Postgraduate student loans, also known as 'postgraduate loans' or 'master's loans' are available throughout the UK. There are different amounts and different rules for eligibility, depending on whether you are studying in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
Students should apply for a loan from the nation in which they 'normally reside'. If you moved there to study, it doesn't count – unless you stayed on after your degree to work.
Each nation offers different amounts of loan, which may be a simple postgraduate tuition fee loan, or cover additional living costs. In some cases, the loan may not be enough to cover the cost of the tuition fee a university may charge. In this case, you'll need to fund the remaining amount yourself. You can also consider alternative funding.
Apart from in Wales, postgraduate loans do not take your household income into account. In Wales, you'll still get the same amount of funding, but your income determines whether this is in the form of a grant (which doesn't need to be repaid) or a loan (which does).
In all cases, you are eligible to repay a postgraduate loan from the April after your course finishes, but only if your earnings are over a certain amount. Repayments will begin when the student is earning over £21,000 (or £18,935 in Scotland or Northern Ireland) and interest will be included.
Read more about each country's loan schemes below.
The main sources of research funding for UK-based applicants are the seven research councils:
- They award about 6,000 grants or "studentships" each year to universities to fund students undertaking postgraduate research or masters courses. If you get a studentship, your tuition fees are paid and you get a cost of living grant of up to around £15,000 a year, tax free, that you don’t have to pay back.
- You cannot apply to one of these councils without the support of your supervisor and institution. You will need their help with filling in your application form. Sometimes the institution will do the whole application for you. Find out about the research councils and their work.
- If you want to become a social worker, you can get a bursary for postgraduate-level courses in England, Wales and Scotland and if you are interested in medicine, dentistry or healthcare, you can get some funding from bursaries.
- If you want to become a qualified teacher you may be able to get the full package of student support from the government in England, Wales or Northern Ireland to study for a PGCE. Scotland has different rules and they are more generous.
Employer sponsorship or a part-time job
- If you work, your employer might sponsor you to take a part-time postgraduate course especially if the qualification will help you to progress at work.
- Alternatively, you could fund your course by working part-time as almost one-half of all postgraduate students do. Most universities know that many students need to take paid work during their studies, but recommend a limit of 10–15 hours a week during term time. Not all universities allow you to work during your course.
Graduate teaching and research assistants
- Some postgraduates, particularly PhD students, get jobs as graduate teaching or research assistants to help fund their courses. This can involve a lot of work – marking essays, giving lectures and taking seminars – and the pay is hourly. But it does enable postgraduates to get valuable teaching experience.
- You should be careful to ensure that the hours you work on a part-time job are clearly agreed in advance and adhered to by the department to give you enough time for your PhD.
Typical postgraduate fees at UK universities
Tuition fees for postgraduate courses vary, but the overall cost of study will depend on many factors, such as the institution you choose, the course, location and funding opportunities. It could cost less than you might think.
Full-time fees range from a high of £57,200 for a one-year MBA at Oxford, to a low of £3,650 for some postgraduate classroom courses at Middlesex for UK or EU students.
For international students, typical fees fall into the £12,000-£20,000 bracket.
MBAs cost more than most other postgraduate degrees and are particularly expensive at a highly-ranked university such as Oxford.
To find individual tuition fees, use our postgraduate course chooser. Fee information can be found on the course details page.
Next page: Funding Postgraduate Study through Charity