Will the loans cover the full cost of studying a Masters degree?
The government is offering loans as ‘a contribution to the cost of an eligible postgraduate Masters qualification’. You can use a loan for tuition fees, living costs and other study expenses as you see fit.
In practice, the £10,000 maximum amount should be sufficient to cover tuition fees for most eligible taught Master programmes (calculated at an average of just over £8,000 by research carried out in support of the consultation). However, it will not necessarily cover all of your accommodation and living costs.
Some Masters courses may also cost more than £10,000. This is particularly likely for MBA programmes.
Do I have to borrow the full £10,000?
No, the £10,000 is simply the maximum amount you can borrow. If you wish to borrow a smaller amount to cover fees (or living costs) you will be able to do so.
There is no minimum loan amount.
Can I change the amount I wish to borrow?
Yes, but you must do so within one month of the end of your loan payment period. For one year courses this will be one month before the end of the academic year. For longer courses this will be one month before the end of your second academic year of study.
Are the loans means-tested?
No, the postgraduate Masters loans are not means-tested. You can apply regardless of your existing income or savings.
Will my credit rating or credit history be taken into account?
No, the decision to lend to you won’t be based on your personal credit rating or credit history.
The only exception applies if you are already in arrears to the Student Loans Company. This may apply if you have missed payments or travelled outside the country without informing the SLC. If so, you should contact them and discuss your account.
Can I combine a Masters loan with other funding or finance?
In some cases, yes. Receiving other postgraduate funding or finance from your university or a third party (such as a charity) won’t normally affect your eligibility.
However, if other public funding is available for the whole of your course, you may not be able to apply for a postgraduate loan. This is one of the reasons why integrated and undergraduate Masters are not eligible.
Note that this information only concerns your eligibility for a postgraduate Masters loan. It is possible (though unlikely) that taking out a loan may affect your eligibility for other grants or finance.
Can I still receive Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)?
Yes. Your entitlement to Disabled Students’ Allowance is distinct from any other financial support you receive.
Can I receive a postgraduate loan if I am eligible for an NHS bursary?
Possibly not. Some NHS bursaries – for subjects such as nursing and midwifery – supersede postgraduate loans. Check with your provider for more information.
Can I apply if I already have an undergraduate loan?
Yes. The new system is designed to be an affordable option for graduates who want to continue on to further study. Repayments will occur concurrently with your undergraduate loan and won’t be due until you are earning enough to afford them.
How will I be paid?
Your loan will be distributed in three ‘tranches’ per academic year:
Students on one year, full-time, Masters programmes will receive £10,000 in three instalments. These will be split into 33%, 33% and 34% of your total loan amount.
Students on longer, full-time or part-time, Masters programmes will receive £5,000 in the first and second years of their course, paid in three instalments per year.
Loan payments will be made directly into your bank account. You will then be responsible for using the money to meet tuition fees and other expenses as you see fit.
You will receive the first instalment of your loan payment when your university confirms attendance on your course.
Note that if you do not currently have a UK bank account you will need to open one in order to receive postgraduate payments. This applies to all students, including those from outside the UK. You can apply for a loan without having a UK bank account, but you will need to open one subsequently.
What will happen if I don’t complete my Masters?
Payments will be subject to confirmation of attendance provided by your institution. They will cease if you exit your programme early or transfer to an ineligible course.
If you exit your programme early you will still be liable for your loan and must repay any amount you have borrowed as normal.
Can I receive an additional loan amount to repeat a year of my course?
In most cases, no. You may be able to increase your loan amount, but would not be able to borrow more than the maximum of £10,000. Your course will also need to last less than two years full-time or four-years part time.
Exceptions may be made if you can demonstrate compelling personal reasons. Decisions will be made by Student Loan Company assessors on a case-by-case basis.
Can I transfer between Masters courses and take my loan with me?
Yes, you can maintain your loan when transferring Masters provided both courses are eligible and you are not repeating the same component of a course. It will not normally be possible to exist one course and apply for a fresh loan to complete another.
When is the cut-off point for the age restriction?
In order to be eligible for a postgraduate loan, you will need to be under 60 at the beginning of the academic year in which you begin your Masters course.
For courses beginning in autumn 2016, this will be 1st September. Note that this replaces the initial date of 1st August set in the consultation documents.
I already have a Masters degree, will I be able to apply for a loan to study a different subject?
Unfortunately not. The new loans aim broaden access to postgraduate education for new students.
However, possession of a Masters degree will not prevent you from receiving a separate PhD loan in 2018.
What if I already hold a non-Masters postgraduate qualification, such as a PGDip, PGCert or PGCE?
