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Options for Postgraduate Funding

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Federal Student Loans

Private loans for graduate students, how to apply for private loans, online lenders, consolidating loans.

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Education isn’t cheap, but graduate students have options to help cover costs and make ends meet. Some of the loans offered to graduate students are similar to undergraduate loans, but others are specific to certain grad programs.

The federal government offers several loans specifically for graduate students. You should consider starting with these sources before exploring your private loan options. Government-sponsored student loans often have advantages, like lower interest rates and more flexible repayment plans.

Keep in mind that graduate students haven't been able to enjoy the benefits of a subsidized loan since July 1, 2012. Unlike undergraduate loans, interest will begin to accrue as soon as you get the money, so you'll want to be especially careful about how much you borrow.

Key Takeaways

  • Graduate students don't have access to direct subsidized loans.
  • There are higher limits to federal student loans for graduate students than for undergraduates.
  • Graduate students typically have access to larger private student loans depending on their area of study.

Like undergraduate students, graduate students applying for federal aid benefit from starting the process as soon as possible. Visit your school’s financial aid office to apply for any of these loans. You'll also need to gather personal information and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid  (FAFSA) early in the year, ideally in January, to improve your chances of getting grants and other types of financial aid.

Interest rates for loans owned by the Department of Education were reduced to 0%, and the requirement to make payments was suspended to provide temporary relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, the Biden administration extended the pause for the eighth time. Borrowers with federal student loans won’t have to make payments, and loans won’t resume accumulating interest, until 60 days after court cases challenging Biden’s student loan forgiveness program are resolved or the Department of Education is allowed to move forward with the program. If the cases aren’t resolved by June 30, 2023, payments will resume two months after that.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct Unsubsidized Loans (also called “Stafford Loans") are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. They allow you to borrow up to $20,500 per year for graduate school. Grad students who received their first loan payments between July 2021 and July 2022 paid a fixed interest rate of 5.28%. The origination fee for the first loan payments made between October 2020 and October 2022 was 1.057%. This is likely less expensive than a private loan, but you should always shop around, especially if you have a good credit score. Students with good credit may be able to find a great deal from a private lender, but you'll likely qualify for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan no matter your credit score.

Direct PLUS Loans

Direct PLUS Loans are also known as “ Grad PLUS Loans ." They're available if you still need money after you’ve exhausted your Direct Unsubsidized Loans, which offer lower interest rates.

You can only borrow as much as needed for your “cost of attendance,” minus any other financial aid you’ve received. You also need a credit history that's free from bankruptcy, tax liens, repossessions, and similar events. You probably won't qualify for a Graduate PLUS Loan if you need a cosigner to qualify for a loan,

Students who received their first payments through this type of loan between July 2021 and July 2022 paid a fixed interest rate of 6.28%. There's also an origination fee. The origination fee for students who received their first disbursement between October 2020 and October 2022 is 4.228%.

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, President Joe Biden announced via Twitter the cancellation of $10,000 of federal student loan debt for eligible borrowers and $20,000 for federal Pell Grant recipients.

Perkins Loans

You may remember Perkins Loans from your days as an undergraduate student. This loan type was popular because of the low interest rates it offered to undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrated "financial need." Unfortunately, the Perkins Loan program was ended by federal law in September 2017. The final disbursements through the program were distributed through June 30, 2018. These loans are no longer offered to any type of student.

You'll have to look to private lenders after you’ve borrowed everything you can through government programs if you need more to pay for the cost of your advanced degree.

This is probably a good time for a common-sense reminder: Just because you can borrow more, that doesn’t mean that you should . Remember that you’ll have to repay these loans, and irresponsible borrowing can haunt you for many years. Student loans are a great way to invest in your future, but there are countless horror stories about people who got in over their heads.

Where To Find Private Loans

Private student loans are available from a variety of lenders. Banks, credit unions, and online lenders offer private student loan products. Unlike the government, private lenders are more likely to have stricter qualifications for borrowers. You’ll need good credit and sufficient income to repay the loan. Most graduate students are fairly young, and they have a hard time qualifying on their own, but having a cosigner can help.

Students coming from abroad to pursue post-graduate degrees are ineligible for federal student loans. Private student loans may be the best option to help cover their costs.

Private Loans May Be More Customized

How much can you borrow from a private lender when you’re a graduate student? It depends on the lender and your field of study. You can generally borrow more if you’re studying for a profession that tends to have higher earnings. Future doctors , lawyers, and chief financial officers (CFOs) get to borrow more than future librarians, for example.

Private lenders even offer products that are specific to your field of study, and this is one way in which they might be more attractive than federal student loans. You may need to complete internship hours, pass licensing exams, or earn industry certifications after you graduate. Some private graduate student loans include provisions that help cover your living expenses while you complete these requirements.

Guidelines for how to specifically apply for a private loan can vary. There are just too many types of loans and too many lenders to allow for any single "average" process.

Start by searching generally for private loans, and then narrow your search by focusing on the type of degree you’re pursuing. Be prepared to provide financial information to the lender when you're ready to apply, including bank statements, pay stubs, and school documents.

Online lenders have emerged as a way of making loans more affordable and accessible. That applies to student loans as well as personal loans, which can be used for any purpose.

