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Welsh postgraduate funding proposals

2017 Welsh Postgraduate Loans

Wales will offer postgraduate loans for taught and research Masters degrees in 2017 and applications are now open.

Welsh-resident UK students will be able to borrow up to £10,280 to study anywhere in the UK. Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland may also be eligible.

These loans are an interim funding system for 2017-18. They will eventually be followed by new loans and grants, due to be introduced some time from 2018.

This page offers a full guide to Welsh Government postgraduate funding, from 2017 onwards.


Welsh Masters funding - the key details
2017-18 2018+
What? Postgraduate loans for taught and research Masters degrees. Proposed system of loans and grants for Masters degrees.
How much? Up to £10,280 as non-means-tested loan. Up to £17,000, in means-tested and non-means-tested grant and loan funding.
Who? UK nationals resident in Wales, plus EU, EEA and Swiss students. UK nationals resident in Wales. Other eligibility to be confirmed.
Where? Any UK university. Any UK university. Funding for study abroad also under consideration.
When? Available now for courses beginning after 1st August 2017 Proposed for 2018 onwards, with plans currently under consultation.

Loan amounts for 2017

Welsh postgraduate loans are similar to those already offered in England. You may borrow up to £10,280 as a 'contribution to costs' for your Masters.

This does not guarantee that a loan will cover the full cost of studying a postgraduate course. But it does mean that the money will be paid directly to you, to use as you see fit.

Do I have to borrow the full amount?

No. You can borrow anything up to £10,280. You cannot borrow more than this, but you can request less.

What if the loan doesn't cover the full cost of my Masters?

The average cost of a UK Masters is between £6,000 and £8,000. However, this varies significantly across subject areas. Some courses, such as MBAs, may be much more expensive.

This means that a Welsh postgraduate loan will cover tuition fees for some courses, but not all. If your course is more expensive you will have to supplement your loan with additional funding or other resources.

Who provides this loan?

Money will be provided to you by the Student Loans Company on behalf of the Welsh Government. Your payments and application will be managed by Student Finance Wales.

Can I apply if I already have an undergraduate loan?

Yes. The Welsh postgraduate loan is entirely separate from your undergraduate loan. You do not need to have paid off existing student loans before you apply. However, you must not owe any missed payments to the Student Loans Company (see below).

Are the loans means-tested?

No. Your financial circumstances do not affect your eligibility for this funding and no credit check will be required when you apply.

The only exception concerns arrears to the Student Loans Company. If you have missed repayments you should have made on an undergraduate loan, you may need to rectify this before borrowing more money as a postgraduate.

How is the loan paid?

You will receive payments directly to your UK bank account. You are then responsible for using them to cover tuition fees or other expenses during your course.

Your total loan will be divided evenly each year of your course. These annual portions will then be paid to you in three almost equal instalments per year. Dates for instalments are as follows:

  • Instalment one (33% of annual amount) - month 1 of course.
  • Instalment two (33% of annual amount) - month 4 of course.
  • Instalment three (34% of annual amount) - month 7 of course.

Payments will only be made so long as you are registered at your university and proceeding with your Masters.

When can I apply?

Now! Applications for Welsh postgraduate loans opened in June. For more advice, you can read our guide to applying for a postgraduate loan (and confirm which UK scheme you should apply for).

Search for a Masters in the UK

Will Welsh postgraduate funding help you pursue a Masters? Browse and compare Masters degrees in the UK on FindAMasters.com

Student eligibility in 2017

This new postgraduate funding is designed to support Welsh Masters students in the same was as the English Masters loans introduced in 2016.

Eligibility criteria are therefore very similair and are based on age and residency.

In order to apply as a UK student you must be ordinarily resident in Wales and aged under 60 when you begin your course. Slightly different terms exist for EU students in 2017.

What counts as being ordinarily resident in Wales?

You will need to have been living in the UK for at least three years and to have a home address in Wales before you begin your Masters.

Note that you do not necessarily need to live and study in Wales during your Masters: the loans are 'portable' across the UK.

Will undergraduate study affect my residency status?

Periods of time studying in another part of the UK will not count against your residency.

