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Masters Loans – what’s changed?

The past year has been an interesting one for prospective UK postgraduates. Having announced Masters loans in 2014, the government has now confirmed their availability from 2016-17.

But there's also great news for students who've been following the scheme since its initial announcement. If you’ve been put off or concerned about the restrictions that originally applied to it, you'll want to take a look at some of the changes that have now been made to the Masters loans.

The good news is that the government hasn’t just clarified details of the loans. It’s also relaxed many of their eligibility criteria.

We’ve updated our full guide to the UK Masters loans. But, if you’re just looking to see what’s changed, we’ve got you covered here.

Age cap raised from 30 to 60

Let’s start with the most popular change to the proposals.

Postgraduate loans only got a single line in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement speech. But it was a very encouraging one, with a promise to ‘extend loans to all postgraduates.’

And it soon became clear that ‘all’ means ‘all’.

Previously, loans had been restricted to students under 30. This was a controversial criteria, attracting criticism from universities, student unions and other groups.

The government has responded by raising the cap to 60.

Great news if you’re returning to study as a mature student – or if you were unfortunate enough to just miss the original age limit.

Repayment criteria relaxed

Loans should make postgraduate study much more affordable. But it’s important to remember that they are loans not grants.

Various groups have expressed concerns about the effect of additional debt (and repayments) on graduates’ finances.

Thankfully, the government agrees. Though you’ll still need to pay back your Masters loan concurrently with your undergraduate loan, you’ll do so at a lower rate: 6% instead of 9%.

The first set of Masters loans will also be subject to a one year repayment holiday, with nothing due until April 2019.

For more information, see our separate guide to postgraduate loan repayments.

Loans become portable

Loans were originally going to be restricted to universities in England. Now they’re available to study any UK Masters.

This includes degrees in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, as well as England. Provided your prospective university has degree awarding powers, you can receive a loan to study there.

You’ll still need to be ordinarily resident in England, but if you want to study elsewhere, that’s fine. You can simply take your loan with you!

Better yet, you can now also receive a loan to study a Masters by distance learning.

So, if you want to study a course in another part of the UK without leaving England… you can!

Research Masters also included

Originally, the loans only applied to taught Masters degrees. This excluded pure research degrees such as the MPhil outright.

But it also left room for confusion, depending on how universities defined programmes such as the MRes (Master of Research).

The new proposals make things much simpler. Now all Masters degrees are included, however they are defined.

This still excludes PhDs, but don’t worry. A separate system of loans is being developed for higher level postgraduate research.

Course length increased

Finally, the government has also relaxed restrictions on course length for the Masters loans.

You can now receive a loan to study for up to two years on a full-time course. Or you can study for up to four years on a part-time course.

Find out more

Have these changes improved the Masters loan scheme for you? We hope so!

For more information, check out our full guide. You can also read more about repaying a postgraduate loan.

Or you can keep an eye on the development of other loan schemes in the UK, including proposals for Masters loans in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Last updated - 24/12/2015

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