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Financing your studies

Postgraduate student loans in Scotland

If you live in Scotland and are looking to study beyond undergraduate level, read on for our complete guide to postgraduate funding.

Edinburgh city in winter from Calton hill, Scotland

CONTENTS

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

  2. Are you eligible for postgraduate funding in Scotland?

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

  4. Postgraduate finance for EU and international students in Scotland

  5. How to apply for postgraduate funding in Scotland

  6. Repaying your loan

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

Students in Scotland are entitled to a maximum postgraduate loan of £10,000 to cover the whole of their course. This can be for postgraduate or master's study, as long as it isn’t below SCQF level 11. Unlike the rest of the UK, your course must be in Scotland, unless it isn’t available from a Scottish university.

The loan is formed of two parts:

  • Tuition fees support of up to £5,500 – if your fees are lower than this, your university will receive the appropriate amount; if your fees are above £5,500, you'll need to make up the difference yourself
  • Living costs support of up to £4,500 for full-time students – you can borrow less than £4,500 if you feel you don’t need the full amount; students on part-time courses aren’t eligible for this loan, neither are students from the EU

Postgraduate loans in Scotland are non-means-tested, which means you’ll be able to apply for the full amount regardless of your financial income. You can also apply for other funding such as from charitable trusts, or claim disabled students' allowances (DSA) if applicable. If you’re eligible for DSA and want to take out a postgraduate tuition fee loan, you should apply for the loan before submitting your DSA application.

Childcare funds may be available from your university if you’re studying full-time, but funding is limited, so not all eligible students get help.

If you already have an undergraduate loan to pay off, 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 get. If your tuition fees cost more than £5,500, you could in theory use some of your living costs loan to make up the difference. This money is yours to use as you see fit, but it’s important to make sure you always have enough to live on.

Are you eligible for postgraduate funding in Scotland?

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

  • Be under 60 years old on the first day of the first academic year of your master's course – if you later decide to change course and are over 60, you’ll no longer be eligible for the loan
  • Normally live in Scotland (moving there for undergraduate study doesn’t count unless you remained there to work afterwards)
  • Be a resident in Scotland on the 'relevant date' for your course (usually 1 August or 1 January), having lived in the UK for three years as a UK/EU national or with ‘settled status’ (i.e. no restriction on how long you can stay) – exceptions include asylum seekers

You’ll still be eligible for a loan if you already have an equivalent or higher qualification up to a PhD, as long as you didn't receive UK or EU funding. If you did get funding, you’re unlikely to get a postgraduate loan unless you had extenuating circumstances.

Is your course eligible for postgraduate funding in Scotland?

To be eligible for postgraduate finance, your course must be provided by a Scottish university or higher education institution. If a course is unavailable in Scotland, a programme at another UK university may be eligible as long as it’s full-time.

It can be a taught or research-based course. Postgraduate diplomas and full master's degrees such as an MSc, MRes, MPhil, MLitt or MBA are eligible, provided the course isn’t rated lower than Scottish Credit Qualification Framework (SCQF) level 11.

Courses that aren’t eligible include research master's degrees that are integrated into a doctoral course. If your course is eligible for undergraduate funding (this includes a number of postgraduate teaching courses), you can’t apply for a postgraduate loan. 

Graduate-entry pre-registration Nursing courses may be eligible for the Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary. If you're unsure whether your course falls into this category, check with the provider.

You may be eligible for support if you’re taking a year out of a degree such as Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Medicine to do a postgraduate course (as an intercalated degree). Check with your university or SAAS for details.

Your courses can’t be exclusively online or by distance learning. A minimum amount of 'contact time' or teaching is required between the student and teaching staff at the university.

It can be a full- or part-time course. Postgraduate diplomas can be no longer than one year full-time, and master's courses no longer than two years full-time. Part-time courses should take no longer than twice the duration of the equivalent full-time course. If there’s no full-time equivalent, contact SAAS for guidance.

You also won't be eligible if you get other 'public' money while studying your course. If you’re studying a postgraduate course in Social Work, you should seek funding from the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

Mature student in the library at the university

Postgraduate finance for EU and international students in Scotland

EU-resident students or their family members may be eligible for postgraduate loans in Scotland, but only for the tuition fee loan. You must have lived in the EU, EEA or Switzerland for at least three years before starting your course and study in Scotland, living there on the first day of your course. Post-Brexit, Scotland has confirmed that EU students starting a degree in 2020–21 will remain eligible for the whole of their course. However EU students starting a course after autumn 2021 will no longer be eligible for home fee status, or for financial support.

If you’re from outside the EU, it’s unlikely that you’ll be eligible for a postgraduate loan unless you have the right to permanently reside in the UK (e.g. have refugee status). There are also some exceptions for EEA migrant workers, Swiss and Turkish applicants. 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 Scotland

You can apply online to SAAS.

Applications can be made anytime from 1 April until the closing date of 31 March. You’ll need to apply for a tuition fee loan for each year of your course. You apply only once for the living costs loan. Make sure to apply as soon as possible to get the funding in time.

EU students may need to provide a copy of a valid passport or their identity card, but this won’t be needed if you previously received an undergraduate tuition fee loan in Scotland.

Tuition fees are paid directly to the university, while the loan for living costs is paid to you. If your course lasts longer than one year, the loan you receive will be paid pro-rata, with the amount split according to the number of years of study.

Number of years of study

Full-time or part-time

Maximum loan per year

One

Full-time

£10,000 (£5,500 fees plus £4,500 living costs)

Two

Full-time

£5,000 (£2,750 fees plus £2,250 living costs)

Part-time

£2,750 fees

Three

Part-time

£1,883 fees

Four

Part-time

£1,375 fees

Repaying your loan

Repayments for Scottish postgraduate loans follow the same system as Scotland's undergraduate loans (Plan 1). If you already have a Scottish undergraduate loan, the two debts will be combined and paid off through one payment each month.

The amount you need to pay back each month is determined by your income. You’ll repay 9% of all income over £19,390. In Scotland, this threshold is set to rise to £25,000 by April 2021. Interest is charged on the loan in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) but there's a 'low interest cap' which means it can drop when Bank of England interest rates are cut. From 7 April 2020 it was reduced to 1.1%.

You’re eligible for your first repayment in April after you graduate from your course, but only once you’re above the income threshold. You’ll still need to repay any borrowed money even if you choose not to complete a course. If you withdraw from your studies in the first four months, you'll have to pay the tuition fees yourself. The balance of the loan will be cancelled 30 years after it becomes liable for repayment.

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