By the same token, however, periods of time studying in Wales will not make you 'ordinarily resident' in Wales if you have moved from elsewhere in the UK.

Student residence and ordinary residence are essentally separate.

What if I have travelled outside the UK during the last three years?

Short periods of travel or study outside the UK probably won't affect your loan eligibility: these will be considered temporary. Longer periods of residence and permanent employment abroad may be an issue.

You should discuss your circumstances with Student Finance Wales if you think residency abroad may affect your eligibility.

Can other UK students receive funding to study a Masters in Wales?

Yes, but you may not be eligible for Wales's own postgraduate grants and loans. Instead you will need to apply for a postgraduate loan in your own country. All schemes are intended to be 'portable', allowing students to study at universities across the UK.

The current status of UK postgraduate loan systems is as follows:

  • England also offers loans of up to £10,280 in 2017.
  • Northern Ireland will introduce tuition-fee loans of up to £5,500 in 2017.
  • Scotland has introduced loans of up to £10,000 (£5,500 for tuition fees and £4,500 for living costs) from 2017.
  • Wales has introduced loans of up to £10,280 for 2017-18 and considering combined loans and grants of up to £17,000 from 2018.

What about EU students?

The Welsh Government has joined other parts of the UK in confirming student finance support for EU nationals beginning degrees in the 2017 academic year.

This means that EU students should be able to apply for a Welsh postgraduate loan this year. The same applies to EEA and Swiss nationals.

EU eligibility for Welsh postgraduate support from 2018 will depend on the terms of the UK's 'Brexit' process and the decisions of the Welsh Government.

What if I already have a Masters?

Unfortunately, loans are not available to study a second Masters degree. This also applies to students with PhDs or other qualifications above Masters level.

Course eligibility in 2017

Welsh postgraduate loans will be provided for taught and research Masters degrees across the UK in 2017. Courses can last up to two years full time or four years part time, with distance learning options also available.

These terms are very similar to those for English postgraduate loans. The only differences are that the Welsh funding is aimed at Welsh-resident (rather than English-resident) students, and that it will eventually be replaced by new loans and grants sometime after 2018.

Are all Masters degrees eligible?

Almost all UK Masters degrees will be eligible for Welsh postgraduate loans, with some restrictions:

  • Your course must be a postgraduate programme. This means it cannot be an integrated Masters degree or other qualification that begins at undergraduate level.
  • Your course must be a Masters. This means it is a level 7 qualification, usually worth 180 credits.
  • Your course must be a full degree. This means you cannot take out a loan for part of a Masters, or to 'top up' an existing postgraduate qualification below Masters level.

No restrictions apply to subject areas or course content: you can study a taught, research or professional Masters in any specialism.

Are PGCert (Postgraduate Certificate) or PGDip (Postgraduate Diplomas) eligible?

No. You must be studying a Masters. Shorter qualifications below this level are not eligible for loans. However, you can receive a loan to study a separate Masters if you already hold a PGCert or PGDip.

Where can I study?

Loans will be fully portable across the UK. This means that students who are ordinarily resident in Wales will be able to receive support to study at universities in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Can I receive a loan to complete an ongoing Masters?

Unfortunately not. The loans are intended for new students. In order to to be eligible your course must begin on or after 1st August 2017.

How long can my Masters last?

Support will be available for taught Masters degrees lasting up to two years full time or four years part time. Part-time students must study at 50% of the intensity of an equivalent full-time student.

Where there is no full-time equivalent, a part-time Masters may last for up to three years.

Can I study by distance learning?

Yes, but your course must be offered by a UK university and you must be resident in Wales whilst you study.

Are loans available for PhDs?

No. Like England, Wales is only offering loans for Masters degrees in 2017. You can receive a loan to study a research Masters, such as an MRes or MPhil. However, this must be the qualification you intend to exit with (you cannot receive a loan for a course that 'upgrades' to a PhD).

Wales is considering other PhD support as part of its future funding plans.

Repayments

You will repay your Welsh postgraduate loan on an income-contingent basis, concurrently with any undergraduate loans.

