Postgraduate loans, or master's loans, have different rules for eligibility and funding depending on where you study.
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 loan amounts, which may be a simple postgraduate tuition fee loan or could 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.
Apart from in Wales, postgraduate loans don't 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’re eligible to repay a postgraduate loan from April after your course finishes, but only if your earnings are over a certain amount. Repayments will begin when you're earning over £21,000 (or £19,390 in Scotland or Northern Ireland) and interest will be included.
The main sources of research funding for UK-based applicants are the seven research councils:
- Science and Technology Facilties Council (STFC)
- Medical Research Council (MRC)
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
- Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
They award about 6,000 grants or 'studentships' each year to universities to fund students undertaking postgraduate research or master’s courses. If you get a studentship, your tuition fees are paid and you get a cost-of-living grant of up to around £15,285 a year, tax-free, that you don’t have to pay back.
You can't apply to any of these councils without the support of your supervisor and institution. You'll need their help with filling in your application form. Sometimes the institution will do the whole application for you.
If you want to become a social worker, you can get a bursary for postgraduate-level courses in England, Wales and Scotland. If you're 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 that are more generous.
If you work, your employer might sponsor you to take a part-time postgraduate course, especially if the qualification will help you progress at work.
Or, you could fund your course by working part-time as almost 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.
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 pay is by the hour. But it does enable postgraduates to get valuable teaching experience.
You should be careful to ensure the hours you work for a part-time job are clearly agreed in advance and adhered to by the department to give you enough time for your PhD.
Tuition fees for postgraduate courses vary but the overall cost of study will depend on many factors, such as the institution you choose, course, location and funding opportunities.
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 the higher-ranked universities.