masters in 2016 and have not yet applied for student finance.
In order to receive a loan you must normally be a UK student, ordinarily resident in England or an EU, EEA or Swiss student, ordinarily resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland. Other eligibility criteria may also apply.
The following are the stages you will complete during your Masters loan application.
We've summarised on each step of the process, so you can see what will be involved and what information you will need to provide.
This information is based on the system run by Student Finance England. It is correct to the best of our knowledge, but is meant as a general overview only.
Before you can use the online system you'll need a student finance account.
You may already have one if you've applied to Student Finance England before (for your undergraduate degree, for example). If so you should log in with your existing account and customer reference number (CRN).
In order to create a new account you'll need to provide personal information, including your National Insurance number (if you have one).
Note that if you have previously applied for a loan from another UK student finance body you may need to apply to Student Finance England by post, rather than creating an additional online student finance account.
The online system covers a range of student finance options. To apply for a Masters loan, you should select Higher education and then Postgraduate.
This will ensure that the right eligibility criteria and finance options are used for your application.
The online service will offer some guidance to ensure you are applying for the right type of finance for your course. You can read more about eligible courses in our full postgraduate loans guide.
At this point you also be reminded that the information you give during your application must be genuine (and that knowingly providing false information is an offense).
The next step is to state whether you have already begun your Masters and give the (past or future) start date for your course.
There are actually two 'versions' of the English postgraduate loan:
By checking your start date, the online system can determine which loan you are eligible for.
You must now select your nationality, from one of four groups:
If you select UK (including Northern Ireland) you will be asked where your permanent home was / will be at the beginning of the first academic year of your course*.
If you select, EU, Republic of Ireland or another country, you will be asked if you have / will have lived in the UK for 3 years or more immediately prior to the beginning of the first academic year of your course*.
Note that the answers you give to these questions (and follow-up questions) will be used to check your loan eligiblity:
If your answers do not fit these requirements you may not be able to proceed with your application.
In some cases, students who do not fit these residency criteria may still be eligible. If so, you should contact Student Finance England to discuss your case.
*For students who have already started a Masters, this will be 1st Septmeber 2016; for new postgraduates, this will be 1st September 2017.
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:
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 (for example, if you are applying as an EU student with an undergraduate degree from your home country). You will then be prompted for more information about your course, subject and university.
Student Finance England will check the details of any foreign qualifications when you submit your application. Provided they are not equivalent to a UK Masters degree, you should still be eligible.
English postgraduate loans are only available for full Masters degrees*. These qualifications are normally worth 180 credits**.
Other qualifications such as the Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits**) or Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits**) are not eligible, nor are programmes of study which will 'top up' existing qualifications to full Masters level.
Provided you are studying (or will be studying) a full 180 credit Masters, you can continue with your application.
**One UK credit is roughly equivalent to two ECTS credits.
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.
If you are applying as an EU student you should ensure that the university you select matches your residency status:
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.
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.
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).
If you are a UK student you will now be prompted to enter your passport details (if you are an EU student you should skip to step 4. (b) below).
If you have your passport to hand you can enter your surname, forename, 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.
If you are applying as an EU student, you must now select your nationality and residency status.
Your nationality must match with an eligible residency status in order for you to be eligible for a loan:
If you have selected a non-EU, EEA or Swiss nationality, you should choose from one of the following options:
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:
More information on the criteria for long residence in the UK is available here.
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.
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 during the relevant period.
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.
You will now state how much postgraduate loan you are requesting.
If you started your Masters in the 2016-17 academic year, this can be any amount between £1 and £10,000.
If you are starting your Masters in the 2017-18 academic year, this can be any amount between £1 and £10,280.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
Please note that the information in this walkthrough is offered in good faith, as a broad guide. Exact steps may vary depending on your circumstances and changes made by Student Finance England.
A paper application for English 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:
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.
