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The main sources of funding for undertaking a master’s degree are student support loans from the Government and scholarships from higher education providers and research councils. Educational trusts and charities may also offer some small amounts of funding.
The main sources of funding for undertaking a master’s degree include student finance for eligible students living in the UK and scholarships from higher education providers, research councils, and national schemes. Educational trusts and charities may also offer some small amounts of funding.
Publicly funded student support for master’s degrees is available to eligible students who live in the UK. It includes postgraduate loans to help with tuition fees and living costs, and Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) to cover the extra costs that might arise from a student having a disability.
International students may be eligible for one of the UK’s three national scholarship schemes.
Postgraduate master’s loans
Education is a devolved matter, and each part of the UK offers a slightly different package of postgraduate student support. Students should apply to the respective student finance body where they normally live, not where they will be studying.
- In 2023/24, Student Finance England will offer a loan of up to £12,167 to help with tuition fees and living costs.
- In 2023/24, Student Awards Agency Scotland will offer a loan of up to £7,000to help with tuition fees, and a loan of up to £4,500 to help with living costs.
- In 2023/24, Student Finance Northern Ireland will offer a loan of up to £6,500to help with tuition fees.
- In 2023/24, Student Finance Wales will offer a combination of a loan and grant up to £18,770 (the maximum grant amount is £6,885) to help with tuition fees and living costs.
Loans to help with living costs are paid directly to the student in regular instalments. Repayments begin after graduation when the student’s earnings pass a minimum threshold and repayment amounts are linked to income.
Whether a student is eligible for support will depend on the respective regulations where they normally live. Eligibility will generally be determined by a student’s course, provider, age, previous level of study, and nationality or residency status.
Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)
Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) helps to cover the extra costs an eligible student ordinarily living in the UK might incur because of a disability, including a long-term health condition, mental health condition, physical disability, or specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dyspraxia.
DSA can help to pay for:
- specialist equipment, such as a computer or disability-related software
- a non-medical helper, such as a British Sign Language interpreter
- the day-to-day costs of study related to the student’s disability
- travel costs
The amount of DSA to which a student is entitled will depend on their individual needs and where they normally live. Students should apply through the relevant student finance body. They may need to provide evidence of their disability and attend a Study Needs Assessment to establish the necessary support.
More information is available in the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) guide produced by the Save the Student website.
National scholarships for international students
International students are not eligible for publicly funded student finance in the UK. Depending on what country they are from and what they want to study, international students may be eligible for one of the UK Government’s national scholarship schemes:
- Chevening Scholarships cover tuition fees, living cost support, and travel for any master’s course at any UK university.
- The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission offers three programmes including master’s scholarships, distance learning scholarships, and shared scholarships.
- GREAT Scholarships provide £10,000 towards tuition fees for students from 14 countries.
Higher education providers will generally have several sources of funding available to prospective master’s students, including academic scholarships, widening participation scholarships and bursaries, and alumni discounts.
Support may entail a fee waiver, fee reduction, living cost stipend, or a lump sum for the student to use as they wish. The more generous sources of funding are likely to be competitive.
Opportunities will be advertised on providers’ websites (the funding information pages for UK universities have been compiled by the FindAMasters website), or on postgraduate funding sites, such as the Scholarship Hub and Postgraduate Search.
Many higher education providers will have scholarships available for master’s students who have demonstrated academic excellence in their undergraduate degree. These awards might be university-wide or offered by specific departments.
When applying, a student’s transcript of results will be considered, and they will often have to explain why they want to study their chosen course and how it relates to their career plans. The student may also have to produce a research proposal for a dissertation or project.
Widening participation scholarships and bursaries
Higher education providers may also offer scholarships or bursaries targeted at students from groups under-represented in higher education. For example, the STAR network and Displaced Student Opportunities UK have compiled scholarship opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers.
While any scholarships are likely to be competitive and awarded on the basis of a student’s academic achievement, bursaries will generally be available to anyone who meets the criteria.
Many higher education providers will offer a fee reduction to students who choose to stay on at, or return to, their previous institution for a master’s degree.
Often a percentage or a set amount will be taken off the course fee, but the size of the discount may be linked to the student’s performance in their undergraduate degree.
Research council funding
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) oversees seven Research Councils, which distribute funding to universities for students and research projects across all academic disciplines.
Most Research Council funding is targeted at students pursuing PhDs, but some is made available for students wanting to do a master’s degree that might be followed by doctoral research. These courses can take the form of a standalone ‘research preparation’ master’s degree, or, more commonly, be part of an integrated master’s and PhD programme. In these programmes, the student spends the first year completing a taught master’s degree, before undertaking a PhD in the subject.
Scholarships will be advertised on university websites. They are generally awarded on the basis of a student’s academic achievement and sometimes also the quality of a research proposal. Funding will help to cover tuition fees and often living costs.
Educational charities and trusts
Charities and trusts sometimes provide grants to postgraduate students who have demonstrated academic excellence and/or are from a background in which the organisation has an interest. These sums will usually only be small, but it is possible to combine them. Students should generally apply directly to the organisation, and eligibility will vary depending on the nature of the grant. This process is explained in a document published by London Metropolitan University (PDF).
The House of Commons Library holds a number of reference books to help identify relevant grants (parliamentary log in required). These books may also be available in larger public libraries. They include:
- The Guide to Educational Grants(Directory of Social Change)
- The Grants Register: The Complete Guide to Postgraduate Funding Worldwide (Palgrave Macmillan)
- The Directory of Grant Making Trusts (Directory of Social Change)
Organisations such as Turn2Us, Family Action, and Funds Online have searchable online databases of grants. The London School of Economics has published a list of charitable funding available to students. St George’s Medical School has published a list for medical students.
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