Can You Get A Student Loan For A Master’s? | TOTUM
Holly BarrowApril 20th

If you’re about to study a master's degree, you may be looking into whether you can get a student loan to cover your tuition fees and help with living costs. 

Postgraduate students in the UK may be eligible for student finance, however this is considered more of a ‘contribution’ to the cost meaning you may not receive enough to cover the total cost of tuition and/or living expenses.   

If you’re studying a four-year integrated master’s that begins at undergraduate level, you will not be able to apply for a master’s loan but may be eligible for an undergraduate student loan instead. 

However if your master’s degree is a standalone course, here’s how you can get help from student finance, how much you may be entitled to and when you should apply for your master’s student loan…


What is a master’s degree?

In the UK, a master’s degree is a Level 7 qualification, meaning it is a qualification above a bachelor’s degree but below a PhD. It allows graduates to develop advanced knowledge of a particular subject following their undergraduate study. 

How long is a master’s degree in the UK?

Generally, master’s degrees only take one to two years to complete, making them shorter than bachelor’s degrees. This also depends on whether you’re studying full-time or part-time; for part-time students, you can expect a master’s to take between two to four years to complete. 

What are the benefits of a master’s degree? 

You may wish to study a master’s for a number of reasons, but some of the main benefits include:

  • You’ll be an expert in your field of study

  • You can boost your career prospects and earning potential

  • You’ll expand on the skills developed during your undergraduate degree

  • You’ll be opened up to more research opportunities if you’d like a career in academia 

  • You’ll have a competitive advantage


Can you get student finance for a master’s?

Master’s students are typically able to apply for student finance, however this differs from the undergraduate student loan. The maximum amount that master’s students can borrow is as follows:

  • In England, the maximum master’s loan is up to £12,167 if your course starts on or after 1st August 2023

  • In Scotland, the maximum master’s loan is up to £11,500

  • In Wales, the maximum master’s loan is £18,770

  • In Northern Ireland, the maximum master’s loan is £5,500


It’s important to note that you can request less than this if you don’t require the full amount, however this loan is to help towards both tuition fees and living costs - which makes it quite different from the undergraduate loan! 

In England, the entire Postgraduate Master’s Loan is paid directly to the student in instalments, which includes the amount to cover tuition fees. With undergraduate student finance, the tuition fee loan is paid directly to the university, so this is a key difference. If your master’s loan does not cover the cost of your course, you will have to fund the remaining amount yourself. 

Who is eligible for a master's loan?

To be eligible for a master’s loan, you must meet the following criteria: 

  • You will be under the age of 60 on the first day of the first academic year of your course

  • You’re a UK national or Irish citizen or have settled status/indefinite leave to remain

  • You normally live in England and you’ve been living in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for 3 consecutive years prior to the first day of the first academic year of your course

  • You’re a non-UK national and have lived in the UK for a certain number of years 

  • Your course is a full, standalone course worth at least 180 credits and is provided by an eligible university or college in the UK

  • This is your first master’s degree 


You will not qualify for a master’s loan if: 

  • You’re studying an integrated course (i.e. your master’s is integrated with your undergraduate degree or doctoral degree)

  • You’re studying for a postgraduate certificate or diploma

  • You’ve received a master’s loan or grant for a master’s course before

  • You are eligible for an NHS bursary or get a Social Work Bursary (unless you only get a Placement Travel Allowance)

  • You’re behind in repayments for any previous loans from the Student Loans Company

Do you get a maintenance loan for a master’s?

The Postgraduate Master’s Loan differs from the undergraduate loan in that there is no maintenance loan on offer for master’s students - instead, the amount given to the student is intended to contribute to tuition fees and/or living costs. 

For many students, the maximum master’s loan may not even cover the total cost of tuition fees, so you may have to support yourself financially throughout your studies. 

This could mean taking up a part-time job for additional income, or applying for other types of funding if you are eligible such as studentships, bursaries and grants. 

Charities and trusts sometimes provide grants to students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or those who have achieved academic excellence.

If your master’s is in teacher training, social work or healthcare you may be eligible for an Initial Teacher Training bursary, a social work bursary or an NHS bursary.

If you’re starting your master’s in the 2023/24 academic year, you can apply for additional funding from May 2023. 


When to apply for student finance for master’s 

You should apply for your master’s loan within 9 months of the first day of the last academic year of the course. If you’re applying for the 2023/24 academic year, you will be able to start applying from May 2023. 

You’ll only need to apply once for the Postgraduate Master’s Loan, even if the course is longer than one year. 

How to apply for a master’s loan

It’s relatively straightforward to apply for a master’s loan, especially if you’ve already taken out a student loan with Student Finance England before. 

You can use your existing account to apply, or set up an account here if you don’t yet have one.

Unlike undergraduate student finance, the postgraduate loan isn’t means tested, meaning the amount you receive is not dependent on your financial background or your household income. Instead, you can decide how much you borrow up to the maximum amount of £12,167. 

You don’t have to wait until you’ve received a university offer to apply for the master’s loan. 


Master’s loan repayment

When it comes to repaying your master’s loan, the salary threshold for repayment also differs from the undergraduate student loan. 

You will begin making repayments once you’re earning £21,000 per year, and these payments will be 6% of your income above this threshold. 

Like with the undergraduate student loan, this will automatically be deducted from your pay each month.

Save money as a master's student with TOTUM

Did you know that you can continue to make the most of the best student discounts, deals and offers as a postgraduate student with TOTUM?

Whether you're embarking on a master's degree or a PhD, you can continue to make major savings on everything from tech and travel to study essentials and fashion.

What's more, when you've graduated you can carry on accessing hundreds of student discounts with our Alumni scheme!

Check out our other useful guides for students:

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