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Scottish postgraduate loans

Postgraduate Loans in Scotland

Scottish postgraduate loans offer up to £10,000 Scottish-resident students to study a Masters degrees and Postgraduate Diploma in the UK. Some support is also available for EU students starting a postgraduate course in Scotland during 2017-18 or 2018-19.

This guide covers everything you need to know about the new loans, from a quick summary of the key details to a detailed FAQ covering eligibility, residency requirements, repayments and applications.

Scottish postgraduate loans at a glance

The following table provides a simple overview of postgraduate loans in Scotland:

Scottish postgraduate loans at a glance
Overview: Student loans for taught Masters degrees and Postgraduate Diplomas.
Value: Up to £10,000: £5,500 for tuition fees and / or £4,500 for living costs.
Eligibility: UK students ordinarily resident in Scotland. EU students may be eligible for the £5,500 tuition-fee loan.
Location: Scottish universities, or other UK universities (for courses not offered in Scotland).
Repayment: 9% of income over £17,775. Debt combined with any undergraduate loan.
Applications: Online, through the SAAS website. See our walkthrough and FAQ for more advice.

Loan amount

Loans have a maximum value of £10,000. This is slightly less than the amount offered in England and Wales, but the Scottish system works differently.

There are actually two types of Scottish postgraduate loan: a tuition-fee loan and a living-cost loan. They have slightly different eligibility criteria, though many students can apply for both.

  • £5,500 is available for tuition fees. This loan is available to UK and EU students. It will be paid directly to your university.
  • £4,500 is available for living costs. This loan is only available to UK students under 60, for a full-time course. It will be paid to your personal bank account.

The following table provides a side-by-side comparison of the two loans:

Tuition-fee loan Living-cost loan
Up to £5,500 Up to £4,500
UK & EU students UK students only
Full-time &: part-time courses Full-time courses only
No age restriction Only for students under 60
Paid to your university Paid to you

Tuition-fee loans vs living-cost loans

Scottish postgraduate loans work differently to others in the UK, with two separate loan components. It's important to keep this in mind and make sure you know whether criteria apply to a specific loan, or to both.

Are the loans means tested?

No. Neither part of the Scottish postgraduate loan is means tested. Provided you meet other eligibility criteria can borrow up to the maximum £10,000 amount regardless of your income or financial circumstances.

What if my fees are less than £5,500?

Your university will receive an appropriate amount for your postgraduate fees, up to a maximum value of £5,500. No extra money will be paid if your course costs less than this amount.

What if my fees are more than £5,500?

You cannot increase the value of your tuition-fee loan above £5,500. If your fees are higher than this you will need to make up the difference yourself.

Can I use my maintenance loan to cover additional tuition fees?

In principle, yes. The £4,500 you can borrow for living costs will be paid directly to you in instalments. You can use this money as you see fit, including for living costs.

Note, however, that the instalments for your living cost loan will not necessarily match the dates at which fees are due.

Do I have to borrow the full £4,500 for living costs?

No. The amount of living cost loan you request is up to you. You cannot borrow more than £4,500, but can take less if you wish.

Can I apply for a Scottish postgraduate loan as an EU student?

Yes. EU students are eligible for Scottish postgraduate loans for courses starting in 2017-18 or 2018-19 (support for EU postgraduates has been confirmed across the UK).

However, EU students are still only able to apply for the £5,500 tuition-fee component of the loan.

Student eligibility

Loans are available for UK students and EU students, subject to residency criteria:

  • In order to be eligible as a UK student you must have been resident in the UK (including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) for three years and be ordinarily resident in Scotland at the beginning of your course.
  • In order to be eligible as an EU student you must have been ordinarily resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland for three years prior to the beginning of your course. You must also live and study your course in Scotland.

Details of your residency history will be requested as part of your application.

What counts as being 'ordinarily resident in Scotland'?

In order to qualify for a loan as a UK student Scotland must be your home address. This means you are living there normally and are not in the country purely for the purposes of study.

