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Postgraduate Loan – A Guide for 2021

You may be able to get a postgraduate student loan from Student Finance England of up to £11,570 to help pay for a Masters degree. The money is paid to you and only needs to be repaid when you're earning over £21,000 a year.

Coronavirus information: Student Finance England is providing Masters loans as usual. See our FAQ for general information about coronavirus and postgraduate study.

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English Postgraduate Loan - At a Glance
Overview: Postgraduate loans for Masters in all subjects.
Value: Up to £11,570 in 2021-22.
Eligibility: UK nationals resident in England / people with EU settled status or indefinite leave to remain, resident in England.
Location: Any UK university.
Repayment: 6% of income over £21,000.
Applications Now open for 2020-21 courses (applications will open in summer 2021 for 2021-22 courses).


You can borrow up to £11,570 for a Masters starting in 2021-22.

The money will be paid directly to your bank account. You can use it for Masters tuition fees or living costs, but there isn't a separate postgraduate maintenance loan.

Payments are divided equally across your course and paid in three instalments per academic year.

You'll get:

  • 33% at or near your course start date (once your university confirms your registration)
  • 33% on the last Wednesday of the 4th month of your course
  • 34% on the last Wednesday of the 7th month of your course

The exact value of each instalment depends on how much loan you request and how long your course is. Student Finance England will write to you to confirm when instalments are due.

Masters loans aren’t means-tested. You can borrow the same amount regardless of your income or savings.

Students who have already started a Masters can borrow slightly less:

  • £10,280 for Masters that started in 2017-18
  • £10,609 for Masters that started in 2018-19
  • £10,906 for Masters that started in 2019-20
  • £11,222 for Masters that started in 2020-21

You can only have one postgraduate loan, but you can combine this support with other postgraduate funding.

Frequently asked questions

Got another question about the postgraduate loan amount or payment process? Check if we've answered it below!

Is the loan amount linked to my fees?

The value of an English postgraduate loan isn't linked to tuition fees. You can borrow up to the maximum regardless of how much your Masters degree costs.

What if the loan isn't enough?

The cost of a Masters varies and your postgraduate loan isn’t guaranteed to cover all of your tuition fees and / or living costs. Instead the money is offered as a ‘contribution to the cost’ of a Masters degree. However, you can combine a postgraduate loan with some other funding.

What if my course costs less than £11,570?

You can still borrow up to the maximum amount. The remaining money can be used for accommodation, living expenses or other things – it’s up to you.

Do I have to borrow the full amount?

You can borrow anything between £1 and the maximum.

Can I get a postgraduate maintenance loan?

Postgraduate loans are provided to help with tuition and living costs. There is no additional postgraduate maintenance loan.

Can I combine a loan with other funding?

Masters loans are compatible with most other postgraduate funding including charitable grants and university scholarships.

Exceptions apply if you are already receiving (or about to receive) other public funding for your Masters (money provided by the UK Government). This includes NHS bursaries and Research Council studentships.

Can I change the amount I borrow?

You can use a loan request form to can change your postgraduate loan amount at any point up to nine months from the first day of your final academic year.

Can I still receive Disabled Students’ Allowance if I have a postgraduate loan?

Yes. Eligibility (and payments) for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) are separate from postgraduate loans.

Will the loan amount change?

Yes. The maximum value of a postgraduate Masters loan increases with inflation each year, but the rise only applies to new students.

When will I receive my postgraduate loan?

You’ll receive your first payment soon after your university confirms your attendance on your course. The money will be paid directly into your UK bank account.

What happens if I'm paid too much?

You should notify Student Finance England immediately if your postgraduate loan is overpaid. This could happen if you withdraw from your Masters without notification and continue to receive loan instalments when you aren’t studying.

Overpayments may need to be paid back directly, rather than through the normal income-contingent repayment system.


The English postgraduate loan is available to UK students, provided you meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Nationality and residency (UK) – You must be a UK citizen (or have leave to remain in the UK), be ordinarily resident in England (you can’t have moved there just to study) and have lived in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man during the previous three years.
  • Age – You must be under 60 (aged 59 or younger) on the first day of the first academic year of your Masters. For courses starting in the Autumn term this will normally be 1st September.
  • Previous qualifications – You can't already have a Masters degree or a higher level qualification (like a PhD).

