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Funding Your Masters – FAQs From Our Study Fairs

Written by Sarah Hastings-Woodhouse

Working out how you’ll cover the cost of your Masters can be daunting. Things don’t work quite the same as they will have done at undergraduate level, and it’s likely that you’ll have to combine sources of funding.

To help you make sense of it all, we run a funding stand at every one of our in-person and virtual study fairs.

We’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions we get to hopefully help below.

#1 I’m a UK student. How do I fund my Masters?

This might seem like a very broad question to include – but it’s actually the most common one we receive. If you’re just starting out on your funding search, it’s probably the first one you have too!

Your first port of call is the government’s postgraduate loan. You can borrow up to £12,167 with an English postgraduate loan in 2023/24 (the figures differ slightly for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland).

Given that average Masters fees for domestic students are usually between £8,740 and £10,306 per year, the postgraduate loan is unlikely to cover your costs, so you’ll probably have to combine it with other funding. First, check out what funding your university offers. Most will have scholarships, bursaries and grants available for postgraduate students. Other options include support from charities and trusts, employer sponsorship and crowdfunding.

#2 Will I get a maintenance loan?

Unlike at undergraduate level, there is no separate maintenance loan in England or Wales. The money will be paid directly into your bank account, and it’s up to you to divide it between tuition and living costs. In Northern Ireland, you can only borrow money towards your tuition fee, which is paid to your university. You won’t be able to borrow any extra money for living costs.

In Scotland, there is a separate tuition fee loan (which is paid to your university) and maintenance loan (which is paid into your bank account).

#3 Is the postgraduate loan means-tested?

Postgraduate loans in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland aren’t means-tested. You can borrow up to the same amount regardless of your household income (though you can choose to borrow less). Postgraduate loans are also not based on your credit history.

The Welsh postgraduate loan combines a non-means tested loan with a means-tested grant. The higher your household income, the less money you’ll receive as a grant (but the more you can borrow as a loan).

#4 I already have a Masters. Can I get a postgraduate loan?

The answer to this question is (usually) no. In England and Wales, you can’t apply for a postgraduate loan if you already have a full Masters degree. However, you can still apply if you have postgraduate qualification below Masters level, such as a PGCert or PGDip – though you can’t use your loan to ‘top up’ one of these qualifications to a full Masters.

In Scotland, you usually won’t be able to apply for a tuition fee loan if you have studied any postgraduate course before, including PGDE and PGDip courses. However, you can still apply for a living cost loan.

In Northern Ireland, you can apply for a postgraduate loan even if you have a previous Masters degree, so long as it was self-funded. You won’t be able to receive a second postgraduate loan.

#5 I started a previous Masters but didn’t finish it. Can I apply for a postgraduate loan?

If you did not receive any student finance for your previous Masters, then you should be able to apply for a postgraduate loan. However, you can’t apply for a second postgraduate loan, regardless of whether you completed your previous course.

#6 I am receiving benefits. Will the postgraduate loan affect this?

Possibly. The postgraduate loan counts as a form of income, so it may affect the welfare support you are entitled to. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your benefits provider before applying for your loan.

#7 Is my course eligible for student finance?

In England and Wales, you’ll need to be studying a full 180-credit Masters degree to apply for a postgraduate loan. This includes research degrees such as the MRes and MPhil, and specialised courses such as the MBA and LLM. It does not include postgraduate qualifications that are below Masters level, such as PGDE and PGDip courses.

In Scotland, you can get a postgraduate loan for full taught or research Masters degrees and PGDip courses, but not PGCert or PGDE courses.

Norther Ireland provides postgraduate funding for the broadest range of courses. You can get funding for PGCert and PGDip courses, as well as full taught or research Masters degrees. You can also use your loan to ‘top up’ a previous postgraduate qualification to a full Masters.

#8 When should I apply for my postgraduate loan?

Applications for postgraduate loans usually open in the summer before your start date. The deadline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is fairly relaxed – you’ll have up until nine months from the start of your final year to apply. For example, if you’re studying a one-year Masters that started on 1 September 2022, you’ll need to apply by 1 June 2023.

If you’re applying for a Scottish loan, you’ll have to meet a set deadline. For courses starting in the 2022/23 academic year, the deadline is 31 March 2023.

Your application will usually take four to six weeks to process (it could be longer if additional evidence is required), so make sure you apply far enough in advance to have your money ready by the start of term.

You don’t need a confirmed place at university to apply for a postgraduate loan – you’ll just be asked to put down a preferred choice on your application form. You can change this later if you need to.

#9 Why was my postgraduate loan application rejected?

While we can provide information on postgraduate loan eligibility, we likely won’t be able to offer insight into why your particular application was rejected, assuming to you meet all eligibility criteria. It’s best to discuss this with Student Finance directly.

#10 I’m an international student. How do I fund my Masters?

The not-so-good news is that international students are not generally eligible for UK government funding. There are a number of exceptions (if you’ve been granted refugee status in the UK, for example). The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website has useful information if you’re not sure about your eligibility

The better news is that there are a number of funding opportunities on offer specifically for international students. This includes scholarships funded by the UK Government, including the Chevening Scheme, Commonwealth Scholarship and GREAT Scholarship.

The UK also has many partnerships with other countries around the world to encourages international exchange. There may be funding offered by organisations in your home country for students to study in the UK. We’ve listed some examples on our website.

You can also check what funding is available from your university – most will advertise funding opportunities for international students on their website. If you can’t find anything you’re eligible for, it’s worth contacting them directly to ask what support might be available.

International students may also be eligible to apply for funding from charities and trusts.

Have a question we’ve not answered here? Register for a free place at one of our virtual or in-person study fairs to chat with a member of our team!

You can also find more detailed information and advice on covering the cost of your Masters in our funding section.

Last updated: 24 January 2023