Be sure to compare online loans to those from traditional sources. Shopping around is even more important for private loans. You can assume that your loan's rate is relatively competitive with government loans, but you may find some great private loan plans, along with some predatory ones. Read the fine print to catch any extra hidden fees.

Keep an open mind about the type of loan you use. You may find that a personal loan with good terms is ultimately a better option for your situation than a "student" loan.

You may end up with multiple loans once you've finished your studies. It may be possible to consolidate them into a single loan in this case. Whether or not it makes sense will depend on how many loans you have and what kind of lenders you used.

Multiple federal loans can be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan . Private lenders may also be willing to consolidate both your federal and private loans into one loan. Make sure to take note of factors like the amount of each loan and the interest rates before consolidating. You could end up with worse terms if you aren't careful, so ensure that you won't end up paying significantly more under a consolidated loan plan.

Federal Student Aid. " Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans ."

Department of Education. “ Biden-Harris Administration Continues Fight for Student Debt Relief for Millions of Borrowers, Extends Student Loan Repayment Pause .”

Federal Student Aid. " Federal Interest Rates and Fees ."

Federal Student Aid. " The Federal Perkins Loan Program Provided Money for College or Career School for Students With Financial Need ."

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Financial Aid for Graduate School: Who Qualifies and How to Apply

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Key takeaways

Financial aid for graduate school includes grants, scholarships, fellowships, assistantships and loans.

Exhaust all opportunities for free aid before considering student loans.

If you take out student loans, borrow federal direct loans first. For additional funding, compare offers between federal PLUS loans and private loans to see where you’ll get the best deal.

If you’re considering graduate school, make sure you have a funding plan in place ahead of time. Costs for graduate school can vary greatly depending on the type and length of the program, but there are opportunities to help cut down out-of-pocket costs.

Graduate students can get financial aid through:

FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid provides access to federal, state and some school-based grants.

Organization grants: Industry-specific organizations may provide grants to those studying in relevant fields.

Scholarships: State governments, schools and private organizations may provide scholarships for academic excellence or other factors, like studying in high-needs fields or increasing diversity.

Fellowships: Schools, private organizations and government entities offer fellowships based on field of study and academic performance in exchange for research activities.

Assistantships: Schools may award living stipends and tuition waivers to full-time students in exchange for work.

Employer tuition assistance: Employers may offer to reimburse their employees’ tuition expenses as an employment benefit.

Here’s who qualifies and how to apply for each type of aid.

» MORE: How to pay for grad school: 5 strategies for students

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Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA , as your first step to funding your graduate education. Citizens and eligible non-citizen graduate students, including permanent residents and U.S. nationals, are eligible to file.

You must file the FAFSA to qualify for federal and state-based grant awards. Many school-based grants also require the FAFSA.

Federal grants for graduate students include the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, or TEACH, grant. The TEACH grant provides up to $4,000 a year to education students who will teach in a low-income school or high-needs field after graduation.

Contact the department of education for your state and your school’s state to learn more about state-based grant opportunities.

Contact your school’s financial aid office to learn more about school-based grants and ask your department head about industry-specific grants.

» MORE: Guide to grants for college


Scholarships are available at the state, local and school levels. These awards are based on various eligibility criteria, which can include field of study and academic achievement. Some scholarships are also need-based or allocated only for certain demographics.

Apply for as many scholarships as you qualify for to increase your chances of getting the most money.

Check the Department of Labor’s Scholarship Finder or National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ state-based scholarship search tool to find programs.

Contact your school’s financial aid office and department head about specific scholarship programs you may be eligible for.

» MORE: How to get a scholarship

Fellowships and assistantships

Eligibility requirements and service commitments for fellowship and assistantship programs vary. While fellowships are offered by schools, private organizations or government agencies, assistantships typically only come from the school.

With a fellowship, you may perform research activities outside of your school and payment may not be directly tied to tuition. As assistantships are generally school-based, they are more likely to directly provide full or partial tuition waivers. Some assistantships also come with living stipends .

Contact your financial aid office about school-based fellowships and assistantships, including teaching and resident assistantships. Search the zintellect database, which has ties to the Department of Education and a consortium of Ph.D.-granting institutions, for government and private-sector fellowships.

» MORE: Is a masters degree worth it?

Employer tuition assistance

According to a 2020 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, about 47% of employers offer tuition assistance as part of their benefits package. This benefit can be in the form of tuition reimbursement, where the employer gives a lump sum to employees after they prove their tuition expenses. Other companies may pay tuition costs directly to the school, so the employee doesn't have to front the bill.

The amount of reimbursement varies by employer. The most common benefit ranges from $5,000-$5,999, according to a 2019 report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

Contact your human resources team to ask about your company’s tuition assistance benefit. Make sure to verify that graduate school tuition qualifies. You also want to get an understanding of any service commitments that come with accepting the benefit. Some employers require you to stay with the company for a certain period after the reimbursement funds are disbursed.

If you exhaust all of your opportunities for aid that doesn’t have to be repaid, look to student loans to fill the remaining funding gaps for graduate school. Schools may include student loans as part of your aid package, but you have to repay them.

Filing the FAFSA typically qualifies you for direct unsubsidized federal student loans. As a graduate student, you can borrow up to $20,500 each year. These loans will accrue interest while you are in school, but typically come with lower interest rates than their private loan counterparts. They also offer repayment options that private student loans don’t, like income-driven repayment .

