House of Commons Library

Support for postgraduate students in England

Published Monday, April 3, 2017

This House of Commons Library briefing provides information on the different types of financial assistance available to postgraduate students in England.

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Postgraduate Masters Loans

From 2016-17, non-income-contingent loans of up to £10,000 have been available for students on postgraduate masters courses. To be eligible, students must be aged under 60, have the required nationality or residency status, and be studying an eligible masters course at a publicly funded higher education institution in the UK or at an alternative provider with degree awarding powers. Eligible courses include taught, research, distance learning or professional masters courses and can be studied full-time or part-time (above a minimum intensity).

In March 2017, the Government additionally confirmed that non-means tested loans of up to £25,000 will be available for eligible students under 60 starting a doctoral qualification from 2018-19.

Other sources of support

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

  • 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.
  • Professional and Career Development Loans are subsidised bank loans. Students can borrow between £300 and £10,000 to cover course fees and living costs.
  • 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 students undertaking pistgraduate study can also apply for a Disabled Students Allowance to help them with the extra costs they 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 2016-17, this included students on initial teacher training courses, healthcare students, medical students, social work students and students on initial teacher training courses. Further information on the arrangements in each case is provided in section three of the briefing.

Students studying outside the UK

Students studying an entire course at a university outside of the UK are not eligible for student support 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 for fee purposes. However, the requirement of equal treatment may be taken by member states to apply only to fees, so may be restricted to a country’s home students only.

The European Commission’s Erasmus+ Master Loans scheme began operation in June 2015 and is being rolled out gradually across participating countries. Under the scheme, students will be able to borrow up to €12,000 for a one-year masters course or up to €18,000 for a two-year course. Future Finance Loan Corporation operates the scheme for masters students in and out of the UK.


Following the EU referendum on 23 June 2016, the Government announced that EU students applying for a place at an English higher education institution in the 2017-18 academic year will continue to be eligible for the same funding and support as they are now, and that their eligibility will continue throughout their course, even if the UK exits the EU during that period. The Government has stated that it is working to ensure that EU students applying for a place in 2018-19 will have information about their eligibility for funding “well in advance” of the application round opening in September 2017.

The European Commission has stated that EU law continues to apply in full until the UK is no longer a member of the EU. The Commission has confirmed that this applies to projects financed through the Erasmus+ programme. Arrangements after this time, including the UK’s access to the Erasmus+ programme, are yet to be determined.

Commons Briefing papers SN06281

Authors: Susan Hubble; David Foster

Topics: Higher education, Students

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