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Postgraduate Loans - 2018 Application Guides

Getting ready to apply for a postgraduate loan in 2018? Got questions about what you'll need and when you'll need it? Not actually sure which loan to apply for? This page is here to help.

We've put together some general information on the application process for a postgraduate loan, plus specific tips and things to bear in mind for the different UK systems.

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 your residency, or 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 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.

Looking for a Masters?

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?

#2 Work out which postgraduate loan you should apply for

There are four different loan schemes for Masters-level courses in the UK and it's important that you apply for the right one!

If you're a UK student or an EU student living in the UK you should apply for a loan from the country you're 'ordinarily resident' in. This is normally going to be the country you lived in before you went to university and / or the country you received your undergraduate student loan from.

Note that, for UK-resident students, the country you apply for a loan from doesn't have to be the one you plan to study in. All of the loans are 'portable'. This means you can use them to study at any UK university.

If you're an EU student living outside the UK things are actually a bit simpler: you should simply apply for a loan from the country you plan to study in (loans aren't portable for EU students).

Students from the EEA or Switzerland can apply in the same way as EU students, provided you meet the eligibility criteria (check our full postgraduate loan guides if you aren't sure).

Basically, the application rules work like this:


Choosing the Right UK Postgraduate Loan
Studying in England Studying in Scotland Studying in Wales Studying in N. Ireland
Resident in England English loan English loan English loan English loan
Resident in Scotland Scottish loan* Scottish loan Scottish loan* Scottish loan*
Resident in Wales Welsh loan Welsh loan Welsh loan Welsh loan
Resident in N. Ireland N. Irish loan N. Irish loan N. Irish loan N. Irish loan
Resident outside UK** English loan Scottish loan Welsh loan N. Irish loan

*Scottish postgraduate loans may only be available for study in other parts of the UK when an equivalent postgraduate course is not offered by a Scottish university.

**EU, EEA & Swiss students may be eligible for UK postgraduate loans without being UK residents, provided they are ordinarily resident in the EU, UK or Switzerland (and live in the relevant UK country on the first day of their course).


If you still aren't sure which loan to apply for, the best thing to do is contact the most relevant student finance body and check your eligibility.

The four UK student finance bodies are:

#3 Decide how to apply

There are normally two ways to apply for a postgraduate loan:

  • You can apply online using a new or existing student finance account.
  • You can apply by post, using forms downloaded from your loan provider.

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.

So, now you (hopefully) know which loan to apply for and how. Let's take a quick look at the application schemes for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

England

The English postgraduate loans were launched in 2016, making this the longest-running of the four UK schemes. Applications go through Student Finance England, using a similar system to undergraduate student finance.

How do I apply?

Apply online by logging in to the Student Finance England service, or by post, after downloading an application form (PDF).

When can I apply?

You can apply right now! Applications for 2018-19 opened in June. Loans are also still available for students who began a Masters in 2017-18, provided you apply before the deadline. Speaking of which. . .

What's the deadline?

You need to apply at least nine months from the start of your final year. So, if you're studying a Masters that begins on 1 September, you need to apply by 1 June.

SFE aim to deal with most applications in 4-6 weeks. They may take longer if additional information and evidence is required.

What will I need?

You'll need to provide the following during your application for an English postgraduate loan:

  • Your intended university and course details. You don't need to have applied or been accepted yet (and you can change your mind later) but you will need to select an eligible course from the SFE database as you apply.
  • Details of your passport. If you don't have a passport you can send details of an equivalent document such as a birth certificate or adoption certificate.
  • Your address history. The application system will need to confirm that you meet the residency criteria for an English postgraduate loan.
  • Your bank details. You'll need a UK bank account to receive loan payments. If you don't have one yet you can provide this information later.

Some applications may also require other information and evidence in order to confirm your eligibility.