The restriction on applying for a loan with existing postgraduate qualifications only applies to full Masters degrees.
You should still be able to apply for a loan to study a new Masters if you already hold a postgraduate qualification below Masters Level – such as a postgraduate certificate or diploma. Remember though, you won’t be able to receive a loan to study one of these courses.
Can I receive a loan to ‘upgrade’ my PGCert or PGDip to a Masters?
No, you can’t receive a loan for part of a Masters degree, only for a full course. You can still apply for a loan to study a new Masters after completing a PGCert of PGDip, but this will need to be a full degree.
What if I already hold a higher level postgraduate qualification, such as a PhD?
The same restriction applies to PhD holders as to those with existing Masters degrees. You will not be able to apply for a Masters loan if you already hold a qualification at Masters Level or above.
I’m already studying a Masters – can I apply for a loan in the second year of my course?
Unfortunately not. The new loans are designed to make postgraduate study more accessible and won’t be available to existing Masters students. In order to apply for a loan your course will need to begin after 1st August 2016.
Are students from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland eligible?
These postgraduate loans are intended for English students. However, eligibility is based on English-residency, not English-nationality. If you are Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish, but normally live in England, you will be able to receive a loan.
In order to be eligible you must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least three years on the first day of the academic year in which your course begins. In addition, you must have most recently been resident in England.
Are students from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man eligible?
Yes, postgraduate loans are available to citizens of the UK and Islands, subject to normal residency criteria.
How do loans work for EU students?
You will need to have been resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland for at least three years prior to the beginning of your course. Periods of residency that are purely for the purpose of education will not count towards this three year requirement.
Note that EU students will normally only be able to receive loans to study a Masters at a university in England. This includes on-campus and distance learning options.
Exceptions may apply if you have been ordinarily resident in England for three years prior to the beginning of your course. If so, you will count as an English-domiciled student and can take out a loan to study anywhere in the UK.
Are EEA and Swiss students eligible?
Yes. Citizens of non-EU EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland may be eligible. You must be working in the UK, have worked in the UK or have sought work in the UK. In addition, you must be ordinarily resident in England at the start of your course (in the same way as a UK student).
Will the EU referendum result and ‘Brexit’ affect EU eligibility?
Not immediately. EU students will be eligible for student loans until the UK leaves the EU. This is not expected to take place until 2019 at the earliest (and is likely to take longer).
In the meantime, the governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all confirmed that anyone starting a Masters in 2017 will be subject to the finance conditions for the duration of their Masters.
EU eligibility may change in future, but ‘Brexit’ is not expected to take place for at least two years.
Read more about the EU referendum and postgraduate study.
Are other international students eligible?
Under normal circumstances, Masters loans will not be available to international students in the UK. In order to be eligible you will need to be a UK national or EU citizen, as above.
Exceptions may apply if you have the right to reside permanently in the UK. This could the result of refugee status or other humanitarian protection. Family members of EU citizens may also be eligible for loans.
Your university’s international office may be able to provide help if you are unsure what conditions apply in your case.
What are the residency criteria?
The postgraduate loans introduced in 2016 are only for English students. To be eligible as a UK student you must be ordinarily resident in the UK for three years before you begin your Masters. In addition, you must be most recently resident in England.
EU students must have been ordinarily resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland for three years prior to their course. EEA and Swiss students must be resident in England and have been living in the UK for three years.
What if I’ve studied an undergraduate degree elsewhere in the UK?
Students who have studied (or are studying) in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will be eligible for a Masters loan, provided they are normally resident in England.
Time spent studying elsewhere will be regarded as a temporary absence and will not affect your English-domiciled status.
You normally live in Swindon, but have spent three years studying a Bachelors degree in Cardiff. You will be eligible to receive a Masters loan, because you are ordinarily resident in England (not Wales).
What if I normally live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but have studied in England for three years?
Residence in England that is purely for purposes of study will not qualify you as ordinarily resident.
You normally live in Dundee, but have spent three years studying a Bachelors degree in Canterbury. You won’t be eligible to receive a Masters loan, because you are ordinarily resident in Scotland (not England).
What if I have moved to England from elsewhere to study, but subsequently remained in the country?
You may be eligible for a loan in England if you can prove that you are already living there normally. This means that you haven’t remained in the country purely to access a loan. The Student Loans Company’s assessors will judge this on a case-by-case basis.
You previously lived in Belfast, but moved to Oxford to study a Bachelors degree which finished last year. You have remained in the city to work and have now decided to study a Masters. You may be eligible for a loan, as England has become your ordinary place of residence. Student Loan Company assessors will consider your case.