» MORE: Government student loans: What are the benefits?

If you still need more funding, compare offers between the Grad PLUS loan from the federal government and options available with private student loan companies .

Unlike other federal student loans, PLUS loans require a hard credit check and may come with a higher rate than you can get with a private lender. But if you think you’ll need the protections of federal student loans, they’re still a better option.

On a similar note...

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The ULTIMATE guide to Postgraduate Funding

26 th September 2022

ultimate guide postgraduate funding

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Figuring out how to fund your postgraduate studies can seem immensely confusing, so we’ve created our Ultimate Guide to Postgraduate Funding to help you discover what your options are and how you can pay for your education. Routes for funding postgraduate degrees are quite different to undergraduate degrees, most of which are paid via Student Finance. For postgraduates, you’ll have a few different directions you could follow. From bursaries to budgeting, you will find lots of useful information here for you to consider when applying for your postgraduate degree, along with tips for helping you save money while you study. 

How much can a postgraduate degree cost?

What living costs should you consider, what postgraduate degree funding options are there.

  • Postgraduate loans
  • Bursaries and scholarships

Teacher Training Bursaries and Scholarships

Nhs learning support fund and social work bursaries, subject related funding, scholarships for under-represented groups, location related funding, disabled students’ allowance, enhanced learning credits scheme for the armed forces, research councils, employer sponsorship, part-time employment, crowdfunding, tips for saving money while studying.

The costs for postgraduate degrees and undergraduate degrees are notably different, as while undergraduate degrees are subject to a tuition fee cap (currently £9,250 per year), postgraduate degrees are not. The universities themselves set the tuition fees for postgraduate degrees, which means there can be quite a lot of variation. 

Costs for postgraduate degrees average around £11,000 per year, depending on the qualification, course and university. Check out the table below to get an idea of the tuition fees per year for some of the most popular postgraduate qualifications... 

To find out up to date costs for degrees that you are interested in, have a browse using our Course Search feature, which can sort courses from the lowest to highest if you’re looking to find an affordable master’s course. 

Next: Search for postgraduate courses

Alongside tuition fees, postgraduate students will also need to take into account the associated living costs for the years they will be studying. This will include things like rent, bills, food, travel and course materials, among others. The cost of living will depend on where in the country you live as rent can vary between cities, and some degrees can require you to buy more course materials than others. It’s wise to put together a realistic budget for living costs and plan your monthly expenses accordingly, which could include the items on this list below below... 

  • Rent + Bills 
  • Course materials 
  • Travel 
  • Entertainment 
  • Clothes  

A note on Council Tax – as a student, you shouldn’t have to pay it. However, if you live with non-students or with a partner and you want to contribute to the Council Tax bill (bear in mind you don’t legally have to), you should double check that your property is in the right band to avoid unnecessary costs. 

There are several options available for postgraduate students when it comes to funding their education. This includes loans from the government specifically for postgraduate students, a range of bursaries and scholarships, employee sponsorships, crowdfunding and even salaried teacher training courses. Previously, the Professional and Career Development Loan scheme was a popular route for postgraduate students, but the government closed applications for it in 2019. 

Postgraduate Loans

In 2016, the government introduced loans for students looking to embark on postgraduate studies. This began with the Master’s Loan and continued with the Doctoral Loan introduced in 2018. These are not means-tested loans, and they are paid directly to the student. They can be used to pay for course fees and living costs. 

For the Master’s Loan , students can get up to £11,836 for courses that start after 1 August 2022. The loan will be paid in three installments over the academic year (or equally divided across each year of your course if it is longer than one year). You must be taking a full, standalone master’s course worth at least 180 credits, and it can be a taught or research-based master’s.  

For the Doctoral Loan , students can get up to £27,892 for courses that start after 1 August 2022. The loan will be divided equally across each year of your course. You must be taking a full, standalone doctoral course, and it can be a taught or research-based course (or a combination of the two). 

There are other requirements that you must fulfil to be eligible to receive a postgraduate loan from the government, details of which you will be able to find on the gov.uk website.  

Similar to the standard undergraduate degree loan, students will have to start repaying their postgraduate loan once they begin to earn an income over a certain threshold. 

Go to: Read more about Loan Options for Postgraduate Students

Bursaries and Scholarships

Bursaries and scholarships are also popular for students looking to make postgraduate education more affordable. The names are sometimes used interchangeably, and they can be quite similar, though getting a scholarship is usually a competitive process, while bursaries are available to any student that qualifies for them. However, neither scholarships nor bursaries have to be repaid. 

When looking for bursaries or scholarships, the first place you’ll want to look is the university. There will often be university-wide bursaries as well as department-specific bursaries, depending on your subject and/or circumstances. Some postgraduate courses come with a certain number of scholarships attached. 

Most universities also offer discounts on postgraduate courses for alumni. If you have completed an undergraduate degree at a university, you could consider staying on or returning to take advantage of this discount. However, your course is an investment; evaluate the department and the reputation of the course carefully and don’t be enticed solely by cost. 

Next: Search for bursaries and scholarships

If you're looking to become a teacher, you might be eligable for a bursary from the government depending on the subject you want to teach. You'll need a 2:2 or higher bachelor’s degree, a master’s or a PhD in the subject to qualify for the bursary, alongside some more terms and conditions which are available on the gov.uk website. The subjects and bursary can be found on the table below...

