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Financing your studies

Postgraduate student loans in Wales

Wales offers a postgraduate loan scheme, but only for students studying a full master's degree.

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CONTENTS

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

  2. Are you eligible for postgraduate finance in Wales?

  3. Is your course eligible for postgraduate finance in Wales?

  4. Postgraduate finance for EU and international students in Wales

  5. How to apply for postgraduate finance in Wales

  6. Repaying your loan

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

In 2020–21 you can apply for £17,489 for study at master's level in Wales, consisting of a loan and a grant. It's the only scheme in the UK where household income is considered, determining the level of grant you get. Unlike the loan, you won't have to repay the grant.

This funding is for master's level study only, and it must be a full master's course, not a 'top up'. It covers the whole course, whether it's full-time over one to two years, or part-time for up to four years. The money is evenly split across the number of years the course runs. The funding is paid directly to you and can be used for your master's tuition fees and living costs. 

If your household income is £18,370 or below, you’re entitled to the maximum grant of £6,885 and a loan of £10,604. If your household income is £59,200 or more, or if you don't want to give details of your income, you can get a non-means tested grant of £1,000 plus a loan of up to £16,489.

You don’t have to take out the full amount of loan you’re entitled to, but can still claim your grant. You can also claim Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) if you’re eligible for this support.

If you already have an undergraduate loan that you need to repay, repayments will only be taken if you’re earning above the income threshold. Your loan won’t count as income for loan repayments.

Some degrees cost more than the amount of loan you’ll get.

Master's bursaries

In August 2019, the Welsh Government announced new bursaries for master's study – these continue to be offered in 2020–21:

  • £4,000 for those over 60
  • £2,000 for those studying STEMM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine)
  • £1,000 for those studying in the Welsh medium

Unlike loans, these bursaries don’t need to be repaid. Contact your preferred university to find out more.

Are you eligible for postgraduate finance in Wales?

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

  • Be under 60 years old on the first day of the first academic year of your master's course (which could start in September, January, April or July)
  • Normally live in Wales (moving there for undergraduate study doesn’t count unless you remained there to work afterwards)
  • Be a UK national or have 'settled status' (i.e. no restriction on how long you can stay), having lived in the UK for at least three years before you start your course; or a EU national living in the UK or within the EEA or Switzerland for the past three years
  • Be studying for 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, a postgraduate diploma/certificate or an MA from a Scottish university or from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford or Trinity College Dublin.

You also can't get a postgraduate master's loan if you previously had postgraduate funding from anywhere else in the UK. This is unless you had to withdraw from a course for a compelling reason such as illness or bereavement. Similarly, you won't be eligible if you get any other 'public' funding for your course such as a healthcare or social work bursary.

Is your course eligible for postgraduate finance in Wales?

To be eligible for postgraduate finance, your course must be provided by an approved university or college in the UK (including the Open University). It can be a taught or research-based master's degree of 180 credits – this can include 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 degree 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. For a course to be eligible for a master's loan, it must be a stand-alone master's course, not a 'top up'. If you're not sure whether your course falls into this category, check with the provider.

If studying by distance learning, you'll need to be living in Wales on the first day of the first academic year of your course. You'll also need to live in the UK after that, or remain in Wales if you’re an EU national. Exceptions are made for students in the armed forces or with a dependent relative posted outside Wales.

Courses can be one to two years if studied full-time. Part-time courses can be from two to four years in duration.

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Postgraduate finance for EU and international students in Wales

EU-resident students may be eligible for postgraduate loans in Wales. You need to have lived in the EU, EEA or Switzerland for at least the past three years and attend a university in Wales. Post-Brexit, Wales has confirmed that EU students starting a degree in 2020–21 will remain eligible for the whole of their course. From autumn 2021, EU students will no longer be eligible for home fee status or financial support.

If you’re from outside the EU, it’s unlikely that you’ll be eligible for a postgraduate loan. Exceptions may include refugees or those with similar circumstances, EEA or Swiss migrant workers, or if you’re the child of a migrant worker, Swiss national or Turkish worker. 

However, there are often scholarships and bursaries for international students studying at postgraduate level, so check what your university has to offer.

How to apply for postgraduate finance in Wales

You can apply online or by post to Student Finance Wales

You need only apply once, not for each year of the course. You don't need a confirmed place as details can be updated later on. Apply as soon as you can to make sure you receive funds before your course starts. The last date for application is nine months after the first day of the last academic year of your course.

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. Students who apply for income-based amounts will need to give evidence of their household income.

The money will be paid to you, not the university. The funding is for the duration of your course and will be split pro-rata if your course lasts longer than one year. The annual amount will then be paid in three instalments each year after the course start date, once your university has confirmed your registration.

Number of years of study

Full-time or part-time

Maximum total grant + loan per year

One

Full-time

£17,489

Two

Full-time

£8,744.50

Part-time

Three

Part-time

£5,829.33

Four

Part-time

£4,372.50

Repaying your loan

You’ll repay your postgraduate loan at the same time as your undergraduate loan, although the terms of these loans are different.

As with undergraduate loans, repayments are relative to income. Postgraduate loans in Wales are repaid at 6% of income above £21,000 per year. For example, if you have an annual income of £30,000, you'll pay 6% of £9,000. This works out as a monthly payment of £45 if you only have a master's loan. There is no annual change to the repayment threshold for postgraduate loans.

The amount you borrow is also subject to interest. For postgraduate loans, interest is tied to the cost of living and is based on the retail price index (RPI) plus 3%. This changes annually; from 1 September 2020 the rate is set at 5.6%.

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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