What if I move to England in advance – will I count as being resident for the purposes of a loan?
Probably not. Your address history would show that you have moved to England very recently, which would appear suspicious. You would need to convince assessors that you had moved to England for another reason and hadn’t originally intended to study. This is unlikely to be convincing.
You normally live in Edinburgh. Hearing that postgraduate loans will be available for English residents, you move to Portsmouth in early 2016. Your address history shows that you have only lived in England for a few months and that you were not there for any clear purpose. You are judged to have moved for the purposes of study and are deemed ineligible for a loan. We do not recommend that students relocate purely for the purposes of loan eligibility.
How will my residency be checked?
The application process for the loans will ask you for three years of address history.
This will be used to determine your ordinary place of residence. In most cases this will be a simple process, but the Student Loans Company’s assessors will review your evidence if necessary.
If any periods of residence outside England are temporary, you will be able to prove this (see below).
Can I base my residency on my parents’ address?
No, your parents’ address will not count as proof of residency unless it is also your own ordinary residence.
What if I have had temporary periods of absence from England or the UK?
Temporary absences or changes of address will not make you ineligible for a loan. However, you will need to demonstrate that they are temporary.
Examples of temporary absences could include:
- Holidays or leisure travel (you can support this with evidence of short-term accommodation, travel receipts or visa documents, as appropriate).
- Temporary employment (fixed term contracts or statements from employers may support this).
- Periods of study (for example, time spent studying a Bachelors degree outside England).
What are the residency rules for EU students?
EU students will need to have been normally resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland for three years.
You do not need to have been most recently resident in England. But, if England is your normal place of residence, you may be assessed as an English-domiciled student. If so, you will be able to study anywhere in the UK (EU students are normally restricted to studying in England).
Which are the eligible courses that qualify for a postgraduate loan?
The following table summarises the information in this FAQ, offering a quick ‘at a glance’ look at course eligibility for postgraduate loans.
|UK Masters loans – course eligibility||Funded|
|MA||Master of Arts||Yes|
|MSc||Master of Science||Yes|
|MBA||Master of Business Administration||Yes|
|MEd||Master of Education||Yes|
|MFA||Master of Fine Arts||Yes|
|MLitt||Master of Letters||Yes|
|MMus||Master of Music||Yes|
|MPhil||Master of Philosophy||Yes|
|MRes||Master of Research||Yes|
|MSc (Eng)||Master of Science in Engineering||Yes|
|LLM||Master of Law||Yes|
|GDL||Graduate Diploma in Law||No|
|LPC||Legal Practice Course||No|
|MArch||Master of Architecture||No|
|MEng||Master of Engineering||No|
|PGCE||Postgraduate Certificate in Education||No|
|PhD||Doctor of Philosophy||No|
Are loans available for an MBA?
Yes. MBA (Master of Business Administration) degrees are eligible for postgraduate loans. However, the full cost of an MBA programme will often be greater than the maximum £10,000 you can borrow.
Are loans available for an MRes?
Yes. MRes (Master of Research) degrees are eligible for postgraduate loans regardless of whether a university defines them as taught or research qualifications.
Are loans available for an MPhil?
Yes. The MPhil (Master of Philosophy) is regarded as a Masters-level research degree, at level 7 of the UK’s Qualification Framework. This means that MPhil degrees are eligible for loans.
Note that this only applies to ‘standalone’ MPhils. If you are registering as an MPhil student with the intention of upgrading to a PhD, you will not be able to receive a Masters loan. You will be able to receive a PhD loan instead. These will be available in 2018.
Are loans available for a PGCert or PGDiploma?
No. Postgraduate loans are only available for full Masters degree programmes. These courses are usually worth 180 credits and include a dissertation or equivalent individual project. Loans will not be available for shorter postgraduate courses such as Postgraduate Certificates or Postgraduate Diplomas.
Are loans available for a PGCE?
No. Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) courses and other initial teacher training (ITT) qualifications are covered by other funding from the Department for Education.
Note that you can receive a loan to study a postgraduate Master of Education (MED) degree.
Are loans available for an LPC?
Possibly. Postgraduate loans are not available for courses below Masters level. This includes shorter diplomas and certificates such as the LPC (Legal Practice Course). However, many LLM (Master of Laws) programmes include an LPC qualification. In such cases you can take out a loan for an LLM and receive the LPC as part of it.
Are loans available for a GDL?
No. The GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) is a Postgraduate Diploma, not a full Masters degree and is not eligible for a Masters loan.
Are loans available for integrated Masters degrees?