There are also scholarships available for people looking to become teachers in certain subjects, offered by other independent institutions. Students will need to apply directly to the institution for these scholarships, and meet the institution's critera. The subjects, scholarship amounts and institutions are listed on the label below...

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Go to: Read more about How to Fund a PGCE

The NHS provides a Learning Support Fund as additional funding for students on pre-registration postgraduate courses for a number of subjects. Eligible students can get a training grant of £5,000 per academic year which is not means-tested and does not need to be repaid. You’ll have to reapply for the training grant for each academic year of your study. The Learning Support Fund can be received by students studying for the following courses: 

  • Dental Hygiene or Dental Therapy (level 5 or 6 courses) 
  • Dietetics 
  • Midwifery 
  • Nursing (adult, child, mental health, learning disability, joint nursing and social work) 
  • Occupational Therapy 
  • Operating Department Practitioner (level 5 or 6 courses) 
  • Orthoptics 
  • Orthotics and Prosthetics 
  • Paramedic Science (DipHE and FD courses are not eligible for NHS LSF) 
  • Physiotherapy 
  • Podiatry or Chiropody 
  • Radiography (diagnostic and therapeutic) 
  • Speech and Language Therapy 

Students can also receive a Specialist Subject Payment of an additional £1,000 aper academic year if they are studying one of these particular courses: 

  • Mental Health Nursing 
  • Learning Disability Nursing 
  • Radiography (Diagnostic and Therapeutic) 
  • Prosthetics and Orthotics 
  • Orthoptics and Podiatry 

The Learning Support Fund features more funding alongside the training grant. There is a £2,000 annual Parental Support grant for students who have parental responsibility for a child. The Travel and Dual Accommodation Expenses to help pay for excess travel and accommodation for students undertaking clinical placements for their practical training. The Exceptional Support Fund also provides funding for students facing unforeseen financial difficulties. 

The NHS can also provide a bursary for postgraduate students who are studying an approved Social Work course, comprised of a non-means-tested basic grant and a means-tested maintenance grant. 

You can also look further afield for bursaries and grants, as various charities, trusts, and societies across the UK will offer them to students studying in related subjects, since it is in their interest to further research in that area or train more individuals to work in the sector. Explore the established groups that exist in and around the subject you are looking to study to see if there is funding available to you. 

For example, The Royal Geographical Society supports fieldwork projects with grants for master’s and PhD students. Cancer Research UK also supports PhD students looking to help make medical breakthroughs in the line of research. The Scott Trust offers multiple bursaries each year for students looking to take an MA in journalism.  

Several societies and trusts offer scholarships to members of under-represented groups to support academics from all backgrounds and build diversity of ideas in sectors that need it. Some companies will even work with the universities themselves to help establish these scholarships and bursaries, so get in touch with the institutions you’re interested in to see if they have any funding that you can receive. 

For example, the Windsor Fellowship works with the likes of UCL, DeepMind, Cancer Research UK and Visa to offer scholarships for students from under-represented communities for a variety of postgraduate courses. The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Scholarship offers funding for future diversity leaders, complete with mentoring and training. 

You may be able to access funds from a local council or charity where you live, or where you will be living during your studies. Often small towns and rural communities have charities and hardship funds where money goes unclaimed. If you can demonstrate that you were, or are, a contributing member of the community, and that you are hoping to further your education and job prospects, you may be able to secure a financial contribution. Reaching out to your local council to see what is available should form part of your university funding research. 

The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) can be used by postgraduate and undergraduate students to support with study-related costs. Students can get up to £25,575 in the 2022 to 2023 academic year to help meet disability-related costs of studying, which can include paying for specialist equipment, non-medical helpers and extra travel expenditure.  

Eligible students may be asked to book a needs assessment to determine what will be needed for their courses. The DSA does not need to be repaid. You’ll be able to find more information, including eligibility criteria, on the gov.uk website. 

The Ministry of Defence aims to promote ‘lifelong learning amongst members of the Armed Forces’ with its Enhanced Learning Credits Scheme (ELC). This scheme provides financial support for a maximum of three separate years to contribute towards the costs of a degree with a qualifying institution. The ELC can be claimed by personnel who have recently left or serving members of the Armed Forces depending on their eligibility. 

Research Councils are publicly funded bodies that exist to further research in various academic fields and subject areas. Part of their role is to fund PhD and master’s students. Your university applies for funding, and courses or subjects that have received grants from research councils should advertise this when prospective students are researching courses or applying.  You will then have to apply to the department or school, so it varies from university to university as to the competition and application requirements. 

If you are interested in completing a postgraduate course to advance your career prospects in the organisation you work for, it’s worth asking if the company will sponsor you in some way. Some businesses will have official schemes in place for this, but if there is no official scheme, it’s up to you to negotiate an arrangement and hope that your employer will see the potential.  

Whether you are planning to do a part-time course, either in attendance or through distance learning, or take time out to complete a full-time course, you need to think about the logistics and the terms of your employment. Ensure you are clear on any agreements you make with your employer when arranging your sponsorship, as some agreements may require you to return funds used for your course should you leave the company within a specified period. 

If you need to provide an argument for why your employer should sponsor your education, think about presenting how it will help your contribution to the business, how it fits in with your long-term development goals at the organisation and the value it could add to the company.