You may also be eligible for a loan if one of the following applies:

  • You are an Irish national
  • You are the child of a Turkish worker
  • You or a family member have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
  • You are 18 or over and have lived in the UK for at least 20 years and / or half of your life

There is helpful advice on the UKCISA website if you aren't sure about your eligibility as a non-UK student.

If you’re a UK student who normally lives in another part of the UK, you'll need to apply for a different postgraduate loan.

Brexit and eligibility for the postgraduate loan

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss national beginning a Masters in England from August 2021 onwards, you will only be eligible for a postgraduate loan if you have EU settled status.

In order to apply for EU settled status, you’ll need to have been living in the UK before 31 December 2020.

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss national studying a Masters in the 2020-21 academic year, you will be eligible for UK student finance for the duration of your programme. However, you may need to apply for a student visa if you’re arriving in the UK to begin a Masters in January 2021.

Frequently asked questions

Here are the answers to some other common questions about postgraduate loan eligibility.

How will my residency be checked?

You’ll be asked to provide at least three years’ address history during your postgraduate loan application. Student Finance England may query any details that might affect your eligibility.

What counts as being ‘ordinarily resident’ in England?

To be eligible for an English Masters loan as a UK student you must be ordinarily resident in England. This means that England is where you normally live and you haven’t moved there just to go to university.

You will normally count as being ordinarily resident in England if any or all of the following are true:

  • You lived in England before you went to university for your Bachelors degree
  • You received an undergraduate student loan from Student Finance England
  • You have lived and worked in England after graduating from university

What if I have moved from England to another part of the UK for my undergraduate degree?

You will still count as an English-resident if you have studied your undergraduate degree in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and want to continue straight on to a Masters. This means you will be able to apply for an English postgraduate loan.

What if I have moved to England from another part of the UK for my undergraduate degree?

Because you only moved to England to study, your residency status won’t have changed. You will still count as being ordinarily resident in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and should apply for a postgraduate loan from the country you lived in before you went to university.

What if I work after my undergraduate degree, instead of going straight on to a Masters?

Living and working in a different part of the UK means you aren’t just there to go to university. This can change your residency status.

For example:

  • You live in Scotland but go to university in England. After graduating you stay in England to work for several months and eventually decide to study a Masters the following year. You will now count as being ordinarily resident in England and should apply for an English postgraduate loan rather than a Scottish postgraduate loan.

The same would be true for an English student who had lived and worked elsewhere in the UK after graduating.

If you aren’t sure about your residency status, check with Student Finance England.

Can I apply if I’ve lived outside the UK in the last three years?

In order to apply for a loan as a UK student you must have lived in the UK for three years prior to your course. You can travel for holidays or other periods of ‘temporary absence’ from the UK during this period, but you shouldn’t have become ordinarily resident in another country.

Are postgraduate loans means-tested?

No. Your income, savings and other financial circumstances don’t affect your eligibility for a postgraduate loan. All that matters is that you and your course are eligible.

Will my credit history be checked?

Postgraduate loans are a student finance product, not a commercial loan. Your personal credit rating and existing debts won’t matter.

The only exception concerns existing arrears with the Student Loans Company. If you owe undergraduate loan repayments that should have been made you won’t be able to apply for a postgraduate loan until these are dealt with.

Will a postgraduate loan affect my benefits?

Postgraduate loans are paid directly to your bank account. This means that they function as a form of income and can affect the amount of welfare support you can claim. You should discuss this with Student Finance England and / or your benefits provider if you aren’t sure.

Can I get a postgraduate loan whilst working?

Yes. You can have a job during your Masters and still access postgraduate student finance.

Can I have more than one student loan at the same time?

You can’t receive student loans for different degrees simultaneously. This means that you can’t apply for a postgraduate loan whilst you’re still getting payments from an undergraduate loan.

Can I have a second postgraduate loan?

You won’t be able to apply for a new loan if you have already had one for a previous Masters. This applies regardless of whether or not you completed that course.

Similarly, you can't apply for an English Masters loan if you have previously had another UK postgraduate loan. This applies even if your previous loan was for a non-Masters course.

Can I get a loan if I already have a self-funded Masters?

No. Postgraduate Masters loans are only available to people without existing Masters-level qualifications (or higher). Unfortunately you won’t be able to apply if you already have a Masters you paid for yourself.

Can I apply if I already have a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma?

