Postgrad Finance

Before registering for a postgraduate degree, it’s important to have a plan for how you will fund your tuition fees and living costs. UK Government options for student finance won’t usually provide enough to cover both of these costs, so many students need to combine income from different sources to fund their studies. This page outlines some of the different options for funding a postgraduate degree.

We would recommend that you also read the University’s pages on postgraduate student funding – here for masters degrees, and here for research degrees. You may also find the following resources to be valuable:

  1. Save the Student’s information on financing a postgraduate degree
  2. Prospects’ information on postgraduate funding
  3. The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding
  4. The University’s Doctoral College webpages.

We would also encourage prospective students to be familiar with the University’s requirements for paying tuition fee deposits prior to beginning a taught postgraduate degree – see here.

Separate pages on our site outline funding systems for PGCEs and NHS-funded courses. Further information is also provided for EU students and International students.

If you have reviewed this material and feel that you would benefit from speaking to one of our advisers, please email advice@exeterguild.com or book a drop-in appointment.

Please also note that we have information on this website for students who would like information and advice on budgeting, hardship funding and other themes that might be relevant to any students facing financial difficulties.



Postgraduate student loans

For students living in England, the UK Government funds a scheme for Postgraduate Masters Loans of up to £11,222 and Postgraduate Doctoral Loans of up to £26,445 (in 2020-21). See their website here for more information, or to apply for a loan. Please note that those amounts are for the full duration of your degree, and not per year.

On that Government information page on postgraduate funding, they also list some suggestions for how you might fund a postgraduate degree.

Your eligibility to receive a postgraduate loan will depend on a few key things:

  1. your course of study
  2. your age
  3. your nationality or residence status
  4. other funding you have received, will receive or would be eligible to apply for

See this page for details of eligibility for masters loans and here for eligibility details for doctoral loans. Please note that as well as UK students, this funding option may be available to Irish students as well as EU students with settled status or indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Different arrangements apply in the other nations. Please see the information here for students living in Wales, here for students living in Northern Ireland, and here for the 2020/21 information for students living in Scotland.

A few key things to be aware of with postgraduate loans

These apply to students taking out loans on the basis that they are resident in England. Other nations may have some differences.

  1. The level of loan available is very rarely enough to cover tuition fees and living costs, so for most students a postgraduate loan will need to be combined with at least one other form of student finance. For some students, the loan may not be enough to even cover the tuition fees.
  2. Unlike undergraduate student loans, postgraduate loans are not means tested, so any student can take out the maximum loan. If you take less than the maximum, you can then request an additional loan later in your studies.
  3. Postgraduate loans are paid directly to students. If you plan to use a loan for your tuition fees, you will need to make the payments to your university.
  4. Postgraduate loans are considered as a form of income, so they can affect your benefit entitlements. Although most full-time students are ineligible for universal credit in any case, there are some exceptions to this. See our information on benefits to find out more.
  5. From the April after you finish studying, you will begin to repay your postgraduate loan if you are earning above the income threshold (currently £21,000 in 2020-21). Above that level, you would pay 6% of your earnings until you have repaid your loan. If you are also paying back on an undergraduate loan (usually at a rate of 9% on earnings above £26,575 in 2020-21), this will mean that you could have to pay back 6% on your earnings above £21,000 but below £26,575 and then 15% on any earnings above £26,575, until you have repaid your loans or they are written off after 30 years. It is worth noting, despite these threshold levels being based on annual salary, for most students the actual amount taken from your pay will be based on your income in a particular week or month.
  6. Masters loans and doctoral loans are merged for the purposes of how much you repay; so taking out both a masters loan and a doctoral loan won’t increase the percentage of earnings you repay above that 15%. Instead it is likely to mean that you end up paying off your loan for a longer period of time, as, if you earn a high enough salary to pay off your masters loan, you will continue making the additional 6% repayments until you have also paid off the doctoral loan or it is written off.
  7. Like with undergraduate student loans, postgraduate loans begin to accrue interest as soon as you receive the money. Despite this, the repayment conditions are generally much more favourable than with commercial loans.