Next: Read more on Balancing Work and Study on an MBA

Part-time work can help contribute towards living costs while studying for your postgraduate degree. Many places will have part-time jobs, but we also recommend looking to find a part-time job at your university. Whether it’s acting as an ambassador for open day, helping with administration tasks or shifts working at the Students’ Union, they will respect that you are there first and foremost for your education. 

You should speak to your tutor prior to finding part-time work to check whether they think you will have enough time to make it a realistic option. Depending on how intense your course is, it may get in the way of assignments and/or increase your stress levels. 

Next:  Read more on Does Postgraduate Study Mean Giving Up Work?

If you are looking for further assistance paying for your tuition fees or living costs, you may want to consider crowdfunding as an option. Appealing to friends, family, and strangers the internet will not be the dependable method for raising the full amount needed for your degree, but combined with other funding routes, crowdfunding a small portion of the money needed can help make progressing through your studies much more achievable from a financial standpoint.  

Websites like GoFundMe and Crowdfunder can be used to host your crowdfunding campaigns, though be aware that they will charge fees for using their service. You can use social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to get the campaign out into the world and post updates. Marketing is a vital part of crowdfunding, as it will allow you to show why taking your postgraduate degree is important. Try to think about how your study will help develop not only your prospects, but also a particular field or specific community. 

Alongside the funding options available, many students will also be looking for ways to save money while studying for their postgraduate degree. With that in mind, we’ve put together a handy selection of tips to help you look after your money at university.  

Graduate Accounts

The first place to start is your bank account. As obvious as it sounds, having the right account with benefits tailored to graduates is essential when assessing your funding options for postgraduate study. Some graduate accounts will offer an interest-free overdraft for up to three years, which is useful for clearing your overdraft debt without adding to it in the meantime.  

You may want to stick with the bank where you had your student account, but it is worth your time looking around to see what features the graduate accounts from other banks have. This can include different sizes and lengths of overdraft, along with other freebies. 

A huge number of shops and brands will offer student discounts, which can really help to save you money. You’ll usually need to show your student ID or provide your university email address to benefit from student discounts. There are also student discount cards available, like the TOTUM card (previously known as the NUS Extra card), which have even more exclusive deals to offer. 

Many shops will also have loyalty cards for you to use when you shop to collect points or get money off your purchases. This includes the likes of the Tesco Clubcard, Nectar Card, and the Boots Advantage Card. These cards are almost always free and can be used online and in person, so they’re worth picking up if you regularly shop at these places. 

If you need to travel by train frequently, take a look at the selection of Railcards available from National Rail. Many of these, like the 16-25 or the 26-30 Railcard, can let you get 1/3 off train tickets across the country. Students in London can also get an 18+ Student Oyster Photocard to save 30% on Travelcards and Bus and Tram Pass season tickets. 

Some universities will offer various incentives to encourage students to travel by bike, including free bike checks. If you already have a bike, or can find a good student discount on one, this can help you save money on train and bus tickets throughout your studies. 

Cooking food with housemates is a good way to save money, as these meals will often work out to be cheaper than cooking just for yourself. Plus, you’ll get to spend time with your housemates, and if you’re in student accommodation, this is a great way to make friends. 

Similarly, cooking in bulk and freezing portions to eat for the next couple of days is another good way to save money on ingredients, with the added benefit of saving you time in the evenings. You can find plenty of recipes on the internet for bulk cooking, and there are even cookbooks dedicated to bulk cooking, too. 

Student discounts will once again be your friend should you need to eat out, as a host of restaurants will have some tasty student deals. You may also find that some student discount cards also come with access to a Tastecard, which can get you exclusive deals in all sorts of restaurants and cafes. 


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The ultimate postgraduate student funding guide.

Postgraduate Student Funding Guide

Are postgraduate degrees funded?

How do you fund a postgraduate degree?

How do you support yourself financially?

Do postgraduate students get a maintenance loan?

Surviving student life can be a tricky business, which is why it’s crucial to get on the right financial track from the get-go.

Have you been pulling your hair out trying to navigate through the onslaught of funding sources and figure out how the heck you’re going to make this whole postgraduate study thing work?

Fear not! This postgraduate funding guide talks through all the options available to you, providing essential student hacks, tips and tricks, and funding resources that can help make your postgraduate dreams come true.

How much does postgraduate study cost?

The real cost of postgraduate study is different for every student. Tuition fees vary widely from subject to subject, university to university, and whether you’re a home or international student.

The average masters tuition fee for home students in the UK is £8,740 – which is a great investment for your future. Living costs can vary drastically depending on where you go to university, and also on your lifestyle. Fees are normally higher for international students.

It is also useful to consider the additional costs of being a student, such as rent, bills and living expenses. 

Additional costs to consider for EU and International students:

The short answer is yes, postgraduate degrees are funded. There are several ways to get funding help for your postgraduate degree, from government loans, bursaries, scholarships, studentships and more.

Many universities also offer alumni discounts for graduates continuing their studies at the same university. For instance, if you chose to continue studying a masters degree after finishing your bachelors degree, the university might offer the masters course at a reduced rate. 