Yes. You can still apply for a loan for a new Masters degree if you already have a postgraduate qualification below Masters level, such as a PGCert or PGDip.

However, you can’t have a loan to study one of these courses or upgrade an existing qualification to a full Masters.

Can I apply if I already have a PGCE?

Yes. You can still apply for a loan to study a Masters if you already hold a postgraduate teacher training qualification such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) (provided your course did not award a full 180 credit Masters degree).

Can I get a Masters loan if I already have a PhD?

No. You can’t apply for a loan if you already hold a PhD (or other doctorate). Loans are only available if you don’t already have existing qualifications at Masters level or above.

Can I apply if I've previously started a Masters but didn’t complete it?

Yes. Provided you didn’t graduate with a Masters degree and didn’t receive a postgraduate loan for it, you can apply for a loan to study a new course.

Can I apply if I already have an integrated Masters?

No. If you have already completed an integrated Masters (a course that began at undergraduate level but eventually awarded a Masters degree) you won’t be able to receive a loan for a second ‘standalone’ Masters.

Can I apply if I have a ‘conferred’ Masters, such as an ‘Oxbridge MA’?

Some universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, automatically award their graduates with an MA degree after a certain period of time has elapsed. These degrees don’t require any additional examination and are not separate qualifications. As such, they won’t make you ineligible for a loan to study a postgraduate Masters.

How does the age limit work?

English Postgraduate Masters loans are only available to students under 60. This means you must be aged 59 or younger when your degree starts.

This is based on the first day of the academic year not your enrolment date or the date of your first class, lecture, etc.

The first day of the first academic year is normally as follows:

Academic Year - Postgraduate Loans
Course starts between First day of academic year
1st August - 31st December 1st September
1st January - 31st March 1st January
1st April - 30th June 1st April
1st July - 31st July 1st July

Note that the age limit only applies at the beginning of your course. You will continue to receive your loan after you turn 60, provided you are 59 or younger when your Masters starts.

Are EU, EEA or Swiss students eligible for postgraduate loans?

From the 2021-22 academic year onwards, EU, EEA (Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein) and Swiss students will usually only be eligible for postgraduate loans if they were living in the UK before 31 December 2020 and have applied for EU settled status.

Are international students eligible for a postgraduate loan?

Students from countries outside the UK and Ireland aren’t normally eligible for postgraduate loans.

Exceptions may apply if you’re an EU national with EU settled status in the UK, have lived in the UK legally for a very long time, have been granted humanitarian protection or have refugee status.

For more information on UK fees and finance as a postgraduate student we recommend you check the resources produced by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

And, if you can't get a postgraduate loan, you might still be eligible for other international Masters funding in the UK.


To get a postgraduate loan your course must be a full postgraduate Masters degree. This means:

  • It must be a full degree, not a period of study to ‘top up’ a qualification you already have
  • It must be a postgraduate degree, not an integrated Masters or other undergraduate course
  • It must be a Masters degree (worth at least 180 credits), not a shorter Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma or a programme that eventually leads to a doctorate

Your course can be a taught or research Masters and you can study it at any UK university (the loans are ‘portable’). You can also study full-time, part-time or by distance learning, subject to the following restrictions:

  • Full-time courses can take 1-2 years of study
  • Part-time courses can take 1-4 years of study, but can’t last for more than twice the length of an equivalent full-time course (or three years if no full-time equivalent exists)
  • Distance learning courses can be full-time or part-time, but you must be living in England on the first day of your course and the rest of your Masters must be studied from within the UK

Please note that if you're an Irish national moving to the UK to study, you'll only be able to use the loan for a course at an English university.

What about subjects?

There are no other subject restrictions for a Masters loan. You can study an MSc in Applied Chemistry, an MA in Ancient History, an MBA in International Marketing – or any other postgraduate courses.

Frequently asked questions

Here are the answers to other questions about the courses you can get a postgraduate loan for.

Can I get a postgraduate loan for a Masters by research?

Yes. You can receive a loan for a research-based Masters such as an MRes (Master of Research) or MPhil (Master of Philosophy). However, these courses must lead to a standalone Masters degree and not be part of a longer PhD programme (or other doctorate).

Can I get a postgraduate loan for an MBA?

Yes. You can receive a loan for a specialist business Masters degree such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Masters in Management (MIM). Note, however, that these programmes often cost more than the maximum £11,222 you can borrow.

