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Postgraduate Loans in England

Master's loans are now available for students looking to study for a postgraduate degree in England. Check out our complete guide to find out all you need to know.

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How much can you get in 2019Are you eligible for a master's loan?Is your course eligible?EU or international studentsGetting a master's loan in EnglandLoan repaymentsNext steps

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Master's loans: how much can you get in 2019?

For courses starting after 1st August 2019, the maximum postgraduate loan is £10,906. However, this is only for a full master's 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 and also 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 are also able to apply for grants from charitable trusts. If you are 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 is eligible to be repaid, repayments will only be taken if you are earning above the income threshold. Your loan does not count as income for loan repayments.

It's worth bearing in mind that postgraduate tuition fees vary widely, with some degrees costing far more than the amount of loan you will receive. For example, although MBA courses are eligible, the full cost of the programme will usually be more than the £10,906 loan limit. See the link at the foot of this page to our annual survey of university tuition fees to find out more.

Are you eligible for a master's loan?

You must meet all the following criteria to be eligible for a postgraduate loan in England:

  • Age: You must be under 60 years old on the first day of the first academic year of your course.
  • Where you normally live: You must normally live in England – and not just for study. If you're originally from elsewhere in the UK but studied in England, you'll need to apply to your 'home' nation's student finance body. This is unless you've stayed on after your degree in order to work in England.
  • How long you've lived in the UK: You must have lived in the UK for at least the past three years as a UK national. Exceptions include refugees or those with 'settled status' (with no restriction on how long you can stay); and members of the UK armed forces, or their dependent relatives. EU or International students should check the relevant section further down this page.
  • Your previous qualifications: You must 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 or certificate. 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 are behind in payments for any previous loans to the Student Loans Company, or if you currently receive 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).

If you have any question about your eligibility, it is worth checking with your nation's student finance body. Contact details are at the foot of this page.

Is your course eligible for master's loan funding?

Your course must also meet the following criteria (for master's courses starting after 1st August 2019):

  • Provider: It must be provided by a university or college in the UK (including the Open University).
  • What type of course is eligible? 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.
  • What type of course isn't eligible? Courses that are not 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, since August 2018 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 not sure whether your course falls into this category, check with the provider.
  • How about an 'Intercalated' master's? You can apply for a master's loan if you are taking a year out of some degree courses to do a master's. This includes undergraduate degrees like architecture, dentistry, medicine, social work, vet 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. 
  • Distance learning? 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, if you are 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.
  • Any limit on the course length? 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.

What about EU or international students?

EU (European Union) students may be eligible for master's loans from 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. Brexit is not set to have any immediate impact on funding; England has confirmed that EU students starting a degree in 2020–21 will remain eligible.

If you’re from outside the EU, it is unlikely that you will be eligible for a postgraduate loan. Exceptions to this include those who have the right to permanently reside in the UK (e.g. having refugee status), EEA or Swiss migrant workers, or if you are 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 on offer.

If you are unsure whether you are considered a UK, EU or international student, please check with the relevant student finance body. Details for Student Finance England are at the foot of this page.

London, England

How do you get a master's loan in England?

You need to make your application for a master's loan online through Student Finance England. 

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; 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 are 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 will receive 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

What is the maximum amount I can get per year?

One

Full-time

£10,906

Two

Full-time

£5,453

Part-time

Three

Part-time

£3,635.33

Four

Part-time

£2,726.50

What are the loan repayments like?

You will 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 with undergraduate loans from England or Wales only repay this once their income is above £25,725.

Interest rates are set at the rate of RPI+3%. RPI stands for 'retail price index,' referring to the rate of inflation based on the price of goods and services in the UK. RPI+3% means that the interest paid on your loan will be the current RPI percentage, plus a further 3%. 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 once you are above the income threshold. After 30 years, if you haven't paid off your loan in full the remaining amount will be written off.

Next steps for master's study…

Visit Student Finance England to find out more or apply for a master's loan in England. You'll need to either log in with your previous details if you've had a student loan before, or register to create an account.

Use our Course Chooser to find postgraduate courses of interest to you, or see how each university rates at undergraduate level in our Subject Tables. 

For a guide to postgraduate tuition fees charged by each UK university, see our Reddin Survey of University Tuition Fees.