No. These are defined as undergraduate, rather than postgraduate courses. As a result, they will not be eligible for postgraduate loans.
However, you can usually receive an undergraduate student loan to complete a four year Masters programme.
Are loans available for an MArch?
Not for full-time courses. The MArch (Master of Architecture) is normally an an integrated Masters course. These are already supported by undergraduate finance (see above). However, part-time MArch courses may be eligible.
Are there any subject restrictions?
No. You can study any academic, professional or vocational subject, provided it awards a full postgraduate Masters degree.
Are loans available for Masters qualifications integrated within a PhD programme?
No. You can only receive a loan to study a standalone Masters degree. The new doctoral loans will be available for separate PhD programmes that also award Masters degrees. However, you will not be able to take out multiple student loans for the same programme.
Can I receive a loan to study a Masters in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
Students who are ordinarily resident in England can receive a loan to study at any UK university. Other non-UK EU, EEA and Swiss students can study at universities in England, provided they have been ordinarily resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland.
Other parts of the UK have begun considering their own postgraduate loans.
In addition, other forms of funding and financial support are already available to study a Masters at one of the many excellent universities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What are the location requirements for distance learning Masters courses?
Distance learning programmes can be awarded by any UK university, but you must begin them as an English resident. This means you must be resident in England on the first day of your course.
Can I receive a loan to study a Masters outside the UK, or for a course that includes an overseas component?
In order for your degree to be eligible for a postgraduate loan, it must be delivered and awarded by a UK university.
You can still receive a loan to study a Masters that includes an overseas placement or exchange, provided this does not account for more than 50% of your course.
Do part-time students receive the same loan amount?
Yes, but your loan will be spaced out across your programme. Part-time students will receive £5,000 in each of the first two years of their programme. This will be paid out in three ‘tranches’ per year.
Note that you won’t receive additional payments if your Masters lasts longer than two years. Your full loan will be paid out in the first two years of your programme, regardless of its total length.
What counts as studying at 50% intensity?
In order to qualify for a part-time Masters loan, you need to be studying at an average intensity of 50%.
Put simply, this means that you need to progress through your course at at least half the ‘speed’ of someone studying it full time. Or, to put it the other way around, your degree must take no more than twice as long to complete part-time as it would full-time.
In practice, this means that:
- A one year Masters would take no more than two years part-time.
- A two year Masters would take no more than four years part-time.
The vast majority of part-time Masters programmes will already be organised in a way that meets these requirements.
Note that your course doesn’t need to be evenly split across each year of study.
Can I receive a loan to study a full-time Masters that lasts longer than a year?
Yes, two-year Masters courses will be eligible for loans. This is the case regardless of whether they are classed as taught or research programmes.
Note that the total amount you can borrow is still set at £10,000. If your course lasts longer than a year, your loan amount will be distributed across the first two years of your course.
What does ‘RPI+3%’ mean?
RPI stands for ‘Retail Prices Index.’ It is an annual percentage measure of inflation, based on the price of goods and services in the UK.
Interest rates for the postgraduate Masters loans are to be set at RPI+3%. This means that the interest charged on the balance of your loan will be the current RPI percentage, plus an additional 3%.
In practice this is a favourable interest rate, intended to beat the market cost for a debt of an equivalent amount.
In 2016 the interest rate for postgraduate loans will be 3.9%.
When will my postgraduate loan begin accruing interest?
Interest will begin accruing on your loan as soon as the first payment is made to you by the Student Loans Company.
When will I have to begin repaying my postgraduate loan?
Repayments for Masters loans will be due from April in the year after you complete your course. However, repayments for the first set of postgraduate loans will not begin until 2019.
This means that, if you take out a loan for a one-year Masters in 2016-17, you will have one repayment-free year after you graduate. You may make voluntary early repayments if you wish.
Note that, even after 2019, you will only make postgraduate loan repayments on 6% of income over £21,000 per year.
Will the terms for repayments and interest rates change?
The proposed repayment terms and interest rates are planned to be fixed for a minimum period of five years. Repayment thresholds and interest rates should stay the same until 2021.
How do postgraduate loan repayments work if I’m self-employed?
You will still repay your loan if you are self-employed. Instead of being automatically deducted from your salary, repayments will be calculated when you complete your annual self-assessment tax return.
Will I have to repay the entire postgraduate loan?
Yes, the proposed postgraduate loan scheme is designed on the principle that recipients will eventually repay their loans in full. This represents the government’s confidence in the financial value of a postgraduate degree and the future earning power of Masters graduates.
Your student loan debt will eventually be cancelled after 30 years, but the vast majority of graduates will already have repaid by this point.