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Postgraduate Student Loans in Northern Ireland

If you live in Northern Ireland you are also eligible for a postgraduate loan: here, it can be used to pay tuition fees for a postgraduate certificate or postgraduate diploma, not just a full master's degree. Read on for our complete guide.

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How do I apply • How much can I get in 2018 • How is my loan received • What are the repayments like • Eligibility (you, the loan, your course) • EU students • Find out more

Castle In Northern Ireland

How do I apply for a postgraduate loan?

Applications can be made online or sent by post to Student Finance Northern Ireland. The deadline is no later than nine months after the course starts, and you have to apply each year of your course.

How much can I get as a postgraduate loan in 2018?

Northern Ireland students will be entitled to a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500, however there is no loan for living costs. The loan is not means-tested (it is unaffected by your financial background), and will be paid directly to your university.

If your tuition fees are lower than £5,500, Student Finance Northern Ireland will only pay what your university charges; you do not get the remaining money. You can borrow less than the cost of your course if you wish; as all loans accrue interest (i.e. you repay the loan, plus the interest on the loan), you'll save yourself money if you are able to pay any part of the fees up front.

However tuition fees have risen in recent years, and vary considerably – see our Reddin Survey of University Tuition Fees as a guide. If your course costs more than £5,500, you will need to pay the difference yourself.

How will my postgraduate loan be received?

The money is paid direct to the university. If you are applying to study a postgraduate course that lasts longer than a year, the amount you receive will be split across the duration of the course. In Northern Ireland, courses must be completed in three academic years or less, whether they are full- or part-time. Therefore your funding would be as follows:

Number of years of study

What is the maximum amount I can get per year?

One

£5,500

Two

£2,750

Three

£1,833 in the first two years, and up to £1,834 in the final year

What are the loan repayments like?

If you have already taken out an undergraduate loan with Student Finance Northern Ireland, your postgraduate loan will automatically be added to it, and you’ll make repayments each month to pay off the combined debt. If you don’t already have an undergraduate loan, you will still pay off your postgraduate loan in the same way.

Postgraduate loans in Northern Ireland will be repaid at a rate of 9% of all income above £18,330. You will start to repay your loan the April after your course ends if you are earning above this income threshold. Note, repayments can be taken if you exceed the monthly or weekly threshold at any time (for example if you got a bonus, or worked overtime).

The loans will be subject to interest, which starts to accumulate once the first loan payment is made to your university. Interest has remained at 1.5% since December 2017, however this may be subject to change in the future.

After 25 years, if you haven’t paid off your loan in full, the remaining amount will be written off. As a postgraduate qualification should increase your earning potential, it is assumed that you will be able to pay off your loan in full before the 25-year cut-off point.

Belfast , Northern Ireland

Eligibility

Personal criteria

To be eligible for a postgraduate loan in Northern Ireland, you must:

  • Be a UK or Republic of Ireland national or have 'settled status' (i.e. with no restriction on how long you can stay in the UK).
  • Have lived in Northern Ireland for at least three years prior to the first day of the academic year in which your course begins.

If you're from elsewhere in the UK and studied an undergraduate degree in Northern Ireland, this does not count as being 'ordinarily resident' there: you will need to apply to your home nation.

Equally, if you are from Northern Ireland and studied an undergraduate degree elsewhere in the UK, you will be eligible for a postgraduate loan as your permanent residence is in Northern Ireland. However, if you remained in your country of study to live and work after completing your degree, this may impact your residency status. If you’re unsure, you should contact Student Finance Northern Ireland or your university.

Note, unlike the postgraduate loan systems in England, Scotland and Wales, where you must be aged under 60 to be eligible, there is no age limit for applicants.

Funding criteria

  • Postgraduate loans in Northern Ireland can be combined with other types of funding, such as charitable grants or scholarships, Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) or NHS Bursaries
  • If you are currently receiving an undergraduate loan, you will not be able to receive a postgraduate loan; you cannot receive two student loans at the same time. 
  • You can also only receive one postgraduate loan, so if you previously received a postgraduate loan elsewhere in the UK you will be ineligible – unless you had to stop studying for 'compelling personal reasons' such as bereavement or illness.

Course-based criteria

In addition to the above criteria, your course must meet the following requirements:

  • It must be a postgraduate qualification up to master's level. Unlike in England and Wales, where only master's degrees are covered by the scheme, students in Northern Ireland will also be entitled to funding if they are studying a postgraduate certificate (PGCert) or postgraduate diploma (PGDip) as well as master's degrees such as MBAs (be aware, MBA tuition fees are much more than £5,500).
  • The course must be provided by a publicly funded higher education institution in the UK. The course can be studied by attendance or by distance learning.
  • It must be completed in three academic years or less, whether it is full- or part-time.
  • It can be a taught or research course.

Unlike in England and Wales, in Northern Ireland you can apply even if you already have a equivalent or higher level of qualification. So, if you already have a master's degree, PGCert, PGDip, or any other postgraduate qualification, you will still be eligible for a postgraduate loan – as long as you haven't received one before.

Notably, teaching qualifications such as PGCEs and PGDEs are ineligible for postgraduate loans, with alternative funding already available for students of these courses. Students wishing to study an integrated master's (where the programme is combined with undergraduate study) should normally apply for an undergraduate loan – although a Master of Architecture (MArch) may be an exception if you study part-time. The loan is not eligible for doctoral courses (PhD).

What about EU students?

If you are an EU student, you will be eligible for a postgraduate loan as long as you have been resident in the EEA or Switzerland for three years, are living in Northern Ireland on the first day of your course, and will be studying at a university or college there. If you have already been living in Northern Ireland for three years, you can apply as a student from Northern Ireland and study elsewhere in the UK.

Brexit is not set to have any immediate impact on funding, with England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all confirming that EU students starting a degree in 2018 (and even 2019) will be eligible.

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

Find out more or apply for a postgraduate student loan in Northern Ireland

Visit Student Finance Northern Ireland to find out more and apply for a master's loan in Northern Ireland.
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.