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Postgraduate taught

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Government-backed loans are making a Masters degree realistically affordable to almost everyone for the first time in years.

Key facts

  • You can borrow up to £11,222 if your course starts on or after 1 August 2020
  • Any Masters programme in any subject, taught or research
  • Full-time or part-time and distance learning are included
  • Loans are available at any university with degree-awarding powers in the UK
  • Anyone aged under 60 is eligible
  • Repayments are income-contingent with a £21k threshold and will not begin until the year after you graduate.

Apply for a postgraduate loan here.


Loans are available for any taught or research Masters programmes, in any subject, full-time or part-time, beginning from 1 August 2018.

Programmes must be classified at level 7 (Masters) on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and not level 8 (Doctoral).

Eligible Masters courses include the following:

  • MSc (Master of Science)
  • MA (Master of Arts)
  • MPhil (Master of Philosophy) on entry 
  • MRes (Master of Research) on entry
  • LLM (Master of Law)
  • MLitt (Master of Letters)
  • MFA (Master of Fine Arts)
  • MEd (Master of Education)
  • MBA (Master of Business Administration)
  • MbyRes (Masters by Research)*

Postgraduate loans are NOT available for Masters degrees taken as an integral part of Doctoral degrees.

*MbyRes (Master of Research) loan is paid over two years for full time students in line with programme length. 

PGCert and PGDip (including PGCE)

You can’t get a Postgraduate Loan for postgraduate level courses, such as PgCert (Postgraduate Certificate), PgDip (Postgraduate Diploma), Legal Practice Certificate (LPC), or where the course is funded by undergraduate student finance, such as:

  • Initial Teacher Training (ITT) / Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
  • Integrated Masters (such as MEng, MLibArts, MMath)
  • Master of Architecture (MArch)

Part-time and distance-learning

You can study your course in person or by distance learning, and your course can be up to four years long. You can take up to two years for the equivalent of a one year full-time course, up to four years for the equivalent of a two year full-time course, or you can study a three year part-time course with no equivalent full-time course.

Postgraduate loans are not available for Masters degrees that are undertaken as an integral part of a Postgraduate Doctoral Degree, ie. a 1+3 studentship.

Accredited prior learning (APL) and Masters 'top ups'

Postgraduate loans are NOT available for partial MA programmes where the student brings accredited prior learning with them from another qualification - ie. if you had 60 credits of APL from a PGCE and wished to take this into an MA Education. To receive a postgraduate loan you need to be studying a full 180 credits.

Intercalated degrees

Postgraduate loans may be available for Masters degrees taken as an intercalated year within an extended undergraduate degree, such as BMBS Medicine. Students who are eligible for a healthcare bursary, such as NHS bursary, would not be eligible for a Postgraduate Loan.

Legal Practice Certificate (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)

The Postgraduate loan is NOT available for stand-alone LPC or GDL courses, as these are Postgraduate Diplomas. However, it is available for Master of Laws (LLM) programmes that contain an integral LPC.

Other funding

Receipt of other sources of postgraduate funding - scholarships, bursaries, studentships, other loans from private providers, etc - will NOT affect eligibility for a postgraduate loan.

Eligible universities

The university you’re studying at must be in the UK and either:

  • publicly funded (paid for by the government), or
  • privately funded but have degree awarding powers

If you’re an EU national and don’t normally live in England, your university must be in England.

Who can apply?

You can apply for a postgraduate loan if you meet UK government criteria on nationality, residency, age, and previous study.

Eligibility criteria for Master’s loans is published at

Eligibility criteria for Doctoral loans is published at

How do I apply?

Loans are fulfilled by the Student Loan Company, and application is via Student Finance England, the same as for undergraduate student loans.

Applications can now be made online through Paper application forms will be available where required.

The application process will include identity checks in the same way as for undergraduate loan applications, and institutions will be able to track who has applied and been approved for loans. Three years address history will be required.

When can I apply?

The application system opened in June 2016. Apply for a postgraduate student loan here. 

You can apply now for courses that started in the:

  • 2017 to 2018 academic year
  • 2016 to 2017 academic year

You’ll be able to apply for funding for the 2018 to 2019 academic year in summer 2018.

