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Postgraduate Doctoral Loan Explained

Are you starting a Doctoral course (e.g. a PhD) in the next academic year? You might qualify for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan to help fund your course and living costs.

Funding from Postgraduate Doctoral Loans can help finance a part-time or full-time master's degree. This guide explains the eligibility criteria and how much you might get.

It is important to understand that studying for a doctorate would exclude you from student finance for getting:

But, extra support is available for disabled students (e.g. disability related benefits). The section below has further details and information.

You start repaying your student loan once your income goes over the ‘threshold’ amount. But, they will charge interest from the date of the first payment.

Note: Student Finance Wales has different rules on funding for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan for students who live in Wales. In general, moving to somewhere to study is unlikely to count as ‘living there’.

Postgraduate Doctoral Student Finance

The amount of student funding you get is not based on income (yours or that of your family) and it could be as much as:

  • £27,892 (for courses starting on or after the 1st of August 2022)
  • £27,265 (for courses starting between the 1st of August 2021 and the 31st of July 2022)
  • £26,445 (for courses starting between the 1st of August 2020 and the 31st of July 2021)

Money received from a Doctoral Loan is paid directly to the student [you] and divided equally across each year of the course. So, you will be able to spend it on course fees and living expenses.

Making an Application after the First Year

Students can apply for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan during any year of their course. But, applying later than the first year would mean you may not receive the maximum amount available.

Hence, you might get up to a maximum of:

  • £11,836 per year (for courses starting on or after the 1st of August 2022)
  • £11,570 per year (for courses starting between the 1st of August 2021 and the 31st of July 2022)
  • £11,222 per year (for courses starting between the 1st of August 2020 and the 31st of July 2021)
Doctoral Loans Payment Dates

The university or college needs to confirm your registration. Following that, you would get the first payment after the start date of the course.

There are three (3) instalments for loan payments (i.e. 33%, 33%, and 34% each year). Following the approval of your application, you will get a letter confirming the payment dates. You can also check them in your online account.

Note: The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may take Doctoral Loan funding into account when working out your entitlement to receive welfare benefits.

Doctoral Loan Eligibility Criteria

Qualification for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan depends on three factors, that being your age, your nationality (or residency status) and the actual course that you are studying.

How to Get a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan in the United KingdomBesides that, you would be ineligible for this kind of funding, if you:

  • Already got (or will get) Research Council funding (e.g. stipends, studentships, scholarships and tuition fee support).
  • Are getting a social work bursary.
  • Qualify for one of the NHS bursaries (even if you are not getting one).
  • Receive payments from Student Finance for another course you are studying.
  • Already received a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan previously (unless you left the course due to bereavement, illness, or another valid reason).
  • Already have a doctoral degree (or equivalent, or higher, qualification).
  • Are receiving a doctorate by publication.
  • Are behind in repayments for any previous loans granted to you by the Student Loans Company.

Age Restrictions

You would need to be under the age of sixty (60) on the first day of the first academic year of the course. In this case, the academic year is a period of twelve (12) months, beginning on:

  • 1st of September (for courses starting between the 1st of August and the 31st of December)
  • 1st of January (for courses starting between the 1st of January and the 31st of March)
  • 1st of April (for courses starting between the 1st of April and the 30th of June)
  • 1st of July (for courses starting between the 1st of July and the 31st of July)

Rules for Nationality or Residency Status

To get a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan in the United Kingdom, you must (all):

  • Be either a UK or EU national (or have ‘settled status‘ which means there are no restrictions on how long you can stay).
  • Normally live in England (i.e. not moved here for the purpose of studying).
  • Have lived in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for three (3) years before starting the course.

As an EU national, you may also meet the qualification criteria if ALL these apply:

  • You lived in the European Economic Area or Switzerland for the past three (3) years (i.e. being ‘ordinarily resident’).
  • You will be studying at one of the universities in England.

In some cases, eligibility would also apply for individuals who are:

  • The child of a Swiss national or a Turkish worker.
  • A refugee (or relative of a refugee).
  • An EEA or Swiss migrant worker (or relative of one).
  • Staying in the United Kingdom as a stateless person (or relative of one).
  • Under humanitarian protection (or a relative of someone granted it).
  • At least eighteen (18) years old and lived in the UK for at least twenty (20) years (or at least half their life).
  • At least eighteen (18) years old and have lived in the United Kingdom for a minimum of seven (7) years.