Maintenance loans are not available to postgraduate students. Masters student finance systems operate differently to the undergraduate loan process, which involves a maintenance loan. Postgraduate government loans are sent directly to you to assist with maintenance and living expenses. 

Types of postgraduate funding 

Uk government student loans.

Student loans are one of the most common ways to fund a university degree. It’s what most undergraduates use to fund their bachelors degree. 

But, can the government fund your masters?

Yes, the UK government provides postgraduate loans to masters students. This is the main source of funding support for most postgraduate students. Masters students are potentially eligible for up to £11,836* in student loans, intended to assist with course fees and living costs.

Masters loans

For masters student loans, the following funding is available to eligible students:

*£11,836  for courses starting on or after 1 August 2022

£11,570 for courses starting between 1 August 2021 and 31 July 2022

Postgraduate doctoral loans

For doctoral students, the following funding is available to eligible students:

£27,892 for courses starting on or after 1 August 2022

£27,265 for courses starting between 1 August 2021 and 31 July 2022

Research councils

For postgraduates, a good place to start when seeking funding is with an appropriate research council, such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) . The problem is, money’s limited and the chances of actually getting funding from research councils are fading by the day.

Not only are research councils incredibly competitive, the application process, which is carried out through the university, can be very long. It’s wise not to pin all your hopes on winning funding from a research council. That being said, research councils do fund a large number of UK students.

The research councils include:

Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)

Medical Research Council (MRC)

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

District and Local Councils may also offer small awards for local students or those studying a topic relevant to the area.

University bursaries and studentships

Postgraduate Student Funding Guide

These awards however are limited, as they are usually funded through donations or special schemes.

Another fantastic resource worth investigating is PostgraduateStudentships.co.uk . Their site is dedicated to bringing together all the different funding opportunities open to postgraduates, at both taught and research level, across the UK.

Charitable trusts

From the obscure to the ancient, charities that are aimed at funding those wishing to pursue postgraduate study may be just the lifeline you need. Be aware that you will need to dedicate a large amount of time to sifting through the terms and conditions of each funding body. Some trusts will only cover research or equipment and others won’t pay fees.

"Charities are interested in helping young people realise life goals in relation to education and training."

– Luke Blaxhill, Gradfunding.co.uk

Some of the main charities/trusts offering postgraduate funding in the UK include:

Sir Richard Stapley Trust

Association of Medical Research Charities

The Leverhulme Trust

Wellcome Trust

Funds for Women Graduates

The Royal Society

"From my own experience, the Sir Richard Stapley Trust has been incredibly helpful and generous. But bear in mind that due to the increased need for funding, organizations like this are operating a first come, first served policy."

– Jenna Gorman, Postgrad student at University of Oxford

Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries

If you haven’t heard already, then you’re going to want to check out our Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries . Each bursary is worth £500 and they are awarded to students from anywhere in the world. The forms are super simple and quick to fill in – taking less than 5 minutes! The postgraduate bursaries are suitable for everyone. No matter what your course, you are still eligible to apply. What are you waiting for?

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

The UK Research and Innovation offer postgraduate funding support for a range of disciplines and areas. They provide funding for researchers and researching bodies – offering support for PhD students undertaking research. Explore their funding finder to find out more about the UKRI’s postgraduate funding opportunities.

Chevening UK Government Scholarships 

Chevening Scholarships are the UK government’s global scholarship program. These scholarships are funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) together with partner organisations and they are intended to help outstanding scholars from around the world who have leadership potential. Chevening Scholarships help these outstanding students study postgraduate courses at UK universities.

Postgraduate Student Loans

Prodigy Finance has been revolutionising student finance since 2007. With 60% of all postgraduate students needing help funding their postgrad programs, but traditional banks and other lenders having difficulty assessing cross-border risk, they are often hesitant to lend to international students. 

That's where Prodigy Finance comes in. In their community model, alumni, impact investors and other private qualified entities fund the next generation of postgraduate students. Their assessment takes into consideration multiple factors such as pre-study salary, university acceptance and future income, to ensure individual loan affordability whilst removing the need for guarantors or co-signers.

Prodigy Finance offers loans to international postgraduate students, as well as UK nationals planning to study at UK universities. If you’re interested in learning more about Prodigy Finance and their loans, visit their FAQs for more details or contact them on [email protected] .

Prodigy Finance is one of many potential funding options for international postgraduate students. Other student funding options are available and Postgrad.com advises you to research all your options thoroughly before making such a commitment. Postgrad.com accepts no responsibility for your choice of loan and does not endorse or support Prodigy Finance. Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, and entered on the Financial Services Register under firm registration number 612713.

Postgraduate funding application advice

Postgraduate Student Funding Application Advice

Start Early – The earlier you start the better chance you have at finding funding for your postgraduate study. Most funding bodies operate a strict deadline and there is nothing worse than missing a fruitful opportunity because you were a few days late.

Establish Credibility – If you want to establish your credibility then ask your lecturers or tutors to write you a reference in support of your application. Also include a simple statement that highlights the main benefits of your intended research and studies.

Check Aims and Objectives – There is no point wasting your time applying to funding bodies that have specific requirements or specifications that you are unable to meet. Do your homework if you want to have the best chance at winning their attention.

Know How Much They Award – Before sending a plea asking for £1,000, check to make sure exactly how much the individual body is willing to award. You don’t want to be written off without a look-in because you made a silly faux pas!