Can I get a loan for an LLM?

Yes. You can receive a loan for a Master of Laws (LLM).

However, you can’t receive a loan for a shorter Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) unless the qualification forms part of a full Masters degree.

Can I get a postgraduate loan for an integrated Masters degree?

Masters loans are only available for postgraduate courses, not for four-year integrated Masters (like the MChem, MPhys or MSci) that begin at undergraduate level. These courses are usually eligible for undergraduate student loans instead.

Can I get a loan for an MArch?

The MArch (Master of Architecture) is normally an undergraduate qualification and is eligible for undergraduate student finance. However, you may be eligible for a postgraduate loan if your MArch is a part-time course (and isn’t eligible for an undergraduate loan).

Can I get a postgraduate loan for a PGCert, PGDip or PGCE?

No. You can’t receive an English Masters loan for a postgraduate qualification below Masters level such as a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert), Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) or Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

Can I get a postgraduate loan for a PhD (or other doctorate)?

You can’t apply for a Masters loan to complete a doctoral degree (even if it includes a Masters). However, separate PhD loans have been introduced for English-resident UK students and EU students.

Where can I study?

If you are ordinarily resident in England before your course, you can use your loan to study anywhere in the UK.

If you are an EU student and are ordinarily resident outside the UK, you can only use your loan to study in England.

Can I study at a private university?

You may be able to receive a loan to study a Masters at an alternative provider in the UK, provided it has been granted degree awarding powers or your course has been specifically designated for postgraduate loans.

Your institution should be able to tell you if this is the case.

Can I study outside the UK?

You can’t get a postgraduate loan to study a full Masters abroad, or for a degree awarded by a university outside the UK.

However, you can study part of your Masters in another country, provided this doesn’t account for more than 50% of your course.

Can I transfer between courses and take my loan with me?

You can switch Masters courses and continue to receive your postgraduate loan. This includes changing to a new course at the same university, or moving to a new institution. However, your new course must also be eligible for a loan.

Note that you can only continue your current postgraduate loan when switching courses; you can’t apply for a ‘fresh’ loan to start a different course. This means that switching courses won’t increase the maximum amount you are able to borrow.

Can I repeat a year of my course?

No, you can’t receive postgraduate loan payments to repeat part of your course (even if you haven’t yet borrowed the full amount).

However, it may be possible for your postgraduate loan payments to resume once you have ‘caught up’ with your Masters.

What happens if I take a break or withdraw from my Masters?

Your postgraduate loan will only be paid whilst you are studying. Your university will confirm your attendance at the beginning of each academic year, but you are responsible for informing Student Finance England if you suspend your studies.

If this happens you will stop receiving postgraduate payments, but may be able to resume your loan with your course.

Can I withdraw from my course and get a new postgraduate loan for another Masters?

You can’t normally receive more than one postgraduate loan. However, exceptions may apply if you have compelling personal reasons (CPR) for not being able to complete your original degree.

Compelling personal reasons could include medical issues or a personal crisis that prevents you progressing through your degree. You should contact Student Finance England to discuss your case with them if necessary.


If you're starting (or have already started) a Masters programme in the 2020-21 academic year, you can now apply online or by post (PDF). Applications for 2021-22 programmes will open in summer 2021.

Your application will be handled by Student Finance England, on behalf of the Student Loans Company and the UK Government.

The application process is quite simple. If you already have an account with Student Finance England you should use your existing Customer Reference Number (CRN) to login and provide details of your course, your residency information and the amount you wish to borrow.

You don’t need to be accepted for a Masters before you can apply for a postgraduate loan, but you will need to nominate an eligible course (you can change this later if you like). You can read more about the process in our application guide.

The deadline for a postgraduate loan application is quite relaxed: you must apply within nine months of the first day of your final application year. This will normally be as follows:

Postgraduate loan application deadlines
Course begins Deadline
1st August to 31st December Nine months from 1st September
1st January to 31st March Nine months from 1st January
1st April to 30th June Nine months from 1st April
1st July to 31st July Nine months from 1st July

You can also change the amount you wish to borrow (up to the maximum) at any point within this period.

Frequently asked questions

Here are the answers to some more common questions about applying for a postgraduate loan.

When can I apply?

Postgraduate loan applications for courses starting in 2020-21 opened on 15 June 2020. You can apply online or by post (PDF).

