The Scottish government is considering proposals for £9,000 postgraduate Masters loans. This funding is designed to provide an option for Scottish postgraduates who aren't eligible for the English postgraduate loans introduced in 2016.
Though first put forward in December 2015, the proposals are still being reviewed by the Scottish government. This means that Scottish Masters loans will are not available in 2016-17.
However, in the meantime, the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) has increased the number of postgraduate certificates and diplomas covered by its existing postgraduate loans scheme.
This page provides an outline of the Scottish Masters loan proposals as well as an explanation of the current system of postgraduate loans in Scotland. We'll update this information as and when more details emerge.
|What?||Student loans for taught postgraduate programmes in the UK. May include PGCert and PGDip courses alongside Masters degrees.|
|How much?||Up to £9,000.|
|Who?||UK nationals ordinarily resident in Scotland. Eligibility for EU students is possible, but unconfirmed.|
|Where?||Any UK university.|
|When?||Scottish loans are at the proposal stage. They will not be available in 2016-17.|
|Repayment?||Debt may be combined with undergraduate loans (if applicable). Debt may also be written off if graduates work and pay tax in Scotland.|
Unlike other UK countries, Scotland already offered a postgraduate loans system prior to 2016. However, this funding is restricted to specific subjects and courses and only covers qualifications below Masters level.
The number of eligible programmes was increased for 2016-17, but full Masters degrees are not included.
SAAS loans are available for selected courses up to postgraduate diploma level. With some limited exceptions, they do not provide funding for full Masters degrees or PhDs. In most cases they are also unavailable for qualifications that already receive public funding from another source (such as the NHS).
SAAS publishes a full list of eligible courses for postgraduate loans in 2016-17. Note that, with some limited exceptions, supported courses are delivered by universities in Scotland.
You can apply for an SAAS postgraduate loan if you are a UK national, most recently resident in Scotland. EU students are also eligible, provided they are ordinarily resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland.
In both cases your course must have been selected for funding by SAAS (see above). This means that most full Masters degrees will not be eligible in 2016, but some postgraduate diploma (PGDip) courses are.
There are two components to Scottish postgraduate loans:
Living-cost loans are normally available to all eligible students, regardless of previous funding. Tuition fee loans are normally restricted to students who have not received postgraduate funding from public sources (such as student loans) before.
SAAS loans are repaid at 9% of income over £17,495 per year. Interest will be charged on your loan and linked to inflation via the Retail Prices Index (RPI).
You can find out more about the SAAS postgraduate loans on the SAAS website.
The rest of this page refers to the proposals for new Scottish Masters loans.
Scottish Masters loans are expected to be worth £9,000. This will be the maximum amount you can borrow, regardless of the length of your course.
The £9,000 amount is intended to cover both tuition fees and living costs for a typical Masters.
The proposals recommend that students receive a lump sum for tuition fees at the beginning of their course. (This is to help guard against fee inflation by capping the amount available for course costs.)
The remainder of the loan would then be paid in monthly instalments, intended to help cover your maintenance.
No, as currently proposed, postgraduate loans in Scotland will be universally available to all students.
This means that loans will be offered for both tuition fees and living costs. Neither element will be based on the specific fees for your course - or your financial circumstances.
There is a possibility that alternative loan options could include a means-tested element – see below.
Whereas English students will be able to borrow up to £10,000, the Scottish loans are only valued at £9,000.
However, this actually reflects lower living costs and tuition fees for Scottish postgraduates.
The English loans are only intended as a contribution to student expenses. The Scottish proposals reflect the actual cost of studying a Masters in Scotland.
This has been calculated at approximately £4,594 for a taught program, plus a further £4,500 in living costs.
£9,000 should therefore be sufficient to pay for your Masters degree in Scotland and provide maintenance support whilst you study.
Be aware though that this amount will not increase if you study outside of Scotland. Fees may be higher in England, but you will not be able to borrow more to compensate for this.
Proposals for Masters loans in Scotland have been prompted and partly informed by the implementation of a similar scheme for English students.
As a result, many aspects of the Scottish recommendations mirror plans south of the border. But there are also several important ways in which Scottish loans may differ from English loans.
The most significant are as follows:
Scottish students may also be eligible for postgraduate loans offered in England from 2016. Provided you are ordinarily resident in England you can apply for £10,000 to study anywhere in the UK. Find out more with our guide.
£9,000 is the target loan amount, recommended by the review into postgraduate funding in Scotland. This is intended to be a single loan, distributed to students and used by them as necessary.
If £9,000 per Masters student is not deemed affordable, this amount may be split. 50% of the loan would be universally available for tuition fees. The remaining 50% would be available to some students as a means-tested maintenance loan.
Scottish postgraduate loans are expected to be available on a similar basis to English loans, with some exceptions.
Your course should be eligible for a postgraduate loan if it is awarded up to Masters level and if up to 50% of the programme is delivered as taught content.
No restriction has currently been set on subject areas.
Study intensity and course length have not been addressed at this stage of the loan proposals. It is likely that Scotland will mirror England in offering loans for part-time courses, but this is not guaranteed.
Scotland already offers postgraduate loans for courses up to Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) level in some subject areas.
This support was expanded for 2016-17. It may be maintained if and when Masters degree loans are introduced.
Student eligibility for postgraduate loans in Scotland will mirror that in England. In order to qualify for support, you will need to be a UK national, domiciled (ordinarily resident) in Scotland.
EU students may also be eligible, but details of this have yet to be confirmed.
Recommendations for postgraduate loans in Scotland do not currently set an age limit. This is in contrast to the English loans, which are only available to borrowers under 60. The current SAAS loans for diploma level courses have a maximum age limit of 54.
It is possible that a similar age cap may be part of a final loan scheme, but this has not yet been proposed.
Full repayment details won’t be available until the Scottish government approves and finalises plans for Masters loans.
The expectation is that Masters loan debt would be repaid on an income-contingent basis, with percentage deductions from salaries over a certain threshold.
In England, postgraduate loans will be repaid at 6% of annual income over £21,000. Scottish loans may adopt a similar repayment method.
However, the recommendations set out some important differences between the Scottish loan proposals and the scheme being implemented in England.
Of particular interest is a proposal to reduce or even write off debt for Masters graduates who go on to work and pay income tax in Scotland (effectively converting their loans into grants).
This plan reflects the fact that postgraduate loans are seen as a public investment in the Scottish economy. By creating a higher skilled workforce the Scottish government would potentially be able to recoup its costs in the form of increased productivity.
Such proposals will be subject to careful affordability analysis and may not be part of the final scheme. However, they would represent a very significant development in postgraduate funding if implemented.
Unlike the English loans, which represent a separate debt, Scottish loans are intended to be combined with undergraduate loans.
Instead of paying off two loans at the same time, you would pay off one larger loan.
This would make repayments more affordable (with only a single salary deduction). However, the total debt would be larger, meaning that you will take longer to complete repayment – with additional interest accruing in the meantime.
Interest rates for Scottish masters loans haven’t been specified. It is possible that the English rate of RPI+3% will be adopted, but this is not guaranteed.
The document outlining the loan proposals is available online. More information will become available as the Scottish government reviews and responds to these initial recommendations.
It is possible that the opening of loans for English students will prompt further consideration of the Scottish plans.
You can also sign up to our newsletter to ensure you stay updated with any further postgraduate funding developments in Scotland – and elsewhere.
Last updated - 01/12/2016