Have a Clear Plan – Funding bodies are tightening down the hatches when it comes to parting with their cash, which is why you’ll need a sound plan to convince them that their investment won’t be wasted on you. Organisation is key! Differentiate yourself by demonstrating what you need money for, what you’ll do with an award, and your future ambitions.

Self funding

When all else fails your only option is to fund yourself !

Whether you’ve saved up prior to your course, have been given or lent money by a family member, or work/study part time, don’t give up on your postgraduate dreams just yet.

Funding from part-time work

Another way that many postgraduate students fund their studies is by taking up part-time work. 

Depending on your personal circumstances, your tuition fees and student loan eligibility, you might consider getting a part-time job to help fund your postgraduate degree.

Combining paid work with studying can be stressful. Postgraduate study is intensive, a lot more so than your undergraduate degree. If you’re going to avoid falling behind on your studies you’ll have to be constantly on the ball and extremely well organised. It is important to remember that your postgraduate study should always come first.

"You are investing a lot of time, money and personal effort into this qualification, and many graduates are going to have a significant working life ahead of them. Don’t jeopardise that by handing in important assignments late."

– Charlie Ball, Higher Education Careers Service Unit

Ideally, you need to find work that fits with the peaks and troughs of academic life. The long days cramming for presentations. Working around the clock when writing your dissertation . Going on regular field trips.

University student jobs

One potential postgraduate funding option is to work at the university. Whether it’s working in administration, warden, resident assistant, teaching assistant, invigilator, student ambassador or mentor.

There might also be roles in organising conferences and events. The range of in-house university jobs is vast. Plus if you’re lucky you might be able to get a university job that comes with free accommodation.

Nothing up for grabs on your campus? Get savvy and explore the opportunities that may be available in other university departments or even other universities all together.

Where’s the best place to look for student jobs?

Stuck in a rut trying to navigate through the onslaught of job listings?

Skip ‘em and head straight to these sites. If you’ve got a chance at bagging yourself a job these places will be your best bet:

Student Job

Student Gems

Employment 4 Students

Making extra cash on the side

Who said conventional jobs were the only way to make money? You’re a postgraduate now, so it’s time to put your entrepreneurial skills to the test.

Tutor – Talk about something you’re good at with someone who will pay you to be smarter than they are. You are an academic after all.

eBay – You can sell absolutely anything on eBay . If you’ve got a load of unwanted stuff lying around, be it old clothes, phones, or even general bric-a-brac, stick it on eBay and see what you can get for it. Once you’ve rinsed your own personal stash try asking friends or family members if they’ve got anything they no longer want to refill your stock.

Etsy – If you’re the creative type then why not make the most of your artistic skills by starting a shop on Etsy.com ? T-shirts, jewellery, greeting cards and more, Etsy is a vibrant handmade marketplace just waiting to be taken advantage of.

Market Stalls – You might not see yourself as much of a market trader, but getting your hands dirty at the local markets could be one of the quickest ways to bag yourself some additional cash. Buy in bulk from a wholesaler and flog it for cheap!

Freelancing – From graphic design and website creation to blogging and data entry, working online can make you a pretty penny if you’ve got some know-how.

Funding part-time study

Choosing to study part time will give you more time to work and earn the money you need to live. There are plenty of postgraduate courses that offer a part-time study option (over 2-3 years for Masters and 4-6 years for PhDs).

"Speaking as a university academic of many years, the very best option for masters degrees – if you fail to get full funding from a research council or other funding body – is to do the degree part time and work part time to fund it. You get far more time to think, read and develop maturity in your ideas over two years part time than you do over one."

– Ashley Tumson, former grad student

The only stinger is the tuition fees for part time courses are usually more costly than for full time.

Best postgraduate student bank accounts

Student Bank Accounts

0% overdraft fees – If you’re anything like the majority of other postgraduate students, you’ll need an overdraft. Whatever bank you choose to go with, just make sure you’re not getting charged for your overdraft.

Beware freebies and gimmicks – Don’t get drawn in by freebies and gimmicks! These short-term offers may seem appealing at first, but you need to be savvy and think about the long-term benefits otherwise you could easily lose out. Banks target students in a hope that they will secure you as a customer for life. Stay on your game and identify the true pros and cons before making a final decision.

Graduate Packages – Find out what preferential terms the bank in question offers graduating students. Also be sure to discover what the repayment terms are, and how they will aid you in paying off any incurred debt.

Top student bank accounts

When it comes to student banking these guys are the biggest players in the market:

Barclays Student Additions Account

Halifax Student Current Account

HSBC Student Bank Account

Lloyds Student Account

NatWest Student Account

RBS Student Current Account

Santander Student Current Account

The Co-operative Student Account

Yorkshire Bank Student Account

Smile Student Account

Postgrad’s top money saving tips

Looking for tips and tricks to help you save some extra cash each month?

Try giving some of these a whirl:

Buy in bulk

Borrow books from the library or buy them second hand on Amazon

Always ask for a student discount and have your card handy

Shop around to find the most competitive prices

Do your shopping late at night when all the fresh and baked goods have been reduced

Grow your own food - it’s a lot easier than you think

Befriend someone that works in a supermarket

Make the most of loyalty cards

Don’t be influenced by your friends’ spending habits

Only take the amount of cash you can afford to spend when going on a night out

Do your clothes shopping on eBay or wait for the sales

Use coupons

Useful resources 

From postgraduate student funding and finance to health and relationships, we’ve scoured the web and compiled a list of the best student resources available.