Things to bear in mind

The following are worth being aware of as you apply for an English postgraduate loan:

  • You should use your existing Student Finance England account (if you have one)
  • If you have an account with another student finance agency, you will normally need to apply for an English postgraduate loan by post (you can't have more than one student finance account)
  • You only need to apply once (even if your course lasts more than a year)
  • You can still apply if you're studying a Masters that began before 2018, but the amount you can borrow will be lower: £10,000 for 2016-17 courses and £10,280 for 2017-18 courses (it's £10,609 for 2018-19)
  • You have to nominate an eligible course - and this means a full postgraduate Masters degree: Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma courses won't show up in the SFE database

Further information

Our guide and FAQ explains everything you need to know about the English postgraduate loans. You can also find more advice (and various application forms) on the UK Government website.

Scotland

Scotland first launched its postgraduate loans in 2017, but the system hasn't really changed for 2018. Applications are handled by Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

How do I apply?

You should apply directly to SAAS using their online system. If you have a recent account with them (created since 2016-17) you should use this to apply. If not, you'll need to register for one.

When can I apply?

Now! Applications for Scottish postgraduate loans opened earlier this year.

What's the deadline?

You'll need to apply by the end of 31 March 2019. However, if you want your loan to be processed before you start a course in 2018, you should apply as soon as possible - ideally by the end of June 2018.

What will I need?

You'll need to provide the following information when applying for a Scottish postgraduate loan:

  • Information on your course and university. You should be able to select this from a list of suitable options. If you can't see the programme you want to study, check the eligibility criteria.
  • Your personal details including your date of birth, nationality and NI number (if you have one). This information will be used to check your personal eligibility.
  • Your residency history. This will confirm where you are ordinarily resident and where you have been living during the previous three years.
  • The funding type(s) you are applying for. Scotland offers separate tuition fee and living-cost loans, which work slightly differently.
  • Your bank details. You'll need a UK bank account if you're applying for a living-cost loan.

The application system will also ask for other information, including named contacts and details of where you will be living during your course.

Things to bear in mind

Scottish postgraduate loans work a little differently to those in other parts of the UK - the following tips are worth keeping in mind as you apply:

  • Scotland offers two loans with separate criteria: all eligible students can apply for a £5,500 tuition fee loan; Scottish resident UK students aged under 60 on full-time courses can also apply for a £4,500 living-cost loan
  • If you want a tuition-fee loan for a course that lasts longer than 12 months, you'll need to reapply each year
  • You need to apply for your loan online, not by post
  • Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees are eligible for Scottish postgraduate loans, but both types of qualification must be taught courses
  • You can use the loan to study elsewhere in the UK, but only if an equivalent course isn't offered in Scotland (SAAS may query this)

Further information

There's detailed information on the Scottish postgraduate loan in our guide and FAQ. You can also find some guidance and supporting information on the SAAS website.

Wales

Wales introduced its Masters loans in 2017, provided by Student Finance Wales (SFW). The same system is available in 2018, but substantial changes are planned for 2019, with the introduction of combined grants and loans for postgraduate study. Our newsletter will let you know once the details are confirmed.

How do I apply?

You can apply by logging in online, or by downloading an application form to apply by post.

When can I apply?

Now! Welsh Masters loans opened for 2018-19 applications in June. Students who began a Masters in 2017-18 can also apply, but will only be able to borrow £10,280 (as opposed to the increased £13,000 2018-19 loan amount).

What's the deadline?

It's the same as England: you need to apply at least nine months from the start of your final year. So, if you're studying a Masters that begins on 1 September, apply by 1 June.

What will I need?

Requirements for the Welsh Masters loan are essentially the same as the English system. You'll need to give details of:

  • Your course and university. You don't need to have applied or been accepted yet (and you can change your mind later) but you will need to select an eligible course as you apply.
  • Details of your passport. If you don't have a passport you can send details of an equivalent document such as a birth or adoption certificate.
  • Your address history. The application system will need to confirm that you meet the residency criteria for a Welsh postgraduate loan.
  • Your bank details. You'll need a UK bank account to receive loan payments. If you don't have one yet you can provide this information later.