You can apply for a loan up to 9 months after the start of the academic year, ie. you can have already started your course and progressed significantly before applying for a loan. Late applications whilst not guaranteed may be considered on a case-by-case basis, though.

Loan request amounts can be changed up to 1 month before the end of the academic year ie. you can increase the loan amount up to the limit (amount varies depending on the year you started your course) up until the end of your programme.

Find out more about how and when to apply.

How much can I borrow?

The maximum loan amount is £10,609 for students starting in 2018.

How and when do I receive the money?

You need to register on your programme in order to receive payments. Payments will be made once confirmation of study is received from the University, and will be in three instalments per year. Payments will be made directly into your bank account.

  • The first instalment (33%) will be due on the start date of your programme.

    Please be aware that Student Finance has stipulated that the University cannot confirm registration for PG students prior to the start of their study. This means that registered PG students will not receive their first loan instalment until 3-4 working days after their programme start date. The 2nd and 3rd payments will be paid on their due dates as detailed below.

  • The second payment (33%) will be due on the last Wednesday of the fourth month of the programme (typically the end of December, where the first month of the programme is September).

  • The third payment (34%) will be due on the last Wednesday of the seventh month of the programme (typically the end of March).

For further information please refer to the Postgraduate Master's Loan pages on the Student Finance website.

What can I spend it on?

The loan is seen as a contribution to the costs of postgraduate study, and is paid directly to you, so you can spend it on whatever you like – tuition fees, accommodation, course books, living expenses.

As payments go directly to you, to receive the loan students will need to provide bank details. However, if a student does not have a UK bank account (for example European students) they can still be approved but will not receive payments until they provide their bank details to the Student Loan Company (you may be required to open a UK bank account).

When do I start paying back?

Repayments are based on your income, not what you borrowed, and you won’t start paying back your loan until you earn over a certain threshold.

The earliest you start repaying is when your annual income is over £21,000 and it’s either the:

  • first April after you leave your course
  • April 4 years after the course started

Contact Student Finance England if your circumstances change or you leave your course early. You’ll have to pay back any overpayment straight away even if your income is less than £21,000.

The loan is repaid concurrently with any other loans, such as undergraduate loans, you have from the Student Loan Company.

How much will payments be?

Your repayments will be 6% of income over the threshold (£21,000). This table shows how much you can expect to pay back each month, and as an annual total, at several different salary points.

Annual salaryEarnings over £21,000Monthly repaymentAnnual total repayment
£21,000 or less 0 0 0
£25,000 £4,000 £20 £240
£35,000 £14,000 £70 £840
£45,000 £24,000 £120 £1,440
£65,000 £44,000 £220 £2,640

Repayments will change month-to-month if additional income is earned, ie. overtime or bonuses received.

What’s the interest rate?

You’ll be charged interest from the day you get the first payment until your loan is repaid in full or cancelled.

The interest rate on the loan is currently 6.1%.

The rate is set by adding 3% to the Retail Price Index (RPI). The interest rate is updated in September every year, using the RPI from March of that year.

How are repayments taken?

If you’re employed, your employer will take repayments directly from your salary along with tax and National Insurance. If you stop working or your income drops, your repayments will automatically stop until you’re earning over the threshold again. Your employer will pass your repayments to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at the end of the tax year.

If you’re self-employed HMRC will tell you how much you need to repay after you’ve completed your Self Assessment tax return.

Can I overpay?

Additional voluntary repayments can be made at any time without penalty.

Can the loans be written-off?

Loans are written-off 30 years after repayments are due, if the borrower dies, or if the borrower is permanently disabled and cannot work due to disability.

If I am applying for a postgraduate loan does this affect my deposit?

If you're applying for a postgraduate loan we will automatically extend your deposit deadline until 31 July 2020, and the deposit amount will be reduced to £250. All you need to do is tell us this is the case. To do so please contact us via our enquiry form.

Please be aware that if you pay £1,000 of your deposit and subsequently apply for a postgraduate loan, that the deposit will be non-refundable except in cases that fall within the policy as outlined above.