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How to Get a Postgraduate Master's Loan

Are you starting a postgraduate master's course in the next academic year? If so, a Postgraduate Master's Loan can help fund your tuition fees and living expenses.

Funding from Postgraduate Master's 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.

Student Finance for Master’s Degree in UK

It is important to understand that studying for a masters 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: The funding for postgraduate loans differs if you usually live in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. But, moving somewhere to study does not count as ‘normally’ living there.

Postgraduate Master’s Degree 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:

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

Money received from a Master’s Loan is paid directly to the student [you] and divided equally across each year of the course (if lasting more than one year). So, you will be able to spend it on tuition fees or living costs.

Master’s 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.

If you change to a new university or college during a course, they would need to confirm it with Student Finance England before releasing any further payments.

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

Postgraduate Master’s Loan Eligibility Criteria

Qualification for a Master’s 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 Master's Loan in the United KingdomYou will not meet the eligibility criteria for a Postgraduate Master’s Loan if you:

  • Already receive payments from student finance towards another course that you are studying.
  • Already received a Postgraduate Master’s Loan on a previous occasion (unless you left the course due to bereavement, illness, or another valid reason).
  • Already have a master’s degree (or equivalent, or higher, qualification).
  • Are behind in repayments for any previous loans granted to you by the Student Loans Company.

Note: Having a PGCE or a postgraduate diploma or certificate would still allow you to apply for the funding. But, extra money would not be available if you need to repeat a year of the course.

The master’s course you study must:

  • Be a full, standalone master’s course (it cannot be a top-up course).
  • Be worth a minimum of 180 credits (information on the course provider’s website will confirm this).
  • have started on or after the 1st of August 2016.

The course can either be taught or research-based. But, one of the eligible universities or colleges in the United Kingdom (including the Open University) must provide the course. So, it can be:

  • Full-time (lasting one or two academic years).
  • Part-time (lasting two to four academic years but not more than twice the length of the equivalent full-time course).
  • Part-time for up to three years (if no equivalent full-time course exists).

A list of postgraduate master’s qualifications examples include:

  • MSc (master of science)
  • MA (master of arts)
  • MPhil (master of philosophy)
  • MRes (master of research)
  • LLM (master of law)
  • MLitt (master of letters)
  • MFA (master of fine art)
  • MEd (master of education)
  • MBA (master of business administration)

Important: You would not be able to get a Postgraduate Master’s Loan for a postgraduate certificate or diploma.

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 Master’s 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.

Integrated Courses

Postgraduate Master’s Loans would not be available if the course is (either):

  • Integrated with an undergraduate degree (you may get undergraduate funding through student finance).
  • Integrated with a doctoral degree (you can apply for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan instead).

Intercalated Year

You may still qualify for a Postgraduate Master’s Loan even if you take a year out of an undergraduate course to study for a master’s.

As a rule, it means you would not be entitled to undergraduate funding because you would be holding a higher level qualification. But, you would still be eligible for undergraduate funding if the course leads to a qualification in (either):

  • Architecture
  • Dentistry
  • Medicine
  • Social work
  • Undergraduate Initial Teacher Training
  • Veterinary science

Master of Architecture

Apply for undergraduate support if you plan on studying for a master of architecture (MArch) qualification full-time. Postgraduate Master’s Loans are only available for an MArch if you (either):

  • Take a part-time course.
  • Do not qualify for undergraduate funding for some other reason.

Healthcare and Social Work

You would not be able to get a Postgraduate Master’s Loan if:

The same restrictions also apply for health and social work bursaries in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Note: You may get a Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Loan instead if you start a postgraduate pre-registration healthcare course either on or after the 1st of August 2018.

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 Master’s 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.

How to Apply for Master’s Loan

You can apply online or by post for courses that will start or have already started in any of these academic years:

  • 2021 to 2022
  • 2020 to 2021

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 Postgraduate Master’s Loan.

Applying by Postal Methods

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

Courses Starting in 2020 to 2021 Academic Year

Courses Starting in 2019 to 2020 Academic Year

Note: You will need to contact Student Finance England (SFE) if you cannot apply online and your course started before the 1st of August 2018.

Application Deadlines

The date that you start your course will determine the deadline for making an application for a Master’s Loan.

Courses Starting Since 1st of August 2017

If this applies to your particular situation, 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.

If you do not have a UK passport (or it has expired), send your birth or adoption certificate using the ‘Birth or adoption certificate form’.

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 Master’s 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 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 master’s 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 6pm
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:

Student Finance for Postgraduate Master’s Degree in United Kingdom