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 you:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Applications for Welsh postgraduate loans use a version of the system for English loans. This is because the loans themselves are largely similar and are paid by the Student Loans Company on behalf of Student Finance England and Student Finance Wales.
As a result, we haven't produced a full walkthrough for the Welsh Masters loans (most of the steps would be the same as those for the English application system, described above).
There are some differences between English and Welsh postgraduate loan applications. In particular, you should be aware of the following:
Applications for Scottish student loans use a new online system, launched for 2017. You will need to register with Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) and create an account in order to apply.
Note that this system is not specific to postgraduate loans: it allows students to apply for a range of finance options, depending on the details they select.
The following is a walkthrough for using the SAAS system to apply for a postgraduate loan. It explains the main steps you will need to take and the information you may need to provide.
You must first provide some information about yourself. This will set up your profile with SAAS. Some of the information you provide will also be used to check your eligibility.
The system will ask you to enter the following details:
You can also provide optional telephone contact information.
Note that most of this personal information will not affect your loan eligibility. However, you must be under 60 at the beginning of your course to be eligible for the living costs portion of your postgraduate loan.
Another exception is your residency category. You will be asked to select from Scotland, Rest of UK, or EU. Under normal circumstances, only students resident in Scotland or the EU will be eligible for a Scottish postgraduate loan.
The next step is to provide information about the course you'll be studying.
To apply for a postgraduate loan, you will need to select 'Postgraduate' as your course type.
You must then say whether you are studying full-time or part-time. Note that if you select 'part-time' you will only be able to apply for the tuition fee portion of the Scottish postgraduate loan. See our guide for more information on programme criteria.
Next, select the institution you wish to study at, from the drop-down list. You don't necessarily need to have applied to this university yet.
You will then be able to select a course at your chosen institution. If you don't see your course listed, select 'other'. SAAS will check whether a loan is available for your course once you have submitted your application. Eligible courses should include most taught Masters and Postgraduate Diploma courses in the UK. However, courses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must not also be offered at universities in Scotland.
Next, select your course start date and length. These must also match eligibility criteria. The new Scottish postgraduate loans are only available for courses beginning in autumn 2017. Maximum course length is as follows:
Finally, you will need to state your year of entry. This is the year of your course you are entering (for example, if you were beginning in the second year of a two-year Masters you would select '2').
You must now confirm your residency status. This is an important eligibility criteria.
First, select your nationality. All nationalities are potentially eligible for a Scottish postgraduate loan, provided other criteria are met.
Next, select your country of birth (this should match any other details or identity documents you supply). If you select 'United Kingdom' you will also need to say where in the UK you were born.
Finally, select the country in which you are ordinarily resident. This is very important: in order to be eligible to apply for a Scottish postgraduate loan as a UK student, you must be ordinarily resident in Scotland (not purely for the purposes of study). Other postgraduate loans are available for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The system will now check your recent residency history in order to confirm that you will be eligible for a loan.
First you will be asked if you expect to be ordinarily resident in Scotland on 1st August 2017. This helps confirm that you will be a Scottish resident at the beginning of your postgraduate course.
Next, you will be asked whether you have lived in Scotland for 12 months before 1st August 2017. Note that this is not the same as ordinary residence and living outside Scotland during this period will not necessarily make you ineligible. For example, you may have been temporarily living elsewhere in the UK as a student (which doesn't affect your residency status).
Finally, the system will ask if you will have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years before 1st August 2017. This confirms whether you are able to apply as a UK-resident (as opposed to an EU-resident).
You must now provide details of your education so far.
First, select the country in which you attended your last school. Note that this refers to 'secondary school' or 'high school', not the college or university where you studied your undergraduate degree.
Next, give the details of your last school (including the year you left).
You must now provide details of other qualifications you have gained since leaving school. This should include any university education, such as undergraduate (or postgraduate) degrees.
You will need to provide information about each course, including its name, level and qualification awarded as well as details of the provider (such as a university) and your start and end dates. You should also provide details of any funders - including student finance organisations.
