PhD loans of up to £25,000 have been confirmed by the new UK government for 2018.
New information published in November 2016 also provides additional details and reveals a few key changes ahead of the scheme's introduction in 2018.
We now know that the loans will be offered to English-resident students on all types of doctorate at universities across the UK. However, they won't be compatible with Research Council studentships.
As always this guide has been updated guide with the most recent information. We've also revisited our FAQs to ensure they continue to answer as many questions as possible about the new loans.
|What?||Student loans for PhD-level qualifications lasting up to six years in all subjects.|
|How much?||Up to £25,000, not means-tested.|
|Who?||English-resident UK nationals aged 59 or under without Research Council studentships.|
|Where?||Any UK university.|
|When?||Available in 2018.|
|Repayment?||6% of income over £21,000 per year. Combined with Masters loan debt.|
The government is currently running a consultation on the updated loan proposals. This is due to finish on the 16th December 2016, after which responses will be examined and any further changes to the plans will be considered.
Full details of the scheme will be finalised in time for its introduction in 2018.
In the meantime, the FAQs on this page cover everything that's currently known about the loans (and offer a little help with what isn't!).
The PhD loans are intended for UK nationals aged 59 or under, and ordinarily resident in England. Further details of residency criteria will be published prior to the 2018-19 academic year.
The government wants to ensure that those who benefit from the doctoral loans are able to use their skills and training to contribute to the UK economy and that they will earn enough to make repayments. For this reason the loans have an age-cap of 59.
This will be based on a student's age at the beginning of their PhD. Provided you are 59 or under on the first day of the first academic year of your course, you will be eligible.
As of the November 2016 update you will not be able to apply for a PhD loan if you also receive funding from a UK Research Council.
The seven UK Research Councils distribute public money to train new PhD students at UK universities. This funding is referred to as a 'Research Council studentship'. It has two components: a scholarship paid to universities up to the value of a student's PhD fees and a separate bursary paid directly to the student for living costs during their doctorate.
Some studentships include both components. Others are 'fees-only', with no additional living allowance.
Originally the PhD loans were going to be offered to students who weren't receiving a Research Council living allowance. This would have meant they could be used to 'top up' a fees-only studentship.
This is no longer the case. The government has decided that as both Research Council studentships and PhD loans effectively represent public funds (drawn from tax revenue) the same resource should not be used to fund students 'twice'.
The best option for most students will be to apply for Research Council funding (if available) and consider a PhD loan if they are unsuccessful.
This hasn't been confirmed, but will probably be based on an applicant's address history. If you can demonstrate that you have been living in England for at least three years prior to your PhD, you will probably be eligible.
Note that to qualify as 'ordinarily resident', England will need to be your regular home. This usually means you can't simply have been living in the country as a student (on a three-year undergraduate degree, for example). Similar criteria are used for the UK Masters loans.
Eligibility is based on citizenship and residency, not your specific 'UK nationality'. You can apply for an English PhD loan if you have previously lived elsewhere in the UK, but you must now be ordinarily resident in England as above.
Yes, eventually. Northern Ireland has made plans for its own PhD loans, but hasn't set a date for these. Wales has suggested introducing up to 150 fully-funded PhD studentships for its own students.
This is harder to answer. As it stands, the PhD loans won't be introduced until Britain has begun the process of leaving the EU. It's likely that 'Brexit' won't be complete by 2018, but it will almost certainly have concluded by the time the first group of students completes a PhD with a loan.
In addition, the PhD loans have never been described as available for non-UK students. This hasn't changed as of the latest update.
All of this means that eligibility for EU students is unlikely at this point, but it's not impossible. The government has stated that more specific criteria will be decided ahead of the loans' launch. Positive Brexit negotiations could see EU students added to the scheme. Alternatively, a delay in the Brexit process could have a similar effect.
Again, we'll be doing our best to keep you updated.
Probably not. The Masters loans introduced in August 2016 were not available to students who began a postgraduate course before that point. This could also apply to PhD loans.
Students planning to begin a PhD before 2018 may be able to take out a loan later in their studies, but shouldn't begin a doctorate on this basis. We'll update this page as soon as we know more.
