Postgraduate student loans UK: how much, how to apply and when you'll repay

Postgraduate student loans UK: how much, how to apply and when you'll repay

It's possible to get a Government loan to pay for your Master's course. We explain what they are, how to apply and when you'll pay them off.

lovemoney staff

Household money

lovemoney staff
Updated on 26 October 2018

What is it?

Loans of up to £10,609 are on offer to postgrads to go towards their course and/or living costs.    

Soon-to-be students who will be studying full-time, part-time or through a distance learning course can apply for a loan.

The size of the loan isn’t based on household income and any other funding the student receives, such as scholarships and bursaries, doesn’t affect eligibility. Find out about other types of funding, like grants from charities or trusts.

Those studying for two or more academic years will get the loan amount divided equally between the years. For courses over two years, each year's instalment is paid in two parts.

The first payment is made after the course start date and only when the university or college confirms that you’ve registered with them.

Extra support is available if you have a disability such as a mental health condition, long-term health condition or a specific learning difficulty like dyslexia. Disabled Students Allowance helps with extra costs incurred by the disability, so the amount you receive will be based on your individual needs. You can get a single allowance of up to £10,993 which you won’t have to pay back unless you leave the course early.

Looking for an undergraduate student loan? Read our guide to student finance here

Are there any conditions?

Only that you’re under 60 when the new term starts and doing your first postgraduate degree.

You must be living in England and have been living in the UK for at least three years before the start of your course. You also need to be a UK or EU national, or have settled status, so there are no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.

Unfortunately, you can’t get the loan on a postgrad diploma – it must be a full degree.

You won’t be able to get a Postgraduate Loan if you’re able to apply for a healthcare bursary from the National Health Service, the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety or the Student Awards Agency Scotland.

It’s also important to mention that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may take account of the loan when calculating what benefits you’ll receive.

Finally, don't fall behind on the repayments for your undergraduate loan because that will stop you getting a postgraduate loan.

Postgraduate loans are available (image: Shutterstock)

How to apply

The quickest and easiest way to apply is through Student Finance England on the Government’s website.

If you’ve had student finance for an undergraduate course you won’t need to register again. Just use the customer reference number, password and secret answer you already have.

Before you apply you’ll need the university and course details as well as valid UK passport details (if you have one). Otherwise you’ll need the details from a non-UK passport or a birth or adoption certificate. Get a hold of your UK bank or building society account details and your National Insurance (NI) number too.

You’ll be asked what size of loan you want. Try to establish how much you’ll need for living costs and whether or not you want to put any towards your course costs. Don’t fret too much as you can always increase it later.

To get the loan, you must apply no more than nine months after the first day of the first academic year of your course (for one year courses) or a maximum of nine months after the first day of the second year of your course.

You don’t even need to have a confirmed place at university to apply. Enter your preferred university and course details and change the details once you’ve accepted a place.

Just one more thing  – watch out for fraudulent emails from senders claiming to be staff at Student Finance England. You’ll never be asked to update or confirm your bank details by email. If you do find an email like this in your inbox, send it to Don’t reply to it or click any of the links as they could contain malware.

Paying it off

Postgrad loans are very similar to undergraduate loans when it comes to paying them off. Crucially, your outstanding balance doesn't affect your repayments: instead, these depend on your income.

Once you’ve finished your course you can start paying your loan back the April after graduation (though no repayments will be taken before April 2019).

Like undergraduate loans, there are earning thresholds you need to meet before you begin repayments. At the moment it’s £21,000 a year, £1,750 a month or £404 a week before tax and National Insurance.

You’ll pay back 6% of everything you earn above £21,000. For example, if you earn £2,500 a month before tax you’ll repay 6% of the difference between what you earn and the monthly threshold (£1,750). £2,500 minus £1,750 is £750 and 6% of that is £45, meaning you’ll repay £45 a month.

If you’re studying part-time, you’ll start repaying your loan the April after the second year of your course, even if it’s longer than two years, but again no repayments will be taken before April 2019.

The interest rate is currently set at 6.3% and will be reviewed annually by adding 3% to the Retail Price Index.

A repayment will be made if you don’t earn £21,000 a year but exceed the monthly or weekly threshold at any time  – if you work overtime or get a bonus, for example.

It’ll be kept separate from any existing unpaid undergraduate loans you have but you will be paying both off at the same time.

Any loan outstanding 30 years after you're due to start making repayments will be written off.

Why it’s better than a standard loan

The key difference between this and a standard loan is the repayments.

You have up to £10,609 which you can apply for from the off or add on later in your course. You won’t need to pay it back if you don’t earn enough - your repayments depend on your income - and it gets wiped after 30 years.

That means that the 6.3% interest rate, whilst high, won't make a difference to the size of your repayments.

Commercial loans are often fixed and rigid when it comes to repayments and you’re likely to be charged extra for early repayments.

Applications for the loan won’t be included on your credit file, so it won’t affect future borrowing, like getting a mortgage for your first home. Only your repayments will be factored into affordability criteria for a mortgage.

Read more about student loans and whether you should overpay here

What about PhDs and DPhils?

You can also get a Government loan of £25,000 to help with your doctorate.

The payments, repayments and interest work almost identically to postgraduate loans. If you have both a postgrad and doctorate loan, you'll make a combined repayment of 6% of your salary above £21,000.

You can't get a doctorate loan if you're receiving Research Council funding, social work or NHS bursary, or have got a doctoral loan before, or are behind on SLC payments.

Compare a range of student and graduate current accounts with loveMONEY

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