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Masters Funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

by Mark Bennett

Great postgraduate courses in the UK aren't restricted to English institutions - there are many internationally acclaimed universities elsewhere in the United Kingdom, with excellent opportunities to study a Masters in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

One thing to bear in mind though is that postgraduate funding at Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish universities operates a little differently to the system used in England.

In particular, the new UK postgraduate student loans scheme is limited to English students.

You can still receive a loan to study a Masters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but you'll need to be ordinarily resident in England before you begin your course.

Other parts of the UK are considering postgraduate loan systems for their own students. In fact, proposals have already been published for Masters loans in Northern Ireland and Scotland).

And, whatever your nationality, there is funding available to study a Masters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each country already offers its own support schemes for postgraduate students.

Masters funding in Scotland

Why study a Masters in Scotland?

The UK higher education system is renowned for its ‘ancient universities’ – prestigious institutions, founded in the medieval and early modern period and still ranking amongst the best in the world.

What many people don’t realise, however, is that the majority of these (four out of seven) are actually located in Scotland.

Unsurprisingly then, Scottish universities have been responsible for hugely important discoveries and intellectual developments, with the eighteenth-century ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ laying the foundations of modern, philosophical, political and economic theory.

Today, Scotland continues to play a leading role in modern research: carrying out important work on marine environment and coastal energy, and developing the science behind the famous Large Hadron Collider nuclear particle accelerator.

What funding is available for Masters programmes in Scotland?

Scotland does not currently operate a national loans or bursaries scheme for postgraduate Masters students, but individual Scottish universities may still have resources available to support postgraduates. Some funding is also available from learned societies and public research bodies.

Masters funding from the Scottish Funding Council

Public funding for universities in Scotland is delivered by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

The SFC doesn’t award money to students directly, but it does support Scottish universities to provide funded places on their taught postgraduate programmes.

In most cases SFC funding will cover the cost of your tuition fees (and may therefore be awarded in the form of a fee-waiver).

Eligibility criteria for SFC funding is based on nationality and residency, with an emphasis on supporting students living in Scotland.

UK and international (non-EU) applicants will usually be entitled to funding provided they have been domiciled in Scotland for at least three years prior to the start of their programme; EU students may simply need to have lived in the EU during this period.

The best way to find SFC funding for Masters degrees is to investigate programmes at individual Scottish universities.

You can do this quickly and conveniently by searching for Masters degrees in Scotland at FindAMasters.com. Where a course has the option of SFC funding it will often be mentioned in the description; if not, you can inquire with the university using the contact details provided.

Postgraduate loans in Scotland

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) provides postgraduate loans for some subject areas.

This support focusses on postgraduate diplomas - many in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (or 'STEM') fields. You can see a full list of eligible subject areas here.

SAAS awards are available as loans to cover tuition fees and / or living costs. Tuition fee loans provide £3,400 to study full-time or £1,700 to study part-time. Living cost loans provide up to £4,500 to students studying full-time, but are not available for part-time study.

In order to be eligible for SAAS funding for postgraduate study you will need to be a UK national or EU national, ordinarily resident in either the UK or the EU, respectively.

Alternatively you may be an international (non-EU) student provided you have been legally living in the UK for at least three years with ‘settled status’.

The Scottish government is also considering expanding its loan coverage to include Masters degree loans. Proposals were put forward in December 2015 and remain under review.

Read more about Scottish postgraduate loans

Our full guide to postgraduate loans in Scotland provides more information on the current SAAS loans, as well as the plans for new Masters degree loans.

Other sources of postgraduate funding in Scotland

A number of other research organisations and learned societies provide funding to support academic work in Scotland.

Most will focus their resources on larger research projects or public engagement activities, but these can sometimes include support for students on Masters programmes.

Some of the most prominent funders are:

  • The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is one of Scotland’s oldest learned societies, having been founded in 1783. It supports academic work across a range of disciplines, including both Arts and Humanities and STEM fields. Much of the RSE’s funding supports work by university academics and post-doctoral researchers, but postgraduate grants and studentships may sometimes be available.
  • The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland was founded in 1901 by the Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. It provides funding to support universities in Scotland at various levels. Postgraduate funding opportunities from the Carnegie Trust currently include the Carnegie-Cameron Bursaries scheme, which funds Masters programmes at Scottish universities.

Masters funding in Wales

Why study a Masters in Wales?

With several historic universities (including a member of the UK’s elite Russell Group of leading research institutions), Wales is a consistently popular destination for postgraduate study within the UK.

Welsh university cities also incorporate some of the UK’s most important research facilities and creative hubs, supporting the work of the country’s higher education sector.