I'm an English, Welsh or Northern Irish student, but have been studying an undergraduate degree in Scotland - am I eligible?

Probably not. You have been living in Scotland for three years (or more) but have done so for the purposes of study and are not 'ordinarily resident' in Scotland.

Exceptions may apply if you have completed an undergraduate degree in Scotland in a previous year and remained in the country to work. If so you may now be regarded as being ordinarily resident in Scotland.

I'm a Scottish student, but have been studying an undergraduate degree elsewhere in the UK - am I eligible?

Yes. Your time living outside Scotland was for the purposes of study. This means you are still ordinarily resident in Scotland and can qualify for a Scottish postgraduate loan.

Note that this may not apply if you have continued living and working elsewhere after your undergraduate degree. You may then be regarded as ordinarily resident in another part of the UK.

What counts as the beginning of my course?

For funding purposes, the start of your course is the first day of the first academic year in which you begin postgraduate study. This is known as the 'relevant date'. It will be 1st August for courses beginning in autumn 2017 or 1st January for courses beginning in spring 2018.

You must be under 60 on this date in order to apply for a living-cost loan.

Will existing students be able to apply for loans?

Continuing students cannot apply for the new Scottish Masters loans (in order to be eligible your course must have begun on or after 1st August 2017.

Can I apply if I already have a postgraduate qualification?

This will normally depend on how your course was funded. If you received a loan or grant from the UK Government (either through SAAS or another organisation) you will probably not be able to apply for a postgraduate tuition-fee loan.

However, you may still be eligible for a living-cost loan, provided your course meets the requirements.

What support is available for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Other UK countries will also be offering postgraduate loans in 2017:

  • England introduced postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 for taught and research Masters degrees in 2016. The value of these is rising to £10,280 in 2017.
  • Northern Ireland is introducing postgraduate tuition-fee loans of up to £5,500 in 2017.
  • Wales is introducing postgraduate loans of up to £10,280 in 2017.

You can compare details of these schemes at our UK Masters loans hub and stay updated with any changes by signing up to our newsletter.

How do I know which postgraduate loan to apply for?

Checking your residency status is quite simple if you've already received a student loan. In this case, you should probably apply to the same body that awarded your undergraduate funding. For Scottish students this will normally be Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

Programme eligibility

In order to be eligible for a loan your course must be a taught postgraduate programme that awards a Postgraduate Diploma or a Masters degree.

UK students can receive a loan to study any eligible course in Scotland. You can also apply for a loan to study a course elsewhere in the UK, provided that course is not available in Scotland.

EU students must live and study in Scotland. If you wish to study a Masters in another UK country as an EU student you should look at other UK postgraduate loans.

Are loans available for MLitt degrees?

Yes. The MLitt (Master of Letters) is often awarded in Scotland as a qualification roughly equivalent to the postgraduate MA (Master of Arts) awarded in England and elsewhere.

These MLitt degrees are eligible for Scottish postgraduate loans.

Will loans be available for postgraduate courses below Masters level?

Unlike England, Scotland is offering postgraduate loans for Postgraduate Diploma programmes as well as Masters degrees.

Will loans be available for research degrees?

No. The current plans only cover taught courses. Research degrees such as the MPhil and PhD will not be eligible for support. Exceptions may apply to some qualifications such as the MRes (Master of Research) if the university defines them as taught programmes.

Will loans be available for part-time courses?

Tuition-fee loans are available for part-time courses. Living-cost loans are only available for full-time courses.

How long can my course last?

The maximum length you can study will depend on your course:

  • Masters degrees can last up to two years full time or four years part time.
  • Postgraduate Diplomas can last up to one year full time or two years part time.

Are loans available for distance learning courses?

You can't apply for a Scottish postgraduate loan to study a distance learning course delivered by a 'physical' university with a campus in the UK. However, you can apply to study an eligible Masters with the Open University.

Will loans be restricted to certain subjects?

