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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 in Scotland

  2. Are you eligible for postgraduate funding?

  3. Is your course eligible for postgraduate funding?

  4. Postgraduate finance for EU and international students

  5. How to apply for postgraduate funding in Scotland

  6. Repaying your loan

Postgraduate loans in Scotland

Students in Scotland are entitled to combined funding of £10,000 to cover the whole of your course. This can be for postgrad or master's study but your course must be in Scotland, unless it isn’t available from a Scottish university.

The postgraduate loan is formed of two parts:

  • Tuition fee support of up to £5,500 – if your fees are lower than this, your uni will receive the appropriate amount; if your fees are higher you'll need to pay the difference yourself
  • Living cost support of up to £4,500 for full-time students – students on part-time courses aren’t eligible for this loan

If your tuition fees cost more than £5,500, you could in theory use some of your living costs payment 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.

Postgraduate funding in Scotland 2021/22

Course length

Full-time or part-time

Maximum loan per year

One year

Full-time

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

Two years

Full-time

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

Part-time

£2,750 fees

Three years

Part-time

£1,883 fees

Four years

Part-time

£1,375 fees

This student loan isn’t means-tested, so you can 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 tuition fee loan, you should apply for it before submitting your DSA application.

Childcare support 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 postgraduate loan doesn’t count as income for previous loan repayments.

Are you eligible for postgraduate funding?

You must meet all the following criteria:

You must normally live in Scotland, and have been living in the UK and Islands for the three years immediately before you start your course. If you moved to Scotland because of undergraduate study, you're not considered 'ordinarily resident' unless you continued to live and work in Scotland after you finished.

You must also be under 60 years old when you start your course, if you want to apply for the living cost support. There’s no age restriction on the tuition fee loan.

You might not be eligible for tuition fee support if you already have an equivalent or higher qualification, even if this was self-funded. However you’ll still be able to apply for a living cost loan, if you’re on a full-time course.

If you’re receiving other ‘public’ money, you may not get a student loan. Graduate-entry pre-registration Nursing courses may be eligible for the Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary. If you’re studying a postgrad course in Social Work, you should seek funding from the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

Is your course eligible for postgraduate funding?

To be eligible for postgraduate finance, your course must be provided by a Scottish university or higher education institution. If your course isn’t available 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. Postgrad diplomas and full master's degrees such as an MSc, MRes, MPhil, MLitt or MBA are eligible, provided the course isn’t 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 postgrad teaching courses, such as the Postgraduate Diploma in Education), you can’t apply for a postgraduate loan. 

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

Distance learning

Your course 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.

Length of course

It can be a full- or part-time course. Postgraduate diplomas mustn’t be more than one year full-time, and master's courses no longer than two years full-time. Part-time courses shouldn’t be more than twice as long as the equivalent full-time course. If there’s no full-time equivalent, contact SAAS for guidance.

Mature student in the library at the university

Postgraduate finance for EU and international students

After Brexit, Scotland has confirmed that EU students starting a degree in 2020/21 will remain eligible for a tuition fee loan for the whole of their course. However, EU students starting a course after autumn 2021 won't be eligible for home fee status or financial support unless they're from Ireland or are registered with the UK's EU Settlement Scheme. See our page on student finance eligibility for more on how Brexit has affected EU students.

International students are unlikely to qualify for a loan unless they have the right to permanently reside in the UK (e.g. have refugee status). 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, although to receive funding by the start of your course you’ll need to apply by the end of June. 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.

Tuition fees are paid directly to the university, while the loan for living costs is paid to you.

Repaying your loan

Repayments for Scottish postgraduate loans follow the same system as Scotland's undergraduate loans (which from April 2021 is Plan 4). If you already have a Scottish undergraduate loan, the two debts will be combined and paid via 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 the threshold of £25,000. 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 your earnings are 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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