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This briefing provides information on the various sources of funding available for postgraduate students in England.

Postgraduate Masters Loans

Since 2016-17, non-income contingent loans have been available for students starting postgraduate master’s courses. For the 2020-21 academic year, the maximum loan is £11,222. To be eligible, students must: be aged under 60, have the required nationality or residency status, not have a previous higher qualification, and be studying an eligible masters course at an eligible higher education institution in the UK. Eligible courses include taught, research, distance learning or professional master’s courses and can be studied full-time or part-time (above a minimum intensity).

Postgraduate doctoral loans

From 2018-19, non-income contingent loans have been available for students starting doctoral courses. In 2020-21, the maximum loan is £26,445. To be eligible, students must be aged under 60, have the required nationality or residency status, not have a previous doctoral (or higher) qualification, and be studying at a publicly funded higher education institution or alternative provider with degree-awarding powers.

Other sources of support

There are a number of other sources of support for postgraduate students, including:

  • UKRI, comprised of the Research Councils, provide funding to universities who then select and recruit students.
  • Higher education institutions often have their own scholarships, bursaries or studentship awards, which are available to students who qualify under the institution’s own criteria.
  • Trusts and charities may provide funding for postgraduate students. These grants are entirely discretionary and small amounts of up to £500 might be available.
  • Disabled Student’s Allowance: Disabled students undertaking postgraduate study can apply for a DSA to help them with the extra costs they may have because of their disability.

Subject specific awards

Postgraduate students studying certain subjects may be eligible for additional/alternative support under the student support system or from other sources. In 2019-20, this included students on initial teacher training courses, healthcare students, medical students and social work students.

Students studying outside the UK

Students studying an entire course outside the UK are not eligible for funding from Student Finance England. UK students currently have the right to study in any other EU country and when doing so they should be treated the same as nationals of the member state for fee purposes. Arrangements for UK students studying in the EU after 1st January 2021 are yet to be determined.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • This House of Commons library paper gives an overview of the first sale of a tranche of English income-contingent student loans. It gives background to the sale and discusses the impact of the sale on borrowers and whether value for money was achieved by the sale. The Government announced the end of the sales programme in Budget 2020.

  • Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic there have been concerns about the financial impact on universities. Much of this has focussed on the potential loss of international students, but there could also be losses in income from lower home student numbers, a drop in research work and less revenue from accommodation, catering and conferencing. What are the size of these impacts and what has the Government done to support the sector?

  • Higher education underwent fundamental changes to how it was financed in England 2012. There have been ongoing smaller changes since then and prospects for much larger changes following the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding. How has this affected the balance between the broad sources of funding -the taxpayer and graduate and how has the total funding from all sources for universities changed?