No. You will be able to receive a loan for any eligible taught postgraduate course, up to Masters level.

Which courses aren't eligible for Scottish postgraduate loans from 2017?

A small number of degrees and qualification types aren't eligible for the new loans. This is usually due to them being below Postgraduate Diploma level or benefitting from existing funding (via undergraduate loans or NHS support).

The following courses won't usually be eligible for the postgraduate loans described on this page:

  • Teacher training courses (such as the PGCE, PGDE or TQFE)
  • Pre-registration Nursing courses (or other courses receiving UK undergraduate loans or funding).
  • Postgraduate Diplomas in Architecture

If in doubt, you should consult information on courses published by SAAS.


Repayments for the new postgraduate loans will use Scotland's current undergraduate system. You will repay your loan on an income-contingent basis, at 9% of income over £17,775 a year.

If you already have a Scottish undergraduate loan, your two debts will be combined. You will make one monthly payment towards the total amount.

How will repayments be taken?

Repayments will be taken by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) - either as automatic deductions from your salary, or as part of your self-assessment tax return (if you are self employed).

Separate arrangements will be made with EU students living outside the UK or other graduates who do not pay UK income tax to HMRC.

When will repayments begin?

Repayments are expected to commence in the April after you graduate from your course. Note that you will still be required to repay any loan received towards a course you do not complete.

Will interest be charged?

Yes. Your postgraduate loan will begin accruing interest after the first payment is made to you. The rate for this follow the 'Plan 1' system (used for undergraduate and postgraduate loans in Scotland and Northern Ireland). The current interest rate for Plan 1 student loans is 1.25%.

Repaying your postgraduate loan

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


Applications for a Scottish postgraduate loan should be made directly to Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) not to your university.

How do I apply?

You can apply for a loan online at the SAAS website.

What will I need to provide during my application?

You will need to give the following information when applying for a postgraduate loan:

  • Your national insurance number
  • Details of your intended university and course
  • Details of your residency

Other information may also be requested, depending on your circumstances.

For more information, see our detailed postgraduate loan application guide.

Is there an application deadline?

Yes. In order to receive a postgraduate loan in the 2017-18 academic year you must apply before 31st March 2018

Will I definitely receive my loan in time for my course?

You should apply for a Scottish postgraduate loan as soon as possible in order to make sure your application is processed in time. This is particularly important if you are applying for a tuition-fee loan. Your university may potentially require you to pay fees yourself if your postgraduate loan does not reach them in time.

The SAAS recommends that students apply by 30th June to be sure of having their applications processed in time for courses starting in the autumn.

2016 SAAS loans

The new Scottish Masters degree loans replace Scotland's previous postgraduate loan system, which supported select Postgraduate Diploma courses.

Applications for these 2016-17 SAAS postgraduate loans closed on 31st March 2016.

Applying for your postgraduate loan

Ready to apply for your postgraduate finance? Our Masters loan application guide includes detailed walkthroughs and FAQs.

Other UK postgraduate loans

Postgraduate loans are now available across the UK. The following table compares the different systems:

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 rose with inflation for 2017-18. It may rise again for students starting a Masters 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.

You can stay updated with postgraduate loan news and changes by subscribing to our newsletter.

What's changing for 2018-19?

The current Scottish postgraduate loans system is still fairly new, having been extended to Masters degrees for the first time in 2017. It's possible that some changes may be made to loan amounts or eligibility, but nothing has been announced so far. We'll update this page as soon as we know more.

There are currently no confirmed plans for PhD loans in Scotland, however, doctoral loans are expected to be introduced in England and Wales for 2018-19.

Finally, Brexit will not affect you if you plan to apply for a Scottish postgraduate loan as an EU student next year. Postgraduate funding guarantees are in place for EU students starting a course anywhere in the UK before the end of 2018-19.

Search for eligible courses

Looking for a Masters in Scotland? You can use our search to view postgraduate courses at Scottish universities.

Last updated - 20/10/2017

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