Some applications may also require other information and evidence in order to confirm your eligibility.

Things to bear in mind

As you've probably gathered by now, the Welsh postgraduate loan system is largely identical to that in England - at least for now. Still, it's worth keeping the following in mind as you apply:

  • Welsh loans are worth up to £13,000, not £10,609 - that's one big difference and worth keeping in mind
  • If you already have a Student Finance Wales account, you should use this for your postgraduate loan application; if you have another student finance account you should apply to SFW by post
  • You only need to apply for a Welsh postgraduate loan at the beginning of your course
  • Applying for the 2018-19 loan will (probably) make you ineligible for the new Welsh postgraduate funding system in 2019

Further information

There's detailed information on the Welsh postgraduate loan in our guide and FAQ. You can also find some guidance and supporting information on the SFW website.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland introduced postgraduate loans in 2017 and is offering exactly the same funding for 2018, provided by Student Finance Northern Ireland (SFNI).

These loans only provide £5,500 for tuition fees, but, in many other ways, they're the most flexible of the four UK schemes.

How do I apply?

You can apply online at the SFNI website or by posting an application form (PDF).

When can I apply?

Applications for 2018-19 are open now. You can borrow up to £5,500 towards your postgraduate tuition fees (the same as in 2017-18).

What's the deadline?

You'll need to apply in each year of your course, within nine months of the start of the academic year.

What will I need?

You'll need to provide the following information with your application:

  • Your course and university details - most Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and Masters courses are eligible, and you should be able to find yours in the SFNI database
  • Details of your tuition fee amount (you can't borrow any more than this)
  • Your personal information, including your nationality, residency status and address
  • Your bank details - you'll need a UK account to receive loan payments

You may also be asked to give some other details, including providing the address of a named contact and confirming whether you want your loan amount to be adjustable later in your course.

Things to bear in mind

  • You'll need to reapply in each year of your course
  • If you already have an SFNI account, you should use it for this application; if you have an account with another UK student finance agency, you should apply for your postgraduate loan by post
  • You don't actually have to be studying a full 180 Masters - the system may ask you if this is the case, but saying 'no' won't make you ineligible
  • There is no age limit for the Northern Irish postgraduate loans(!)
  • You can apply for up to one loan, even if you already have a postgraduate qualification (provided you didn't have a loan for it, of course)

Further information

There's detailed information on the Northern Irish postgraduate loan in our guide and FAQ. You can also find some guidance and supporting information on the SFNI website.

Frequently asked questions

We'll be honest: in most cases, the best people to solve problems with your specific application will be the student finance provider you're applying to.

That said, we can help with a few common questions:

What do I do if I can't find my course?

Check you've entered the details correctly and confirm it's eligible (bear in mind that some of the loans have slightly different criteria - check our guides if you aren't sure).

If you still can't find your course, it's probably a good idea to contact the university and the relevant student finance agency.

Do I have to be accepted on to a course before I apply?

No. You don't need to prove that you've been accepted for a postgraduate course before you apply. However, you will need to nominate an eligible course during your application. You'll also need to be studying one (confirmed by your university!) before you can receive any loan payments!

How do I apply for Disabled Students' Allowance?

In most cases, you begin your application for postgraduate DSA using the same system (assuming you're eligible). There will be a point when you're asked if you also want to apply for DSA - follow the steps there.

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

You'll need to open a suitable UK bank account before you can receive loan payments, but you may be able to apply without having done so yet.

Will my credit score be checked?

No. Your credit rating doesn't matter when you apply for a postgraduate student loan. However, you will need to make sure you don't owe any outstanding repayments to the Student Loans Company (repayments you were eligible to make, but didn't).

How can I be certain I'll get my loan on time?

The best advice is the most obvious: apply early!

You should also try to provide as much information as possible - and be as accurate as possible. It goes without saying that applications will take longer if your details need to be queried, or extra evidence has to be requested.

Last updated - 26/06/2018

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