House of Commons Library

Postgraduate loans in England

Published Wednesday, August 15, 2018

This briefing provides details of the postgraduate loans systems in England, including the rationale for their introduction, the consultation process and the eligibility criteria.

Jump to full report >>

In the 2016-17 academic year, non-means tested loans of up to £10,000 were introduced for English-domiciled postgraduate students taking Master’s courses at higher education institutions in the UK.[1] In 2018-19, loans of up to £10,609 will be available. Non-means tested loans of up to £25,000 for doctoral students will also be introduced from the 2018‑19 academic year. Postgraduate loans, encompassing both Master’s loans and Doctoral loans, are also referred to as Plan 3 loans.

This briefing provides information on the development of policy relating to postgraduate loans, including the rationale for their introduction, the consultation process and the eligibility criteria. It refers only to the English loans schemes.

Master’s loans

Following an initial announcement at the Autumn Statement 2014, in March 2015, the Coalition Government published a consultation on a proposed system of loans for postgraduate Master’s courses. In its response to the consultation, published in November 2015, the Government stated that loans of up to £10,000 for both taught masters courses and research-based masters would be available from 2016-17. Some minor changes have been made to the loans scheme since its introduction. Under the scheme as it stands for the 2018-19 academic year:

  • Non-means tested loans of up to £10,609 are available to eligible students aged under 60 on eligible 1 or 2 year full-time masters courses. Students studying part-time at a minimum of 50% intensity of full-time study, or on part-time courses of two or three years with no full-time equivalent, are also able to access loans.
  • Individuals who already have a postgraduate masters qualification are not eligible.
  • Eligible courses include taught, research, distance learning or professional masters courses across all disciplines.
  • Loans are available to eligible students studying at a publicly funded higher education institution in the UK or studying designated courses at an alternative provider with degree awarding powers. Students ordinarily resident in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland are not eligible.
  • The interest on loans is RPI+3%. (6.3% from September 2018).
  • The repayment threshold is £21,000. The repayment rate is 6% and loans are repaid concurrently with undergraduate student loans.

In 2016-17 home and EU entrants to taught postgraduate courses were up by 22% among full-time and 9% among part-time students. The funding council has attributed these increases to the introduction of loans.

The Complete University Guide’s annual surveys of fees suggest that the average home fee for a taught postgraduate course increased by 16% between 2015-16 and 2017-18, from £5,901 to £6,848. It has been suggested that the availability of loans may have been a factor behind the rise.

Doctoral Loans

Following earlier announcements, Budget 2016 reaffirmed the Government’s intention to introduce loans for doctoral students and a technical consultation on the proposed scheme was launched in November 2016. The consultation closed in December 2016.

Budget 2017 confirmed that the Government would introduce doctoral loans from the 2018-19 academic year. The Government’s response to the consultation was published on the same day as the Budget. Under the scheme:

  • Non-means tested loans of up to £25,000 will be available to eligible students under the age of 60 as a contribution towards the costs of completing a doctoral qualification.
  • Eligible students ordinarily resident in England will be able to take their loan to any UK university with degree awarding powers. Individuals ordinarily resident in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be eligible for loans.
  • The repayment rate for the loans will be 6%. For students also with a Master’s loan, repayment will be taken through one single postgraduate loan repayment of 6%. Repayment will be made concurrently with repayment of any undergraduate student loans.
  • The repayment threshold will be £21,000, which will be frozen until 2021.

Commons Briefing papers SN07049

Authors: Susan Hubble; David Foster; Paul Bolton

Topics: Higher education, Students

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.