Funding postgraduate study – plus the new student loan for masters courses

If you are thinking of doing postgraduate study, there are four main forms of funding:

• Loans, including Postgraduate Loan (from September 2016) and Professional and Career Development Loan
• Research Council or University
• Charitable body/Private Sponsorship
• Self-fund

Loans

Postgraduate Loan

The UK government has announced a new system of postgraduate loans which will be available for students beginning Masters degrees in September 2016.

As this is a new scheme, details are subject to change over the next few months, so you should keep an eye out for updated information as it becomes available.

The loans will be available:

• up to a maximum value of £10,000
• to taught and research Masters students
• to full-time and part-time and distance-learning students
• in all disciplines and subject areas
• at all UK universities
• to pay for either fees or maintenance costs.

To be eligible for the loan, you must be under 60 years old. You must not already have a Masters degree.

There will also be residency requirements (i.e. requirements relating to where you normally live). We are waiting for full details of the residency requirements to be announced, and will update this blog post as information becomes available.
However, at present it appears that: the loans are primarily intended for English students. Other UK nationals who are ordinarily resident in England (and who have not moved to England solely for the purpose of studying for a Masters) will also be eligible. This is subject to final confirmation. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may introduce their own postgraduate loan schemes – details are yet to be confirmed.
Non-UK EU students are also expected to be eligible for the loans. Residency criteria for non-UK EU students have not yet been confirmed.

Loans will not normally be available to international students from outside of the EU.

Repayments will be due on income over £21,000 per year, as with undergraduate student loans. Repayments will be collected at the same time as undergraduate loan repayments – you will be paying both sets of loans back simultaneously.

Applications for the new postgraduate loans are likely to open in June or July 2016.

A loan scheme for PhDs may also come into existence in the future, though no details have yet been made available about this.

Professional and Career Development Loan:

Currently, some banks administer the Professional and Career Development Loan, a loan designed specifically to pay for courses and training. Rates are typically more favourable than an average bank loan. At the moment it is unclear whether or not new Professional and Career Development Loans will continue to be offered after the introduction of Postgraduate Loans in September 2016. For more details, see: https://www.gov.uk/career-development-loans/overview.

Research Councils or University

There are seven main Research Councils in the UK, which provide funding for postgraduate study. Effectively, they give money to each university who are then responsible for giving it to their students. Different universities have their own funding to give to postgraduate students too. When you are looking at which university to study at, it’s a good idea to ask them about what funding they have. Bear in mind though, that it can be very competitive to get this funding. Just because you get accepted on a course does not mean you would automatically be accepted to receive funding. So it’s a good idea to consider your other options too, and not rely on getting money from a Research Council or the University.

Charitable body/Private Sponsorship

There are many charitable bodies which will provide money for postgraduate students, but it is often a case of finding them. The Alternative Guide to Postgrad Funding has a list of these organisations which you can go through:
http://www.doctoralcollege.qmul.ac.uk/?page_id=276.
Some only give a limited amount and some have criteria you would have to meet – ie that you have to be of a certain ethnicity, social status, gender, studying a certain topic etc. It’s always worth taking a look because even if you can get a small amount of money, this will help.

You could also think about whether there are any private organisations that would be interested in your postgraduate work/research. Some companies, for example, might be happy to pay for you to do a Masters course and bring your skills and knowledge back to them. Bear in mind you may have to already be working for an organisation, or commit to working for them for a certain time after the course. Other companies might be interested in sponsoring you if your research has a direct bearing on the work they do.

Self-funding

Another option, self-funding, is worth considering carefully. You will have to figure out not only how to pay your tuition fees but how to support yourself through your studies (rent, food, bills etc).
You could consider part-time work. Being a personal tutor, for example, is flexible and can fit in around your studies. Many PhD students will work as Teaching Assistants (TAs), teaching seminars or lab-based classes. Have a think about the skills you have and how these could translate to paid work. A Careers Consultant will be able to help if you are struggling here.

Finally…

It might be that you have to combine a combination of these to fund your postgraduate studies – finding funding from a charity to cover your fees, while working part-time and taking a loan to cover your living expenses. It is important to have a plan of how you will manage your money so that it does not overwhelm you or get in the way of your study. Advice and Counselling can help with things like planning a budget: http://www.welfare.qmul.ac.uk/money/budget. And if you want to talk to somebody about working while doing postgraduate study, make an appointment to come and see a Careers Consultant.

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