Note that you may still be able to apply for a loan if you already hold a postgraduate qualification, but will not normally be able to apply for support with tuition fees if you have previously been funded by the SAAS.
You should complete this process for all tertiary qualifications you hold.
The next step is to enter the details of your employment and education over the past three years (since August 2014).
You can record as many activities as necessary. For each, give the start and end date, plus information on what you've been doing, the name of the organisation you did it with and where you lived at the time.
Next, state whether there are any other students in your household receiving funding from Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).
If there are, you will need to add their details including their relationship to you and their reference number, if you have it.
Now comes one of the most important steps in your application. This is where you'll state which part (or parts) of the postgraduate loan you are applying for.
There are two components to the Scottish postgraduate loan:
Note that the eligibility criteria for these loan components varies slightly. In order to be eligible for a living costs loan you must be a UK student, aged under 60 at the beginning of your course and studying full time.
At this point you can also indicate whether you will be applying for Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) alongside your loan. This is a separate source of support, available to students with disabilities, illnesses or related conditions.
You application for DSA will use a separate form, but you should tell SAAS now if you will be requesting this support.
Scotland's postgraduate loan system is split into two different parts. Our guide explains the difference between tuition fee and living costs loans.
If you are requesting a living costs loan you will now need to provide details for a UK bank account (including account number and sort-code. This is where your loan instalments will be paid.
If you are only requesting a tuition fee loan you will not need to provide bank details (these loans are paid directly to your university by SAAS).
Now, you must state how much you wish to borrow for each of the loans you have requested.
Other information may also be requested at this point, including the district in which your birth certificate was issued and further confirmation of your National Insurance Number.
You will need to give two named contacts for SAAS (and the Student Loans Company) to use if they cannot reach you.
These individuals will not need to give references or other information to support your application. But you should still seek their permission before selecting them.
Your contacts must also live at different addresses.
Next, you will need to give details of the address you will be living at during your course. This can be your home address, or it can be student accommodation.
If you don't yet know your term address, you can put your current home address and update this information later.
Finally, you must confirm that you understand and accept the terms and conditions of your loan. This is very important. Any misinformation during your application (or any misconduct later) could have serious consequences.
Make sure you read all the regulations carefully. In particular, we recommend you bear in mind the following:
Once you have accepted these terms and conditions you can submit your loan application. SAAS will review your details and contact you if any further information or evidence is required.
Please note that the information provided in this walkthrough is offered as a general guide only. Exact steps and requirements may differ slightly due to your individual circumstances.
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.
It depends which loan you are applying for:
We'll update with information on other systems once applications open in Wales and Northern Ireland.
The student finance bodies will aim to process your request promptly:
Applications that require additional evidence may take slightly longer to process - particularly if materials such as residency evidence need to be assessed.
The best advice is to apply as early as you can once applications open. This will help ensure your loan is confirmed in time for your course.
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.
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 an English postgraduate loan. Provided you open an account in time for the start of your course you will be able to receive your payments.
The Scottish postgraduate loan application system will ask for your bank account. You should seek advice from the SAAS if you aren't able to provide this information.
The online application services use 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:
Yes. You can change your intended course before your loan is confirmed by logging back into the online service.
You may also be able to change the amount you want to borrow. For English loans you can do this at any point up to one month before the end of your 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.
Yes - you should always use an existing account for your postgraduate loan application, where possible. The system may not allow you to create additional accounts.
If you cannot remember your details you can recover them by contacting the relevant student finance body.
Yes, but it will depend on the loan you apply for.
Deadlines for other postgraduate loans will be released when their applications open.
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.
No - you only need to make one application for a postgraduate loan. You'll specify the amount you wish to borrow (up to the maximum available) and this will then be paid to you in intervals during your course.
The best way to find more information on all four UK Masters degree loans is through 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 - 14/06/2017