Cardiff, for example, is home to a number of media facilities and important heritage centres, whilst , whilst new multi-million pound facilities in Swansea will combine academic research with the industrial expertise of international companies like Rolls Royce.Further north, Aberystwyth contains the National Library of Wales, one of only six legal deposit libraries (institutions which are entitled to request a copy of every book published in the UK).

What funding is available for Masters programmes in Wales?

The Welsh government does not operate a national postgraduate loans or scholarship scheme for all postgraduate courses, but it does distribute public funding to universities and this may be used to fund studentships.

Many of Wales’s universities are also well-endowed with postgraduate funding from other sources.

Masters funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) is the body responsible for distributing public funding to universities in Wales. HEFCW does not support students directly. Instead it provides blocks of financial support to universities who use some of this to fund places on their Masters programmes.

More information on the way HEFCW funding supports postgraduate taught courses is available at the HEFCW website.

The best way to investigate the possibility of HEFCW funding as a student is to first find a Masters in Wales that interests you before inquiring with your prospective university about the availability of HEFCW-funded places (or other forms of support).

Postgraduate funding from Student Finance Wales

as its name stuggests, Student Finance Wales provides government support for students studying in Wales.

The majority of this funding is targeted at undergraduate programmes, but some support is available for postgraduate initial teacher training in the form of Welsh Government Learning Grants. These can provide a means-tested maintenance grant of up to £5,161.

Other sources of postgraduate funding in Wales

Funding for Masters programmes and other postgraduate courses in Wales is also available from a range of other sources.

Most of these schemes aim to increase the Welsh skill-base in target subject-areas or to widen participation in postgraduate education:

  • The Care Council for Wales helps fund postgraduate Masters programmes in social work at Welsh universities. Applicants will usually need to meet need-based criteria based on personal circumstances.
  • The Access to Masters scheme provided funding for postgraduate Masters courses in professional subject-areas at eligible Welsh universities between 2009-2014. Successor schemes have yet be announced.

Masters funding in Northern Ireland

Why study a Masters in Northern Ireland?

Despite its small size in comparison to other UK member countries, the Northern Irish higher education system has much to be proud of.

Its oldest university is a respected member of the Russell Group of leading UK research universities and the country is also home to important research facilities such as the Northern Ireland Science Park.

What funding is available for Masters programmes in Northern Ireland?

The majority of funding for postgraduate courses in Northern Ireland is provided by the government via the Department for Employment and Learning.

Masters funding from the Department for Employment and Learning

The Department for Employment and Learning (DELNI) is Northern Ireland’s equivalent of the higher education funding councils that operate in other UK member countries.

It provides public money to fund universities and also offers postgraduate Studentship Awards directly to individual students on some DELNI approved Masters courses (funding is normally available in all subject areas except agriculture and medicine, which are supported instead by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development NI and the UK’s Medical Research Council MRC).

The majority of this funding is directed towards PhD programmes and other postgraduate research degrees, but some support is available for selected Masters programmes.

For UK Masters students, DELNI postgraduate Studentship Awards provide a grant of £7,028, to cover fees and maintenance.

EU students are only eligible for a grant meeting the cost of tuition fees, unless they have completed their undergraduate education in the UK.

Eligibility for DELNI postgraduate Studentship Awards depends on nationality and residency. You will normally be entitled to apply for funding if you are a UK or EU citizen and have been resident in the UK or EU, respectively, for the preceding three years.

Applications are made directly to the institution at which you are studying a Masters in Northern Ireland.

Postgraduate Masters loans in Northern Ireland

Following the announcement of a postgraduate loans scheme for English students, Northern Ireland has been the first country to confirm its own postgraduate loans.

Tuition fee loans of up to £5,500 will be available for Northern Irish students on postgraduate courses across the UK, from 2017.

Read more about postgraduate loans in Northern Ireland

Our full guide to postgraduate loans in Northern Ireland provides more information on this new funding - confirmed for 2017.

Masters funding across the UK

As you’ve hopefully realised, there’s actually a lot of support already available for Masters students in each country, despite their exemption from the postgraduate bursaries and loans schemes that have been grabbing the headlines in England

But don’t forget that there are other sources of postgraduate finance across the UK, including Professional and Career Development Loans, Research Council Funding and, of course, grants and scholarships from universities themselves.

Our guide to UK Masters funding provides information on all of these options.

You can also search for Masters funding across the UK (and elsewhere) using our dedicated Postgraduate Funding website. Good luck!

Search for Masters degrees in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Now that you know what funding is available, why not start looking at postgraduate courses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Last updated - 11/08/2016

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