Coronavirus – Advice and Guidance for Postgraduate Study |
Posted on 3 Aug '21

Coronavirus – Advice & Guidance for Postgraduate Study

Coronavirus has impacted society in many ways, from healthcare and the economy to travel and entertainment. And, of course, it’s also had an effect on how we study, with universities around the world adapting quickly to our new circumstances and offering online or blended learning options to students.

The good news is that universities are still offering the same wide range of Masters and PhD opportunities as well as MBAs, PGCEs and other courses. Many programmes have been made more flexible for UK and international students.

But, due to the speed with which the COVID-19 situation can change, it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of how postgraduate study might be affected by the coronavirus and its impact on universities. This blog will answer some of the questions you may have about studying a Masters or PhD during coronavirus.

Coronavirus and postgraduate funding

Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, funding schemes are still running largely as normal, whether the programme in question is online, in-person or a combination of the two.

Are postgraduate loans affected?

The Student Loans Company has released detailed guidance for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as Scotland. These are the main points to bear in mind:

  • Applications for postgraduate Masters loans and PhD loans are open as normal.
  • Repayments for student loans aren’t affected by the coronavirus. You will still only repay when you are earning over the income threshold for your loan.

Universities will also have discretion as to how they record your attendance. You should still be able to receive your postgraduate loan if your course switches to online study, provided you are continuing to engage with your course. It’s best to check this with your university.

Are PhD studentships affected?

The main source of UK Government funding for PhDs is UK Research and Innovation, which funds generous studentships for successful applicants across a wide range of subject areas.

Applications for UKRI-funded PhD projects are opening as normal, with deadlines extended for some funding opportunities. You can find out more about applying for Research Council funding in our dedicated guides:

If you’re currently on a PhD studentship and your work has been disrupted by the pandemic, you may be able to apply for a grant extension.

For more information, please read UKRI’s guidance for researchers affected by the coronavirus.

Will postgraduate students get a fee discount?

The UK Government hasn’t announced an overall reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate students, but it’s worth checking with your prospective university to see what their current policy is. Some institutions have offered alumni discounts, while others have provided coronavirus-specific reductions in fees for people affected by the crisis.

We recommend consulting our guides to university funding for Masters and PhD programmes to find the best places to start looking for these kinds of discount.

GREAT Scholarships and coronavirus

The British Council’s GREAT Scholarship scheme operated as normal for the 2021-22 year, although applications are now closed.

Chevening Scholarships and coronavirus

Applications for the 2022-23 Chevening programme are now open, with a deadline of 2 November 2021.

If you’re a current Chevening scholar and decide to return home early, you’ll still be able to receive your stipend if you’re completing your course by distance learning. You’ll just need to sign a ‘remote learning agreement’. Similarly, if travel restrictions mean that you can’t travel to the UK for the beginning of your Masters, you’ll still be eligible for Chevening funding.

Coronavirus and returning to university campuses

With most coronavirus restrictions now lifted across the UK, students are free to return to university campuses. It's best to contact your university directly to find out what their policy will be for the academic year. It's likely that in-person teaching will be present, although larger lectures and assessments may still take place online.

Coronavirus and entry tests

After some initial disruption at the beginning of the pandemic, English language tests and graduate entry tests have largely returned to normal, with test centres open around the world.

If you can’t attend in person then you’ll usually be able to take an online version of the exam in question.

For example, if you need to prove your English language proficiency as part of the entry requirements for a programme, you could book:

Similarly, it’s possible to take online versions of the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Virtual university open days

COVID-19 may have made it difficult to visit universities in person for open days, but institutions around the world adjusted quickly to the new circumstances by offering students the chance to attend virtual open days.

These events have lots in common with traditional open days, with opportunities to chat online to academic staff and current students, as well as to attend webinars on funding, postgraduate study and more.

We have a whole section on our website dedicated to these virtual open days, which are completely free to attend.

Coronavirus and student visas

The UK Government has made several changes to the visa system to make things easier for students currently studying a Masters or PhD. These are the main updates:

  • If you’re unable to attend university due to being ill or self-isolating, this won’t affect your sponsorship
  • If you haven’t been able to travel to the UK due to coronavirus restrictions, you can begin your programme via distance learning without this having an effect on your visa – however, you will need to transition to in-person or blended learning upon your arrival in the UK, the deadline for which is 6 April 2022

Most visa application centres (VACs) are now open, so where possible you’ll need to apply in person for a visa at your nearest location.

For more information, please read the UK Government’s visa guidance.

Where can I find out more?

We’re doing our best to provide as much help and reassurance as we can for postgraduates and other students, with regular updates to this blog.

We also recommend you consult the following sources of information and guidance:

If you have specific questions or concerns you think we can help with, you can contact our team by emailing editor[at]

Last Updated: 03 August 2021