You can start to apply whenever you like, once the applications are open. It's a good idea to apply as early as possible if you definitely want to receive loan payments in time for your course start date. You can also apply later in your degree if you like – it's up to you.

Can I use my existing student finance account?

Yes. If you have already have an account with Student Finance England you must use it to apply for your Masters loan.

Do I have to apply online?

No. You can apply by post if you prefer, but online applications are normally faster.

Note that students who have previously received an undergraduate loan from Student Finance Wales, Student Finance Northern Ireland or Student Awards Agency Scotland may need to apply by post for a Masters loan from Student Finance England.

Can I cancel my application?

Yes, you can change your mind before you begin your course (for example, if you decide to start your Masters next year instead) and cancel your application.

Will I still receive the same amount if I apply later in my course?

There is no pro-rata reduction for later Masters loan applications. You can always request the maximum loan amount, provided you do so before the deadline (nine months after the start of your final year).

Can I apply now for a Masters beginning next year?

Postgraduate loan applications re-open for each new academic year. You can apply now for a course that started in 2020-21 (or earlier).

Will I definitely get my loan in time?

Loans for September courses should be processed in time if you apply promptly.

What should I do if I'm denied a postgraduate loan?

The first thing to do if your application is refused is to check you definitely meet the eligibility criteria (described further up this page). You should then make sure you have entered all your information correctly, particularly your address history and residency details. If you still aren't sure why your application has been denied, you should contact Student Finance England directly.


You won’t start repaying your loan until the April after you graduate.

You’ll then be eligible to make repayments on an income-contingent basis at 6% of what you earn over £21,000 a year.

If you are employed this deduction will be taken automatically by HMRC each month, whenever you earn more than £1,750 (the monthly equivalent of £21,000 per year). If you are self-employed you will need to make student loan repayments as part of your annual tax return.

Repayments for postgraduate loans are made in parallel with undergraduate loans. If you have both student loans you will make two repayments as follows:

  • 6% of earnings over £21,000 a year for your postgraduate student loan
  • 9% of earnings over £25,725 a year for your undergraduate student loan

As well as the money you have borrowed, you will also have to repay interest charged on your loan. This is based on the Retail Prices Index (RPI) +3% and will begin accumulating as soon as you receive your first loan payment.

RPI is recalculated each April based on current inflation measurements. The current interest rate for a Masters loan is 5.6% but this changes each September.

Any remaining postgraduate loan debt is written off after 30 years, regardless of how much you have left to pay.

Repayment guides

Looking for more detailed information on postgraduate repayments? Our full guide includes a range of examples, plus a postgraduate loan calculator.

Frequently asked questions

We've answered some common questions about repaying a postgraduate loan.

When do postgraduate loan repayments begin?

You will become eligible to repay your postgraduate loan on the 6th April after your Masters ends. This is called ‘entering repayment’. However, no students will enter repayment until 6th April 2021.

Remember too that you only ever repay your loan when you are earning over £21,000 a year.

Is the repayment threshold rising?

No. The annual repayment threshold for undergraduate loans has risen annually from 2018, but the threshold for postgraduate loans remains at £21,000. Our newsletter updates will let you know if this changes.

Are repayments calculated before or after tax?

HMRC will automatically deduct your postgraduate loan repayment at 6% of your gross income over £21,000 a year (or the monthly equivalent of £1,750). This means that deductions will be calculated before other deductions such as income tax, national insurance and undergraduate loan repayments are taken.

How do repayments work if I am self-employed or work abroad?

You will be responsible for making any repayments that HMRC cannot deduct automatically. This can normally be done through your tax return at the end of the financial year.

Is the interest rate linked to income?

No. Unlike undergraduate loans, interest on postgraduate loans is the same for all borrowers. It won’t increase if you earn more.

Do I still need to repay my loan if I don't complete my course?

All postgraduate loan payments are subject to the same repayment criteria. You can leave your course and cancel your remaining loan, but you will still be eligible to repay any money you have received so far.

More information

We've tried to make this guide and FAQ as comprehensive as possible, but we'll do our best to help if you've got a question we haven't covered. Simply email editor[at] with your query. You can also sign up for our free weekly newsletter for regular news about student finance changes, applications and deadlines, as well as general funding tips.

Remember that the postgraduate student loan isn't the only way to pay for a Masters. There are a range of other funding options available.

Last updated - 05/01/2021

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