NEW Masters Loan Scheme - Q and A
England: Students can now apply for a £10,000 Postgraduate Loan. Our guide below on how to apply and find answers to your postgraduate loan questions relates to the Postgraduate Loan from Student Finance England.
Scotland:The Scottish government has confirmed plans for £10,000 Masters loans in 2017. Further information is available here
Northern Ireland: From the beginning of academic year 2017-2018, postgraduate tuition fee loans for Northern Irish students are expected to be available. Find out more here.
Wales: The introduction of a postgraduate loan is planned for the academic year 2017/18. Find out more here.
The NEW Master's Loan Scheme - What is it?
Over the last few years there has been mounting pressure on the UK government, and a strong campaign particularly from the NUS, to provide a loan scheme for master's students in the UK, similar to the undergraduate loan scheme.
The new scheme has enabled many master's students to take out a loan of up to £10,000 to help pay for their master's study, within the UK, from autumn 2016.
What should I do first?
Choose a Masters course! As part of the application process you will be asked to submit details of your intended degree and university and this will be checked against a database of courses to confirm eligibility.
Although you don't actually have to have applied for a Masters before you apply for a loan, you will need to be registered on one before you receive any payments.
You can search hundreds of Masters course here on MastersCompare, and compare your findings to find the right postgraduate course for you.
Will I be able to get a loan?
That depends on a number of factors and we've set out the main conditions below - it depends mostly on how old you are, where you live, and the type of course you want to do. Read on to find out if you can apply for the loan!
If you qualify for a master's loan, from summer 2016, you will be able to apply to borrow up to £10,000 to help with both your study and living costs whilst you are doing an (eligible - see below) postgraduate Master’s course in the UK.
The loan will be paid to you directly (not via the university), in instalments, three times during the year whilst you are doing the course. You can decide how you use the loan, whether you use it to pay for either your course fees, or additional study or living costs.
WHO QUALIFIES for the loan?
You will qualify for the loan if:
1. You are under 60 years old, AND
2. If you are a UK National, or have settled status in the UK, and have been resident in the UK for three years on the first day of the academic year of your course start date. You must have most recently been resident in England in order to qualify. You will be asked to provide 3 years address history when you apply for the loan.
IMPORTANT: - if you've been out of the UK temporarily for travel or study, during that period, you don't lose your eligibility!
3. EU students applying for a place at English universities for the academic year 2017/18 will be eligible for loans and grants, government ministers have confirmed. Student Finance England (SFE) will assess these applications against existing eligibility criteria, and will provide loans and/or grants in the normal way. More details here.
You may also be eligible if you have the status of:
• Humanitarian Protection
• EEA or Swiss Migrant Worker
• A family member of any of the previous categories
• A child of a Swiss National or child of a Turkish Worker
Other questions about who qualifies?
Q: What if I'm earning already - can I still apply?
A: Yes you can. It doesn't matter if you are earning or not, or how much you earn - the loan is not means tested.
Q: I think I meet the criteria, but I want to go and study in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Can I apply for the loan and take it with me to study there?
A: Yes you can take it with you to study in other parts of the UK, but not beyond the UK.
Example: If you are a UK citizen and normally live in England, but you want to study your postgraduate master's in Cardiff, or Edinburgh, you can do that.
Q: I think I meet the criteria, but I want to go and study in another European country - can I apply for the loan and take it with me to study elsewhere in Europe?
A: No - your course must be within the UK.
That sounds good, but there are a few wrinkles:
1. If you are a UK national BUT you normally live in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or other Islands (ie in the UK but NOT in England), you will not be eligible, even if you move to England just to do a master's course.
2. If you already have a master's level qualification, or a higher postgraduate qualification, such as a PhD, you will not be eligible.
Example: if you did a master's course soon after you graduated from your first degree, and then you later want to do a specialist master's or a master's course to help you change career, such as a conversion course, you won't be eligible for the loan.
The Postgraduate Loan and the Disabled Students Allowance
It's important to note that the Disabled Students Allowance, if you qualify for it, is available IN ADDITION TO the Postgraduate Loan. The Disabled Students Allowance may be up to £10,362 - it will look at your individual needs, and you will not have to repay it. It is not means tested or dependent on the income of your household.
Does the loan cover ALL courses?
1. The loan applies to all 'full' master's qualifications including those that are taught, research, or professional masters - eg MA, MSc, MRes, MBA, LLM, MMus, MDes, MEd, etc. There are some exceptions as detailed below.
2. The loan applies to all FULL TIME master's courses, AND to courses which are described as '50%' part-time - for example it would cover a course that is one year full-time or two years part-time, or two years full-time and up to four years part-time. SLC have also confirmed that a course that would normally be one year full-time but takes three years to study part-time will be covered for part-time study.
3. The loan covers both campus based and online courses provided by an institution which is authorised to award its own master's degrees in the UK (which means it must have 'taught degree awarding powers'). In practice this means most UK universities and some other UK institutions as well.
What if I want to do a PGCE or other postgraduate diploma?
Sorry, no - postgraduate diplomas and certificates, including PGCE, or graduate certificates, are NOT covered because they are not at full master's level.
Which other postgraduate courses are not eligible for the loan?
The Postgraduate Loan is not available for any integrated master’s course, and you should instead apply for undergraduate funding.
If you plan to study for a master of architecture (MArch) qualification full-time, you should apply for undergraduate support. The Postgraduate Loan will only be available for an MArch if you’re either taking a part-time course or aren’t eligible for undergraduate funding for another reason.
Health and social work bursaries - You can’t get a Postgraduate Loan if you are eligible for an NHS bursary or have been awarded a Social Work Bursary. This also applies for health and social work bursaries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
How does the money work - what about the practicalities?
1. The Student Loans Company (who administer the undergraduate loan) will also administer the masters loan. They will calculate interest from the date when you are sent the first loan instalment.
2. If you have started your course in 2016/17 you will not start repayments until April 2019: this means that you get an extra year before you start repayments.
4. AND if you earn less than £21,000 you will only start repayments once your income reaches that level.
5. If you start in 2017/18 or after, you won't start repayments until the April after you complete your course.
6. The money will be paid to you in 3 instalments during the year as you study - and you will get the first payment once you have enrolled on your course and the university has confirmed this.
7. Loan interest will be RPI+3%. Once you start repayments, the repayment rate is set at 6% of income above the £21,000 income threshold. The repayment rate of 6% is less than the current undergraduate rate of 9%.
Do I have to pay this loan at the same time as my undergraduate loan?
Yes - you'll have to pay them both off at the same time once your income reaches the set level, rather than one after the other.
What if I change my mind or don't carry on with my master's?
If you stop your master's or change to a course that doesn't qualify for the loan, you'll still be liable for the loan you have taken.
Are there plans for a PhD Loan scheme?
A PhD loan has been announced in the 2015 budget. The government ran a public consultation in late 2016. For the latest details of the proposed doctoral loan, see here.
What if I have more questions?
As more information becomes available, we will post updates on this page - we'd also suggest you talk to the universities you are applying to. And, to make sure you get regular updates on the loan and other master's funding, register to receive our weekly newsletter.
You can also check out postgraduate loan videos from Student Finance England giving an overview introduction to the loan, and details how to apply and repaying the loan.
To make sure you get regular updates on the loan and other master's funding, REGISTER HERE.
APPLY NOW for a Postgraduate Loan on the Students Loans Company website.