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Financing your studies

Postgraduate student loans in England

Master's loans are available if you’re looking to study a postgraduate degree in England. Our guide shows you all you need to know.

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CONTENTS

  1. Postgraduate loans and grants in England – how much can you get?

  2. Are you eligible for postgraduate funding in England?

  3. Is your course eligible for postgraduate funding in England?

  4. Postgraduate finance for EU and international students in England

  5. How to apply for postgraduate funding in England

  6. Repaying your loan

Postgraduate loans and grants in England – how much can you get?

The maximum postgraduate loan in England is currently £11,222. However, this is only for a full master's degree of at least 180 credits, not a 'top-up' master's.

This funding covers your whole master's course, whether it's full-time over one to two years or part-time for up to four years. The money will be split evenly between the years, and is paid directly to you in three instalments a year once your attendance on the course is confirmed. You can use the money for your master's tuition fees as well as living costs.

You can borrow as much or as little as you want up to the maximum amount. In England, master's loans don't take your household income into account. You’re also able to apply for grants from charitable trusts. If you’re eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), this will be unaffected by a postgraduate loan. If you currently receive benefits and plan to study part-time, your benefits may be affected.

If you already have an undergraduate loan that’s eligible to be repaid, repayments will only be taken if you’re earning above the income threshold. Your new loan doesn’t count as income for previous loan repayments.

Postgraduate tuition fees vary widely, with some degrees costing more than the amount of loan you’ll receive.

Are you eligible for postgraduate funding in England?

You must meet these criteria to be eligible for a postgraduate loan in England:

  • Be under 60 years old on the first day of the first academic year of your course
  • Normally live in England (moving there for undergraduate study doesn’t count unless you remained there to work afterwards)
  • Be a UK national, having lived in the UK for at least three years before you start your course (exceptions include refugees, those with ‘settled status’ and members/dependent relatives of the armed forces)
  • Be studying your first master's level course

You won't get funding if you already have a qualification at the same level or higher, even if you funded this yourself or it wasn't from a UK university. You'll still be eligible if you have a PGCE or a postgraduate diploma/certificate, and also if you have an MA from a Scottish university or from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford or Trinity College Dublin, as these are at a lower level.

You won't get a postgraduate loan if you’re behind in payments for any previous loans to the Student Loans Company, or if you currently get a loan for another course. You also won't be eligible if you get other 'public' money while studying your course. This includes medical or dental students eligible for an NHS bursary, or students who receive a social work bursary (unless it's just for travel).

Is your course eligible for postgraduate funding in England?

To be eligible for postgraduate funding in England, your course must be provided by a university or college in the UK (including the Open University). It can be a taught or research-based master's degree of at least 180 credits. This includes MSc, MA, MPhil, MRes, LLM, MLitt, MFA, MEd and MBA courses.

Courses that aren’t eligible include master's degrees that are integrated into an undergraduate or doctoral course. A master's integrated into an undergraduate degree receives undergraduate funding, while those integrated into a doctoral course are eligible for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan. Also not eligible are postgraduate certificates and diplomas. This includes PGCEs, which are covered by undergraduate funding.

In England, graduate-entry healthcare courses (including pre-registration Nursing) may qualify for undergraduate loans, even if they lead to an MSc. In general, only stand-alone master's courses are eligible for a master's loan. If you're unsure whether your course falls into this category, check with the provider.

You can apply for a master's loan if you’re taking a year out of some degree courses to study a master's (i.e. an ‘intercalated’ master’s). This includes undergraduate degrees like Architecture, Dentistry, Medicine, Social Work, Veterinary Science or undergraduate Initial Teacher Training. Once you've finished your 'intercalated' course, you can return to complete your undergraduate degree and still get your undergraduate student loan. 

This postgraduate loan can also be used for master's degrees studied by distance learning. You'll have to be living in the UK during your course (or in England specifically if you’re an EU national). The exception to this is where a student is in the armed forces (or a dependent relative of someone in the armed forces) and is serving overseas.

Courses can be one to two years long if studied full-time. Part-time courses must be no more than twice the length of the equivalent full-time course, or a maximum of three years if no full-time equivalent course exists.

Postgraduate finance for EU and international students in England

EU students may be eligible for master's loans in England. You need to have lived in the EU, EEA or Switzerland for at least the past three years and attend a university in England, living there on the first day of your course. Post-Brexit, England has confirmed that EU students starting a degree in 2020–21 will remain eligible for the duration of their course. However the UK Government has confirmed that EU students starting a course from 2021–22 onwards will no longer be eligible for home fee status or support with student finance.

If you’re from outside the EU, it’s unlikely that you’ll be eligible for a postgraduate loan. Exceptions include those who have the right to permanently reside in the UK (e.g. having refugee status), EEA and Swiss migrant workers, and children of migrant workers, Swiss nationals and Turkish workers. However, there are often scholarships and bursaries for international students studying at postgraduate level, so check what your university has on offer.

How to apply for postgraduate funding in England

You apply for a master's loan online through Student Finance England. If you haven’t already got an account, go via GOV.UK.

You only have to apply once, even if your course lasts longer than a year. You don't have to apply right away – the deadline is nine months after the first day of your final academic year. You also don't need to have a confirmed place, as you can change or update your details later on.

You'll need to provide evidence of your identity such as a valid UK passport, or if you don't have one, your birth or adoption certificate. EU nationals will need their passport or national identity card.

The money will be paid to you, not the university. If you’re applying to study a master's degree that lasts longer than a year, the amount you'll get will be split over the duration of the course. You’ll get the loan in three instalments per year, with 33% of your annual allowance in the first two and 34% in the third.

Number of years of study

Full-time or part-time

Maximum loan per year

One

Full-time

£11,222

Two

Full-time

£5,611

Part-time

Three

Part-time

£3,740.66

Four

Part-time

£2,805.50

Repaying your loan

You’ll repay your postgraduate loan at the same time as any other student loans you may have.

As with undergraduate loans, repayments are based on your income. Master's loans in England are repaid at 6% on income above £21,000 per year. So if you earn £25,000 per year, you'll repay 6% of the £4,000 above the £21,000 threshold, working out at a monthly payment of £20. Currently those from England or Wales only make repayments on their undergraduate loan once their income is above £26,575 (£27,295 from 6 April 2021). There is no annual change to the repayment threshold for postgraduate loans.

The interest rate is based on the cost of living as measured by the retail price index (RPI) and is set at RPI plus 3%. This changes each September, based on the RPI from the preceding March – so from 1 September 2020 the rate is 5.6%. This is seen to be a favourable rate when compared to the commercial cost of loans for a similar amount.

Repayments begin in April the year after you complete your course, but only when you’re above the income threshold. After 30 years, if you haven't paid off your loan in full, the remaining amount will be written off.

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