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Postgraduate Loans in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland offers postgraduate loans of up to £5,500 for Northern Irish-resident UK and Irish students to study a Masters-level course at any UK university. EU students are also be eligible for a loan to study abroad in Northern Ireland.

This page provides a quick summary of the loans, plus a detailed FAQ covering eligibility, repayments, applications and more.

Northern Irish postgraduate loans at a glance

Overview: Student loans for taught and research postgraduate courses in all subjects.
Value: Up to £5,500 for tuition fees.
Students: UK and Irish nationals ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland / EU students studying in Northern Ireland.
Location: Any UK university.
Repayment: 9% of earnings over £17,775 per year, with postgraduate and undergraduate debt combined.

Loan amount

Loans cover tuition fees of up to £5,500 and are paid directly to universities in regular instalments. No extra money is available for living costs or for additional fees over £5,500.

Are the loans means-tested?

No. You can take out a postgraduate tuition fee loan regardless of your financial circumstances or background.

What is the minimum loan amount?

You can borrow anything between £1 and £5,500, but only for postgraduate tuition fees. You can also borrow less than the cost of your course if you wish.

What if my course costs less than £5,500?

The maximum amount of your loan will be capped at the value of your tuition fees. You will not receive any extra money if your degree costs less than £5,500.

The cost of a Masters

How much does a UK Masters degree actually cost? Our guide explains typical postgraduate fees and living costs.

Student eligibility

Loans are available to UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) students who have lived in the UK or ROI for the past three years and are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland.

EU students who have lived in the EU, EEA or Switzerland for the past three years are also eligible for a loan to study in Northern Ireland.

What counts as being ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland?

In order to qualify for a loan as a UK student your home address must be in Northern Ireland. This means you are living there normally (not just as a student).

Other UK postgraduate loans are available for students who normally live in England, Wales or Scotland.

What if I have lived outside the UK in the last three years?

Temporary absences (for travel or education) will not affect your eligibility. Longer periods of settled residence and work in other countries may be an issue. You should discuss these with Student Finance Northern Ireland when you apply.

Are EEA and Swiss students eligible?

Potentially. You (or a family member) must have be working in the UK, or have been granted permanent residence.

Are other international students eligible?

Students from elsewhere may be eligible for a Northern Irish postgraduate loan if one or more of the following apply:

  • You have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
  • You have the permanent right to live in the UK for another reason
  • You are the child of a Turkish worker

Other international students on standard Tier 4 visas will not normally be eligible. You should contact Student Finance Northern Ireland if you think an exception may apply to you.

Is there an age limit for the Northern Irish postgraduate loans?

No. You can apply at any age.

What if I already have a other postgraduate degree?

You can apply for up to one postgraduate loan, regardless of existing qualifications.

This means that:

  • You can apply if you already have a Masters degree (or other level 7 postgraduate qualification).
  • You can apply if you have a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma and wish to convert this to a full Masters through futher study.

Can I combine this loan with other funding?

Yes, the Northern Irish postgraduate loans can be combined other postgraduate funding.

However, you cannot receive a postgraduate loan whilst still receiving an undergraduate loan.

Postgraduate loans are also unavailable for publically-funded courses, such as PGCE qualifications or integrated Masters degrees.


EU eligibility for UK postgraduate loans is not affected by Brexit next year. Fee and funding guarantees are in place for the duration of courses beginning in 2018-19.

Course eligibility

Loans are available for all types of postgraduate course (at Masters-level) offered by universities across the UK. They are not restricted by subject area or mode of study.

Are loans available for Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) and Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) courses?

Yes. Unlike England and Wales, Northern Ireland offers loans for most courses up to Masters level - including PGCert and PGDip qualifications.

Are loans available for postgraduate research Masters qualifications such as MRes and MPhil degrees?

Yes. Northern Ireland offers postgraduate loans for taught and research Masters courses.

Are loans available for PhDs?

Not currently. Northern Ireland is also considering a separate postgraduate research loans scheme, similar to the PhD loans being introduced for English students in 2018. You can stay updated via our newsletter.

Are loans available for Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) programmes?

No. Separate support is already available for Northern Irish students to study Initial Teacher Training (ITT) qualifications such as PGCE courses.

