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What is a Postgraduate Master’s Loan?

Posted by Ross Bramble on Feb 27th, 2020 | Personal finance

What is a Postgraduate Master's Loan?, image of students walking

A Postgraduate Master’s Loan can help you with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate master’s course.

The funding for postgraduate loans differs depending on where you normally live. There are separate rules for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Moving somewhere to study does not count as normally living there.

When it comes to repaying your Postgraduate Master’s Loan the rules are the same as for any other student loans you may have. Interest will be charged from the day you get the first payment.

You can also get extra support if you have a disability.

You will not be eligible for an Adult Dependants’ Grant, a Childcare Grant or Parents’ Learning Allowance from Student Finance if you’re studying a master’s course.

Rules for England and Wales

How much can I borrow?

The loan will be paid directly to you if you are studying over two, three, or four academic years. You can use it for your course fees and living costs.

The amount you’ll get depends on when you started your course. It is not based on you or your family’s income.

Academic year commencement date Loan amount (up to) Loan allocation
Academic year starts on or after 1st August 2020 £11,222 Payments divided equally across your course and paid in three installments per academic year
Academic year starts on or after 1st August 2019 £10,906 Payments divided equally across your course and paid in three installments per academic year
Academic year starts on or after 1st August 2018 £10,609 Total for the whole course divided equally over academic years

*NB Wales is currently offering up to £13,000

2017 – 2018 academic year £10,280
2016 – 2017 academic year £10,000 Half in first year and remainder in 2nd year

When and how will I be paid?

You’ll get the first payment after your course start date, and after your university or college confirms that you’ve registered. If you change university or college during your course, your new university or college has to confirm the change with Student Finance England before you receive any more payments.

The loan will be paid in instalments of 33%, 33% and 34% each year. After your application has been approved, you’ll be sent a letter with your payment dates or you can check them in your online account.

Check out our article on how to pay back a student loan when self-employed if you need further help in this area.

How do I know if I’m eligible?

Whether you qualify depends on:

  • your course
  • your age (must be less than 60 years of age on the first day of the first academic year)
  • your nationality or residency status.

You won’t be eligible for a Postgraduate Master’s Loan if:

  • you’re already receiving payments from student finance for another course that you’re studying
  • you received a Postgraduate Master’s Loan before – unless you left your course due to illness, bereavement or another serious personal reason
  • you already have a master’s degree, or a qualification that’s equivalent or higher
  • you’re behind in repayments for any previous loans from the Student Loans Company
  • you’re eligible for NHS or Social work (unless limited to Placement Travel Allowance) bursary.

You’ll still be eligible if you have a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or a postgraduate diploma or certificate.

You will not get extra money if you repeat a year of your course.


Postgraduate Loan repayment commences in April after the programme is completed (or following withdrawal, where this applies). Students who are studying a programme that is three or four academic years in duration will enter repayment in April following the second academic year and so will still be on a programme and making repayments.

Postgraduate loans will be repaid using a percentage (currently 6%) of an annual income threshold which is £21,000 per annum (£1,750 per month or £404 per week). This means that 6% of earnings over £21,000 will be taken as a repayment directly by your employer or through your self-assessment via HMRC if you are self-employed. Where repayments are made from overseas, the income threshold applied may be different and payments will need to be made directly to the Student Loan Company.

Repayment of a postgraduate loan will be made concurrently with any other student loan repayments due, under the arrangements in place for the repayments of that loan.

The balance of any outstanding postgraduate loan under this scheme can be written off on the 30th anniversary of the date the loan became due for repayment, if you become permanently unfit for work, there are no outstanding arrears, or on death.

Rules for Scotland and Northern Ireland

Eligible Scottish domiciled students are entitled to loans for fees and living costs in Scotland for certain courses (diploma or masters, not PhD which can be funded by Research Councils). There is also support for studies in the UK for courses not available in Scotland.

Students with both undergraduate and postgraduate loans will have them merged and subject to the same interest rate.

Dates Loan amount Purpose
2020 – 2021 academic year Up to £10,000

(£5,500 for fees & £4,500 living cost)

Student loans for full-time, part-time and distance learning Masters and PGDip courses.

*NB Northern Ireland only offers the £5,500 for fees

2017 – 2018 academic year Up to £10,000

(£5,500 for fees & £4,500 living cost)

Taught postgraduate up to Masters in any Scottish higher education institute

*NB Northern Ireland only offers the £5,500 for fees

2016 – 2017 academic year Up to £7,900

(£3,400 for fees & £4,500 living cost)

Limited number of courses up to Postgraduate Diploma

Repayment will begin on the 6th April after leaving a course.

If you live in Scotland and Northern Ireland, from April 2021 the repayment threshold is £18,330 and the payback rate is 9%.

All of this is summarised in the table below:

Loan originated Payback threshold £ Payback rate
England £21,000 6%
Wales £21,000 6%
Scotland £18,330 9%
Northern Ireland £18,330 9%

A loan can be cancelled where it is taken out after 1st August 2017 if any of the following apply:

  • After 35 years for Scottish residents and 25 years for Northern Ireland residents
  • On death
  • Permanently disabled and unfit to work.

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