Postgrad Blog – Postgrad’s very own blog with lots of new posts added specifically regarding funding and bursaries as well as general postgraduate study advice. Plus we have an incredibly useful ‘ Fees and Funding ’ section that you don’t want to miss!

Student Beans – Providing students with discounts, entertainment and advice on all things student, studentbeans.com speaks directly to over 500,000 UK students every month.

Turn 2 Us – We are a charitable service which helps people access the money available to them – through welfare benefits, grants and other help.

The bottom line: postgraduate study is expensive and getting the funding you need can be a battle but don’t let that deter you from following your dreams and enhancing your prospects.

Hopefully this guide will have given you the inspiration, know-how and tools you need to go out there and secure yourself some cash.


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postgraduate phd loan

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Repaying your student loan

How much you repay.

How much you repay depends on your income - the amount you earn (including things like bonuses and overtime) before tax and other deductions.

You’ll repay a percentage of your income over the ‘threshold’ for your type of loan, depending on how often you get paid.

The thresholds are different for each plan type.

You’ll repay either:

  • 9% of your income over the threshold if you’re on Plan 1, 2, 4 or 5
  • 6% of your income over the threshold if you’re on a Postgraduate Loan plan

The examples show how much you’d repay depending on your income and plan type:

You’re on Plan 1 and have an income of £33,000 a year, meaning you get paid £2,750 each month.


£2,750 – £1,834 (your income minus the Plan 1 threshold) = £916 9% of £916 = £82

This means the amount you’d repay each month would be £82.

You’re on Plan 4 and have an income of £30,000 a year, meaning you get paid £2,500 each month.

£2,500 – £2,305 (your income minus the Plan 4 threshold) = £195 9% of £195 = £18

This means the amount you’d repay each month would be £18.

If your income changes during the year

You’ll make a repayment if your income goes over the weekly or monthly threshold for your plan (for example, if you’re paid a bonus or overtime). You can ask for a refund at the end of the tax year if your annual income is less than the yearly threshold for your plan.

How much interest you’re charged depends which plan type you’re on. You’re currently charged:

  • 6.25% if you’re on Plan 1
  • 7.3% if you’re on Plan 2
  • 6.25% if you’re on Plan 4
  • 7.3% if you’re on Plan 5
  • 7.3% if you’re on a Postgraduate Loan plan

You can find out more about:

  • how Plan 1 interest is calculated and interest rates for previous years
  • how Plan 2 interest is calculated and interest rates for previous years
  • how Plan 4 interest is calculated and interest rates for previous years
  • how Plan 5 interest is calculated and interest rates for previous years
  • how Postgraduate Loan interest is calculated and interest rates for previous years

If you’re on more than one plan type

How much you repay depends on which of your plan types has the lowest repayment threshold and whether or not you have a Postgraduate Loan.

If you do not have a Postgraduate Loan

You’ll repay 9% of your income over the lowest threshold out of the plan types you have. You’ll only have a single repayment taken each time you get paid, even if you’re on more than one plan type.

You’re on Plan 1 and Plan 2 and have an income of £25,200 a year, meaning you get paid £2,100 each month. This is over the Plan 1 threshold of £1,834 but under the Plan 2 threshold of £2,274.

You’ll repay 9% of your income over £1,834 a month because that is the lowest threshold out of the plan types you have.

£2,100 – £1,834 (your income minus the lowest threshold) = £266 9% of £266 = £24

This means the amount you’d repay each month would be £24.

If your income went over the Plan 2 threshold, you’d still only repay 9% of your income over the Plan 1 threshold. You would not have to make a separate repayment towards your Plan 2 loan.

If you have a Postgraduate Loan

You’ll repay 6% of your income over the Postgraduate Loan threshold (£21,000 a year) and 9% of your income over the lowest threshold for any other plan types you have.

You have a Postgraduate Loan and a Plan 2 loan and have an income of £28,800 a year, meaning you get paid £2,400 each month. This is over the Postgraduate Loan threshold of £1,750 and the Plan 2 threshold of £2,274.

£2,400 – £1,750 (your income minus the Postgraduate Loan threshold) = £650 6% of £650 = £39

£2,400 – £2,274 (your income minus the Plan 2 threshold) = £126 9% of £126 = £11

This means the amount you’d repay each month would be £50.

If you have more than one job

You’ll only make repayments from jobs where you’re paid over the threshold for your plan type, not your combined income.

You have a Plan 1 loan and you have 2 jobs. Before tax and other deductions, you’re paid £1,000 a month from one job and £800 a month for the other.

You will not have to make repayments because neither salary is above the £1,834 a month threshold.

You have a Plan 2 loan and you have 2 jobs. Before tax and other deductions, you’re paid £2,300 a month from one job and £500 a month for the other.

You will only make repayments on the income from the job that pays you £2,300 a month because it’s above the £2,274 threshold.

If you’re self-employed

HM Revenue and Customs ( HMRC ) will work out how much you repay each year from your tax return. Your repayments will be based on your income for the whole year.

If you’ve already made repayments from a salary, HMRC will deduct them from the amount you have to repay.

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