More information is available on the NI Direct website.

Where can I study?

Eligible UK students can use a Northern Irish postgraduate loan to study an eligible course at any UK university (the loans are portable).

EU students from outside the UK must study in Northern Ireland. If you wish to study a Masters abroad in another UK country as an EU student you should look at other UK postgraduate loans.

Can my course include an overseas placement?

Yes, but this cannot account for more than 50% of your course. Loans aren't available for full programmes of postgraduate study abroad. However, other funding alternatives such as Erasmus Masters loans are available.

How long can my course be?

Northern Irish postgraduate loans are available for courses lasting up to three years. There is no minimum course length.

Can I study part-time, or by distance-learning?

Yes. If you decide to study part time your loan will be spread out across each year of your course. This means that you will be able to borrow up to:

  • £2,750 in each year of a two-year course.
  • £1,833 in the first two years of a three-year course (with £1,834 in the final year).

The money will be paid directly to your institution, just as it would for a full-time course.

Distance-learning courses are also eligible for loans, provided they are offered by a university within the UK and you are resident within the UK whilst studying.


Repayments for postgraduate loans are income-contingent. You will repay 9% of earnings over £17,775 a year. Undergraduate and postgraduate debt is combined (you will only ever make one student loan repayment).

Repayments will be automatically deducted from your monthly salary along with income tax and National Insurance. If you are self-employed you will make repayments as part of your annual self-assessment and tax return.

When will repayments begin?

You will begin repaying your Northern Irish postgraduate loan in the April after you graduate from your course - provided you are earning over £17,775.

Is there be any interest?

Yes. Your postgraduate loan will be subject to interest at 1.25% (the same as other 'Plan 1' undergraduate loans in Northern Ireland - and Scotland). This will accrue once the first payment is made to you.

When is the loan written off?

Any remaining loan balance will also be written off after 25 years.

What happens if I don't complete my course?

You will be eligible to repay any postgraduate loan you have received. This is the case even if you exit your course early. In such cases you should contact Student Finance Northern Ireland promptly to ensure that additional payments are not made to you incorrectly.

These would be classed as overpayments and may not be subject to the same income-contingent thresholds. The same may be true of any payments incorrectly given to you for a loan you were not properly eligible for.

Being honest in your application and informing Student Finance Northern Ireland of changes to your course will normally remove the risk of overpayments.

Repaying your postgraduate loan

Our separate guide has detailed information on UK postgraduate loan repayments (in Northern Ireland and elsewhere). We've also included a handy postgraduate loan calculator.


Students can apply via the Student Finance Northern Ireland website for courses beginning on or after 1st August 2017.

You can apply using an online service, or by downloading an application form.

Note that you will need to reapply in each year of your course (if it lasts for two or more years).

Is there a deadline?

Yes, but this is very relaxed. You will need to apply for a postgraduate loan within nine months after the first day of the academic year in which your course begins.

This means you can apply for a loan after you start your programme. You can also alter the amount of your loan up to one month before the end of your course.

Northern Irish loan application guide

Looking for help with your application? We've put together a detailed walkthrough of the online process.

Other UK postgraduate loans

All parts of the UK now offer students loans for postgraduate courses up to Masters level.

The following table compares UK postgraduate loans and highlights key differences between each system:

UK Postgraduate Loans Compared
England Northern Ireland Wales Scotland
Value £10,280* £5,500 £10,280** £10,000***
Level Full Masters Up to Masters Full Masters Up to Masters
Courses Taught & Research Taught & Research Taught & Research Taught
Length Up to 4 years Up to 3 years Up to 4 years Up to 4 years
*The maximum value of English postgraduate loans will rise to £10,609 in 2018-19.
**Wales will increase the value of its postgraduate loans to £13,000 for 2018-19.
***Scotland offers two separate postgraduate loans for tuition fees and living costs. Their eligibility criteria differ slightly.

Search for a Masters in the UK

Will a Northern Irish postgraduate loan help you pursue a Masters? Browse and compare Masters degrees in the UK on FindAMasters.com

What's changing for 2018-19?

No changes to Northern Irish postgraduate loans have been announced for 2018-19 - so far.

You can stay up to date is by signing up to our newsletter.

Last updated - 20/12/2017

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