The Procrastination Zone

A blog by Mark_B

Postgraduate Loans - 5 Key Questions

by Mark_B
on October 14, 2015
It's almost a year since the UK Chancellor, George Osborne, stood up to deliver his 2014 Autumn Statement and dropped the mic with the surprise announcement of a new postgraduate loans scheme.

Well, he didn't really drop the mic (which would be quite tricky given that said device was built into the House of Commons Despatches box). But he may as well have done.

Because, over the intervening ten months, very little more about the loans has emerged.

We've had a consultation document, which more or less confirmed the initial outline (£10,000 a year, available to students aged 30 or under, from 2016, on Masters programs, at universities in England, etc).

We've also had a second announcement of a PhD loans scheme with even less detail (£25,000ish a year, available to people, from some time in the future, possibly on the Moon).

And we've had... a lot of questions. Some of them from higher education experts. Some of them from the media. And many of them from students. Including the fine folks here on the PostgraduateForum.

Here are a few of the most interesting or significant ones. None have solutions (yet) but, as every good postgrad researcher knows... if you don't know the answer, you can at least define the question/s.

1) The age limit

The decision to limit loans to those under 30 was the first part of the proposals to come under fire, with challenges by the NUS, Million+ and (most recently) a group of elite Russell Group Universities.

As well as the issue of fairness, the age limit also raises questions about the purpose of the loans.

If mature students and professionals can't return to university and benefit from postgraduate study, then what is the purpose of a Masters? Is their value merely 'academic'?

Or, if postgraduate education is to contribute key skills to the UK economy, should it not be available as a form of Continuing Professional Development, to all who might benefit? After all, the loans *are* being offered for part-time courses.

The government has claimed that the age limit reflects the greater financial resources of over 30s. Few commentators have been convinced.

2) The effect on fees

Loans are available for up to £10,000. Currently, the average cost of a Masters in England is between £5,000 and £6,000.

That leaves some headroom, though how much (if any) is left after living expenses are taken into account is open to question.

But it also raises concerns about fee inflation - concerns that have been voiced by senior university figures.

There's some evidence that the cost of delivering a Masters is actually close to £10,000 anyway. Will universities be tempted to increase fees if they feel students can now 'afford' them?

What would the effect of this be on those students who aren't eligible for loans... or who don't wish to take on more debt?

3) The effect on other funding

Currently, there isn't any universal funding for Masters courses in the UK, with the Research Councils having more or less ceased to support taught programs.

But the Research Councils *do* still support large numbers of PhD students.

The proposals for PhD loans are intended to 'compliment' existing support, but government figures have also begun speaking of a 'simplification' in postgraduate research funding.

What does this mean in practice? Will the introduction of loans (backed by public money) reduce the availability of studentships (drawn from public money)? Is £25,000 alone enough to make a three-year PhD project financially viable? Answers in congealed tomato soup, on the back of a three-day old bread roll...

4) Availability elsewhere in the UK

The postgraduate loans are only going to be available at universities in England, for English-domiciled and EU students. This leaves other parts of the UK in something of a grey area (and that's not just a joke about the weather).

Welsh universities have raised concerns about a drain on students and applicants. Northern Ireland has tabled tentative plans for its own scheme. But nothing is certain yet.

In the meantime, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students are understandably uncertain about their prospects. Documentation suggests that three years of residency in England may be sufficient to make students from elsewhere in the UK eligible, but, with the start-date for the loans yet to be absolutely confirmed, that's not much to go on.

Which brings us to...

5) The timeline for the loans

All announcements and consultation documents have pointed to Masters loans being available from the 2016-17 academic year.

When that announcement was made by the then Coalition government, 2016-17 was two years away, on the other side of a general election.

Now it's next year.

And, in the meantime, there's a lot of uncertainty.

Current third-year undergraduates are understandably keen to know if loans will be available (particularly those approaching the age-limit).

Universities will also need some clarity as they begin their recruitment for the next academic year (and take questions from prospective applicants).

For all we know, a key announcement about the loans could drop tomorrow - with answers to all of the above questions and more.

But the consultation ended almost three months ago.

And as for the PhD loans, well... those don't even have a prospective date yet.


Those aren't all of the questions surrounding the loans, by any means, but they're some of the most important concerns the government will need to address, one way or the other.

You can read everything we know so far over at and

And if you'd like to share your own questions or concerns... feel free to do so here.

Until we know more...


08-Apr-16, 18:05
Avatar for LancsLass
posted about 4 years ago
This website states that in order to receive a postgraduate loan:

The university you’re studying at must be in the UK and either:
• publicly funded (paid for by the government), or
• privately funded but have degree awarding powers

I wish to study for a part-time MSc in Nutritional Therapy at the Northern College of Acupuncture in York. This course is not listed in 'find a masters' but is validated by Middlesex University, QAA reviewed and accredited by the NTEC (learning provider registration number is 2226).

My question is - will the course be eligible for a postgraduate loan in 2016/1,7 as this will affect my decision as to whether to apply or not? The college doesn't think it will be covered but I think it would be discriminatory not to award funding when the students receive an award from a University. I am confused by the term 'degree awarding powers.'

I am aware of the MSc at Worcester University but can't travel that far on a part-time basis.

Many thanks for your views.
29-May-16, 10:27
by ChengLi
Avatar for ChengLi
posted about 4 years ago
Post Graduate of any Course?
24-Aug-16, 00:14
Avatar for SamBruce
posted about 4 years ago
The rules for the new Postgraduate Loan are quite specific and specify a set amount of the loan (30%) to be treated as income as per the Statutory Instrument 2016 No. 743 (page 3) that came into force on 4 August 2016. (see page 3)

[(2) In regulation 53(1) (students: interpretation), after the definition of “periods of experience” insert— ““postgraduate master’s degree loan” means a loan which a student is eligible to receive under the Education (Postgraduate Master’s Degree Loans) Regulations 2016;”.

(3) In regulation 59(3) (calculation of grant income)— (a) after “a student loan” insert “or a postgraduate master’s degree loan”; (b) for “such a loan” substitute “a student loan or a postgraduate master’s degree loan. [applied to the below]

(3) Where a student does not have a student loan and is not treated as possessing such a loan, there shall be excluded from the student’s grant income— (a) the sum of £280 in respect of travel costs; and (b) the sum of £352 towards the costs of books and equipment, whether or not any such costs are incurred.

(4) In regulation 64 (treatment of student loans)—

(a) at the end of the heading add “and postgraduate master’s degree loans”;
(b) in paragraph (1), after “A student loan” insert “and a postgraduate master’s degree loan”;
(c) in paragraph (3)— (i) after “a student loan” in both places, insert “or a postgraduate master’s degree loan”; (ii) in sub-paragraph (b), for “such a loan” substitute “a student loan or a postgraduate master’s degree loan”.
(d) after paragraph (4) insert—

“(4A) Where a student is treated as possessing a postgraduate master’s degree loan under paragraph (3) in respect of an academic year, the amount of that loan to be taken into account as income shall be, subject to paragraph (5), a sum equal to 30 per cent. of the maximum postgraduate master’s degree loan the student is able to acquire in respect of that academic year by taking reasonable steps to do so.”.

(5) After regulation 64A(a) insert—

06-Dec-17, 06:08
edited about 17 seconds later
Avatar for Mycou1993
posted about 3 years ago

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06-Dec-17, 06:10
Avatar for Mycou1993
posted about 3 years ago

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