Postgraduate Doctoral Courses that Qualify

The full-time or part-time course that you are studying must:

  • Be a full, standalone doctoral course (e.g. it cannot be a top-up course).
  • Have started since the 1st of August 2018.
  • Last for a period between three (3) and eight (8) academic years.
  • Be provided by a university in the United Kingdom with research degree awarding powers.

In some cases, more than one university will deliver your course, and one of them may be overseas. If so, you can still get the Postgraduate Doctoral Loan, providing:

  • The United Kingdom university is the lead institution.
  • You spend at least half of your study time (50%) over the whole course allocation in the United Kingdom.

Your chosen course can be full-time, part-time, taught, or research-based (or a combination of both). Typical examples of postgraduate doctoral qualifications include:

  • PhD / DPhil (Doctor of Philosophy)
  • EdD (Doctor of Education)
  • EngD (Doctor of Engineering)

Integrated Doctoral Programmes

Postgraduate Doctoral Loans also apply to doctoral programmes that include an integrated master’s degree (even if you already have one). Even so, you must register for a full doctoral degree.

Note: You would not be able to make an application for a separate Postgraduate Master’s Loan.

Distance Learning in England

You would need to be living in England on the first day of the first academic year of the course to qualify for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan for distance learning. Besides that, you would also need to live in:

  • England for the whole of the course (for EU nationals).
  • The United Kingdom for the whole of the course (for non-EU nationals).

As a rule, these restrictions on distance learning would not apply for individuals who are:

  • Serving in one of the Armed Forces.
  • A spouse (or civil partner) of a serving member of the Armed Forces.
  • A dependent parent who is living with a serving member of the Armed Forces.

How to Apply for Doctoral Loan

Once you have checked your eligibility for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan you can apply for courses starting on or after the 1st of August 2018.

Note: There is no need to apply more than once. You get a letter from Student Finance England in the summer stating how much you will get in the next academic year.

Applying Online

You can apply through your Student Finance England account if you already used this method to get a loan. If not, you would need to set up an SFE account to apply online for a Doctoral Loan.

Applying by Postal Methods

You can also apply for a Doctoral Loan by post if you are unable to apply online. You will find the relevant postal addresses written on the forms.

Courses Starting in 2019 to 2020 Academic Year
Application Deadlines

The start date of the course determines the deadline for applications (see above for details). But, you would need to apply within nine (9) months of the first day of the last academic year of the course.

Providing Proof of Your Identity

Your application needs to include valid United Kingdom passport details (not the actual passport). You can also use the form titled ‘UK passport details’ to send details after making an application.

What if your UK passport has expired or you do not have one? In this case, you would need to use the form titled ‘Birth or adoption certificate’ to send your birth or adoption certificate.

Note: Send your passport or national identity card instead if you are an EU national.

Forms for Supporting Information
How to Change a Doctoral Loan Application

You can use your Student Finance online account to change your personal details (e.g. bank account or contact details). If not, there are several other ways to contact Student Finance England (by phone or by post).

Changing the Loan Amount (by post only)
Changing other Circumstances (by post only)
Breaks and Withdrawals

You must inform Student Finance England (and the institution) without delay if you decide to withdraw from the course. Note that withdrawing can affect future payments and eligibility for postgraduate doctoral funding.

Further Help and Information

Check to see if you qualify for other types of funding for postgraduate study (e.g. bursaries, studentships, and grants from charities or trusts).

Note: Student Finance England (SFE) produced a short video to help anyone starting a postgraduate Doctoral course this year.

The Student Room website has more information about postgraduate student finance in the United Kingdom. You can also contact Student Finance England to get answers on other relevant questions.

Student Finance England Postgraduate Loan Team
Telephone: 0300 100 0031
Textphone: 0300 100 0622
Monday to Friday: 8am to 8pm
Information on call charges

Funding for Disabled Students

Extra help is available for people with a disability, a long-term health condition, a mental health condition, or a specific learning difficulty (e.g. dyslexia). Find out more information about applying for:

How to Get a Doctoral Loan in the United Kingdom