If you want to read more, you may be interested in Save the Student’s guide to masters loans and their guide to PhD loans . These link to the information for students living in England, but these pages should also contain links to the information for students in other nations.


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Research Council funding

Most research funding in the UK is distributed through the various research councils. Among their various funding streams, these councils fund postgraduate research study through competitive application processes and the award of studentships to universities.

Prospects provide valuable information on research council funding for postgraduate degrees here. The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) website contains links to each of the research councils. FindAPhD advertises many funded studentships as well as providing advice on finding and funding a PhD. The University’s doctoral college also advertises funded PhDs here.

Your supervisor or potential supervisor may also be able to provide you with advice and guidance on the process of developing research proposals and applying for funding.


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Scholarships

The University operates a number of competitive scholarships, and maintains a funding directory. If you are an international student, your government and funding bodies may also offer various scholarships. The UK Council for International Student Affairs provides some valuable information on scholarships, which may be particularly relevant to international students, EU students, asylum seekers and refugees. The British Council also provides some scholarships and provides information on other funders.

Save the Student also lists some good options for places to search for bursaries and scholarships, at the bottom of this page.


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Charitable trusts and educational bodies

Lots of charities operate grant scheme for students with specific backgrounds, interests or other circumstances. The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding is a valuable resource in exploring this option. Prospects also provide some information on postgraduate scholarships, including a small number of charitable trusts.


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Employer sponsorship

Some students may be able to secure funding from their employer to support their ambitions for further study and career development. See this information from Prospects for further information and advice.


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Commercial bank loans

Commercial bank loans can allow you to borrow more money than Government postgraduate loans, but they usually offer much less favourable terms and protections. We would urge anyone considering funding their studies by taking out a commercial bank loan to carefully consider the risks. You would have to pay back a commercial loan, regardless of your employment status or earnings, and it would not be written off after a set time like a loan through Government student finance. Save the Student describes a bit more about the risks of private loans, and some alternatives to these loans, here.

If you are considering a commercial loan to fund your postgraduate study, you may want to take a look at the comparison of providers on FindAMasters.com, but we would encourage some caution in how you use this information as this website is a private company whose funding includes advertising revenue.


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Personal savings and family support

Many postgraduate students support themselves in part through the use of personal savings and family support. While there is a great disparity in the resources different students will have available to them, it is worth all prospective students considering what resources they might be able to access.

For example, advice on this theme often recommends that prospective postgraduate students do what they can to save up some cash before beginning their studies. If you are an undergraduate student considering postgraduate study, you might want to consider taking some time away from studies in order to work full-time to save up money. Some students may already have savings available to them. Others may be able to access family funds.

Some postgraduate students make significant savings on their living costs by living with family members. This is not a suitable option for everyone, but if it is viable it can make the cost of postgraduate study much more manageable.


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Paid employment

Many postgraduate students work alongside their studies, to bolster their income. This is a good option for lots of our students but if you do work, it’s important to think about the balance between the number of hours you are working and the demands of your course.

The University Career Zone has information on casual jobs here, Save the Student provide some advice as well as a database of part-time student jobs. Other commercially-run job sites such as Indeed may also be useful sources of information in finding potential jobs to supplement your income.


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Crowdfunding

Increasingly, some students are turning to crowdfunding as a potential option to enable postgraduate study. Prospects have an advice page on this particular option.


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What to do if you’re struggling financially

Many students struggle financially and there are sources of potential support available if you find yourself in this position. This website contains a section on Financial Struggles and Help. It’s important to be aware of is the University’s hardship provision through the Success for All Fund. These pages also provide information on the Guild’s Society Hardship Fund, information on our local food bank, as well as advice on budgeting and dealing with debt.

Further information is available if you are having difficulty paying tuition fees or accommodation fees.


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