So, the ‘bad’ news is that a 3-year self-funded PhD will set you back several thousand pounds. But for the determined ones, the ‘good’ news is that the UK is introducing new doctoral loans, also worth several thousand pounds.
Which then begs the question; do the benefits of the degree outweigh the drawbacks of a significant amount of student debt? Let’s take a look.
A reasonable argument is that by taking a loan you will be investing in yourself. Later, this can lead to increasing your market value after you graduate.
The counter-argument is that there are other skills you can acquire to raise your intrinsic value, which are easier and far less stressful than doing a PhD and accumulating debt.
But, in either case, will a PhD realistically result in a higher salary?
It depends on your discipline, but some data is available and I would recommend doing your own research on the matter. Compare the salaries for entry-level positions for Bsc / Masters / PhD holders in your discipline. This should give you an idea whether a higher salary later on can help you offset a loan (or whether you'll enter repayments).
One thing to bear in mind with PhD loans is that the £25,000 you can borrow is a lot less than the £60,000 or so it could cost you to actually get through a PhD. It’s important to bear that in mind. The reality is that a PhD loan may need to be topped-up with other funding, or supplemented with additional money of your own.
A PhD loan will obviously help you make it through a doctorate (and the money you borrow is only repaid when you’re earning enough) but, on its own, it’s not a full-funding solution.