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Scottish postgraduate loans announcement

Postgraduate Loans in Scotland

The Scottish Government has confirmed plans for £10,000 Masters loans in 2017. First proposed in 2015, this new support will be available to Scottish-resident postgraduates at universities in Scotland.

This is good news if you're a Scottish student, looking to study a Masters next year, but not eligible for the postgraduate loans introduced in England in 2016.

This guide explains how the new Scottish Masters loans will work. Some details may be subject to change, but the Scottish Government has confirmed that support will be available in time for the 2017-18 academic year. In the meantime, our newsletter will help you stay updated.


Scottish Masters loans: key points
What? Student loans for taught postgraduate courses up to Masters level.
How much? Up to £10,000.
Who? UK nationals ordinarily resident in Scotland. EU students may be eligible for a £5,500 tuition-fee loan.
Where? Any Scottish university. Other UK universities may be included where courses aren't offered in Scotland.
When? Loans will be introduced in time for the 2017-18 academic year. Applications are expected to open in April 2017.
Repayment? Debt will be combined with undergraduate loans (if applicable). Repayment is expected to be made at 9% of income over £17,495.

Loan amount and payments

Loans will have a maximum value of £10,000. This is the same amount as is offered in England, but the Scottish system will work differently. Your postgraduate loan will be divided into two components:

  • £5,500 will be available for tuition fees. This money will be paid directly to your university.
  • £4,500 will be available for living costs during your course. This money will be paid to you.

Note that this amount has increased since Scottish Masters loans of £9,000 were originally proposed in December 2015. The new £10,000 loans are also expected to replace the £7,900 loans available for select Postgraduate Diploma courses in 2016-17.

Are the loans means tested?

No. 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.

How much can EU students borrow?

EU students will be eligible for Scottish postgraduate loans in 2017-18 (support for EU postgraduates has been confirmed across the UK).

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

Student eligibility

Loans will be 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.

Evidence of residency may be requested as part of your application.

The living cost component of the loans is also likely to be subject to an age restriction. Eligible students will need to be aged under 60 at the beginning of your course?

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?

The relevant date for postgraduate loan commencement is likely to be the 1st August 2017. In order to be eligible you must be aged under 60 and meet appropriate residency criteria at this point. Further information will be provided when applications for the loans open.

Programme eligibility

In order to be eligible for a loan your course must be a taught postgraduate programme, up to Masters level. It should also be offered at a Scottish university. Where courses aren't available in Scotland, programmes at other UK universities may be eligible.

Will loans be available for postgraduate courses below Masters level?

Yes. Unlike England, Scotland is offering postgraduate loans for any taught course up to Masters level. In fact, Scotland already provides support for certain Postgraduate Diploma courses. The new loans extend this to all taught courses up to Masters level.

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?

Yes. You will be able to study a part-time programme, lasting up to two years. Your loan will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

Will loans be restricted to certain courses or subjects?

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

Will existing students be able to apply for loans?

Probably not. The loans are being introduced for courses beginning after 1st August 2017.

Repayments

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 £17,495 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 will be linked to inflation each year, via the Retail Prices Index (RPI).

Further information

These postgraduate loans have been confirmed for 2017-18 and applications are expected to open in April 2017. More specific information about certain aspects of the support may be released prior to this.

Remember that other UK countries are offering (or developing) their own postgraduate support systems:

  • 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 stay updated with all of these schemes by signing up to our newsletter. The Scottish Government statement announcing the new loans is available here.

Search for eligible courses

Looking for a Masters in Scotland for 2017? You can use our search to view postgraduate courses at Scottish universities.

Postgraduate diploma loans in Scotland for 2016 (SAAS loans)

Unlike other UK countries, Scotland already offers a postgraduate loans system. This funding is available for courses in 2016-17, but is restricted to specific subjects and courses and only covers qualifications below Masters level.

From 2017-18 this SAAS funding will be replaced by the new Scottish postgraduate loans. You can read more about the system for 2016-17, below.

Which courses are eligible for SAAS loans in 2016?

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.

Which students are eligible?

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.

How much can you borrow?

There are two components to Scottish postgraduate loans:

  • A Tuition fee loan offers up to £3,400 per year (or £1,700 for each year of a two-year part-time course). This money is paid directly to your university.
  • A separate Living-cost loan offers up to £4,500 for full-time postgraduate courses for students under 54.

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.

How are the loans repaid?

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).

2016 SAAS loans

You can find out more about the 2016 SAAS postgraduate loans on the SAAS website.

Last updated - 06/02/2017

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