Repayment terms are expected to change slightly, following legislation. They are currently as follows:

  • Repayments will be made at 9% of earnings over £21,000 a year (equivalent to £1,750 a month). Following legislation this will be reduced to 6% of income over £21,000 a year.
  • Students will be eligible to make repayments (based on income) from the April after they finish studying their Masters.
  • Deductions will be made monthly along with income tax, national insurance and other student loan repayments.
  • Interest will accrue from your first loan payment. The rate will be set at RPI (the Retail Prices Index) +3%.
  • Any unpaid balance will be written off after 30 years.

Why are the repayment terms expected to change?

Wales wishes to offer its Masters degree finance with a lower repayment rate than that currently used for undergraduate loans. This will help students with more than one loan.

However, new repayment rates must be confirmed in Government legislation. Until this occurs, Welsh postgraduate loans will use the existing repayment rate for undergraduate degrees (9%).

Which repayment terms will apply to my loan?

You will make repayments according to the terms that are in place when you begin repayment (not when you apply for your loan, or begin your Masters).

Because loan repayments won't begin until April 2019 (the year after the first set of students complete their courses) it is likely that the repayment rate for your loan will already have changed to 6%.

Repaying your postgraduate loan

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

Applications

Applications for Welsh Masters loans in 2017 use a similar system to English postgraduate finance.

You can create an account and log-in to the online application service provided by Student Finance Wales. Alternatively, you can apply by post after downloading an application form.

For more advice (including a walkthrough and FAQs) see our guide to applying for a UK postgraduate loan.

The Diamond Review - Welsh loans and grants from 2018

The loans described on this page are actually an interim scheme, offered to ensure Welsh students don't miss out in 2017. That's why they are essentially the same as the loans already offered in England.

Going forward, Wales has put together plans for a much more ambitious (but slightly more complicated) postgraduate funding system, to be introduced no earlier than 2018. This will be based on a detailed analysis of Welsh postgraduate support called the Diamond Review.

These plans have been given preliminary approval by the Welsh Government, but are currently going through a consultation process. They will then be confirmed and finalised.

How will postgraduate funding work under the Diamond Review proposals?

The maximum amount of postgraduate finance available to Welsh Masters students is expected to be around £17,000. This will be made up of two components: a grant and a loan:

  • The grant will include a non-means-tested component of £1,000 plus a means-tested component of up to £6,885 (equivalent to the maximum amount received by an undergraduate living at home and tapered by household income).
  • The loan will top up your grant to the maximum support level of £17,000.

The intention is for all of this finance to be a contribution to the cost of studying your Masters. It won't be split into separate maintenance and tuition amounts.

This combination of loan and grant support is quite different to that already offered in England (or the proposals for Northern Irish and Scottish students).

In practice, however, it could represent the most generous postgraduate finance package in the UK.

Will more support be available for Welsh PhD students?

Yes. Wales is considering introducing grants and loans for future PhD students. These will be separate to the funding for Masters students.

Part of the Diamond Review recommended that a Welsh Postgraduate Research Scholarship Scheme be introduced from 2018. This would provide support for up to 150 students to complete a PhD over three years. Funding would cover fees and maintenance and would not be repayable.

The Welsh Government has accepted these proposals and will consider their implementation.

In addition, Wales also plans to offer a system of PhD loans for Welsh students who are unable to win one of these new scholarships. The intention is for these to work similarly to the English PhD loans being introduced in 2018.

Note that full eligibility and timescale details for Welsh PhD funding hasn't been confirmed. We'll update when we have more information.

When will this funding be available?

The Welsh government plans to introduce its main postgraduate grants and loans from 2018. The precise timeline for this will be confirmed following a consultation on the plans.

We'll keep this page updated in the meantime and highlight any breaking stories through our blog and newsletter.

Other UK postgraduate loans

Postgraduate loans will be available across the UK for Masters degrees and other courses beginning in 2017-18. The following table compares different options:


2017 UK Postgraduate Loans
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
From 2016 2017 2017 2017
*The maximum amount for English postgraduate loans will rise from £10,000 to £10,280 in 2017.
**Wales also proposes a combination of means-tested and non-means-tested grants and loans from 2018.
***Scotland offers two separate postgraduate loans for tuition fees and living costs. Their eligibility criteria differ slightly.

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Last updated - 14/06/2017

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