How to Prepare for Your PhD Loan Application |
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Posted on 26 Jun '19

How to Prepare for Your PhD Loan Application

Good news for prospective PhD students: applications for 2019 doctoral loans are now open! You can apply if you're an English- or Welsh-resident student and you're starting a new PhD at any UK university in the 2019-20 academic year. EU students are also eligible for loans to study a PhD in England or Wales.

PhD loan applications can be slightly more tricky than Masters loans – so we've put together a quick checklist of things to sort before you start.

#1 Check you're eligible

The system is designed to check your eligibility as you go. It isn't trying to catch you out, but there are quite a few points where giving the wrong answer will bring things to an apologetic, but premature, end.

So make sure you avoid that by checking the main criteria beforehand.

In a nutshell: you'll need to be ordinarily resident in England and Wales (or coming to study there as an EU student), be starting a new PhD without Research Council funding that's set to last between three and eight years at a UK university, and be aged 59 or under at the start of your first academic year.

If all of that is the case, then you should be able to apply successfully. Check our full guide and PhD loan FAQ for anything you aren't sure about.

#2 Make sure you understand the restrictions on Research Council funding

It's worth expanding a little on one of those eligibility criteria.

You can't combine doctoral loans with Research Council studentships. Specifically, you can't have a doctoral loan if you've had Research Council PhD funding in the past or if you're due to receive it in the future (i.e. you've successfully applied for a studentship for next year).

The PhD loan application will ask if you 'will' recieve Research Council funding for your PhD. If you answer 'yes' to this, you're out.

There's a chance you might have applied for a Research Council studentship or be planning to and not yet know whether you 'will' receive funding. If so, you can answer 'no' for now – but you must inform student finance and cancel your doctoral loan application ASAP if you end up being successful with your studentship application.

#3 Check your PhD details

The application system will need to know where you're studying and how long your PhD is going to take. This confirms you're eligible and helps sort out the schedule for your loan payments.

It's important to note that you don't need to have been accepted for your PhD yet. You just need to nominate the university you expect to study at (you can change this later).

Once you've done that you'll be asked to select your course. Here you should enter the broad subject for your PhD, not your proposed project or thesis title. So, 'English Literature', not 'The Significance of Pickles in the Epistolary Novels of Samuel Richardson'.

This will bring up a range of options based on potential start dates and study lengths provided by the university. It might be worth checking these with your university and / or supervisor in advance, if you can. That way you'll know what you should expect to see here (and can query things if you don't see it).

#4 Sort your login

If you've applied for a loan from Student Finance England or Student Finance Wales before (Bachelors or Masters) you'll need to use the same account, including the CRN (customer reference number) you were previously issued with. Now might be a good time to look this up.

#5 Decide how much you want to borrow

You can request up to £25,700 for a 2019 doctoral loan (don't worry if you've seen references to £25,000: the amount has gone up slightly for new students this year). Whatever you ask for is going to be paid in equal instalments during your PhD.

It's worth having a think about how much you'll need before you apply – particularly if you expect to have access to additional funding from a university or other sources and want to keep your student loan debt down. You can change the amount later if you need to.

#6 Get together your passport, bank details and NI

You'll need all of these to complete your application. The system will let you skip them for now, but your loan won't be approved until student finance have confirmed your identity and it can't be paid until they have a bank account to pay it too.

So, now's the time to dig out your passport, remember your National Insurance number and make sure you have a UK bank account.

#7 Ditto your address history

Residency is a big part of the eligibility criteria for PhD loans, and the application system is going to check this.

In most cases, it's going to ask you for two things:

  • The country you will be living in at the start of the first academic year for your PhD (this will normally be 1 September for PhDs beginning in autumn 2019)
  • Details of your permanent home address (not your halls of residence, student house or other temporary accommodation) for the three years preceding that date

You can check our full guide for detailsn on why this information matters. For now, the important thing is to make sure you have it to hand.

Next steps

If you've sorted all the above you should be ready to apply for your PhD loan. And you can do that right now, over at the Student Finance England and Student Finance Wales websites.

If you do run into any issues, don't panic. There's probably a simple explanation and you may well be able to find the answer to your problem in our FAQ. If not, drop us an email (editor[at] We aren't student finance and we can't speak on their behalf, but we'll do what we can to help.

Good luck!

Doctoral loans - a few things to bear in mind

We've picked out some of the key eligibility criteria and other practical details that are easy to miss for doctoral student loans.

5 other ways to help pay for a PhD

Looking to top up your student loan? We've come up with a few ideas.

Research Council studentships - what you need to know

You can't combine a PhD loan with a Research Council studentship, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider this funding option.

Last Updated: 26 June 2019