Yes. Other student loans won't affect your eligibility for PhD loans. Repayments for your PhD loan may change slightly if you also have a Masters loan. Undergraduate debt will remain separate.
In a nutshell, PhD loans will be available for PhDs at all universities across the UK. This includes equivalent qualifications such as the DPhil and isn't restricted by subject area.
Yes. The DPhil is equivalent to a PhD and these programmes are eligible for loans in exactly the same way.
Yes. Professional doctorates are also equivalent to PhDs. The only difference is that they use research to make an original contribution to professional practice, rather than academic scholarship. As such, professional doctorates are fully eligible for the upcoming PhD loans.
This covers courses such as the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) EdD (Doctor of Education) and others.
A more complete list of appropriate qualifications will probably be released before the loans are launched. In the meantime we know that any qualification at level 8 of the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies should be eligible for a loan.
Many UK PhDs are now offered within Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs), Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs) or Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs). These are consortia of universities that collaborate to fund and support PhD research. They normally do so with the support of Research Council funding.
As above, the PhD loans won't be available to students with a Research Council studentship. This means that you can't receive a PhD loan if your doctorate is funded within a DTC, DTP or CDT.
However, that doesn't mean you can't use a loan to support yourself as an otherwise self-funding student within one of these university consortia (and benefit from the structured training, shared facilities and ongoing research aims they provide). It's simply that you won't be able to receive a Research Council studentship to do so.
There will be no restrictions on subjects, disciplines, research areas or topics.
In practice it is likely that the loans will be of most benefit to students in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Students in these areas are more likely to manage without full Research Council funding and to self-fund or portfolio fund through different sources.
Students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM) disciplines tend not to self-fund due to the high cost of equipment and facilities. Instead most PhDs in these areas are offered as specific funded projects within a larger research group.
However, the government is encouraging universities to consider supplementary funding to support students with loans. This could help make loans an attractive option to PhD students in all subjects - including disciplines that traditionally require full-funding in advance.
No. The decision to offer you a loan won't be based on the nature of the topic you intend to research or the quality of your proposal. However, you will need to have been accepted to study a PhD at a UK university and application materials such as your research proposal or interview will be an important part of this process.
No. The £25,000 PhD loans will be intended for doctoral programmes. Separate loans of £10,000 are available to cover research-based programmes at Masters-level (such as the MRes and MPhil).
Yes. Many PhD students are initially registered for the MPhil (Master of Philosophy) before being 'upgraded' to PhD candidates after a period of time.
This is normal practice and will not affect your eligibility for a PhD loan.
However, you can't receive a doctoral loan for a standalone MPhil. You should apply for a Masters loan instead.
Some PhD courses also include 'integrated' Masters qualifications such as an MRes or an MPhil. This is fine, but the qualification you receive a loan for must be your stated 'exit qualification' and this must be at PhD-level.
As such, you won't be able to apply for a PhD loan to only complete the Masters component of a doctoral programme. Nor will you be able to apply for an additional Masters loan on the basis that your PhD includes Masters-level work and qualifications.
Yes, although the current plans do not actually distinguish between part-time or full-time study. Instead you must state your intended completion time when you apply. This can't be longer than six years (the typical length of a part-time UK PhD).
This remains to be confirmed, but, provided your university is happy for you to continue studying, your loan is not likely to be immediately affected.
However, you won't be able to take out any additional loan for successive years of your PhD.
Note that you will still be expected to repay any loan you have received if you exit your programme without a PhD or if your university terminates your registration as a result of your project significantly over-running.
Doctoral loans will be available for students who have been accepted for a PhD at any university in the UK. This includes institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England.
Probably. The current guidelines don't state how a student will need to be classified in terms of their 'campus' attendance. It is likely that this will not matter: the government recognises that PhD study is very variable and that students carry out their projects in different ways.
However, you will need to be studying your PhD in the UK. Students who are permanently resident in other countries will probably not be eligible, even if they are studying through distance learning at a UK institution.
It's possible that loans may still be available for PhDs with an overseas placement or for joint-PhDs delivered in partnership with foreign universities.
This would follow the format established for Masters loans. If so, foreign study may be limited to 50% of your programme or less.
PhD loans will be worth up to £25,000. Repayments will be income-contingent, with salary deductions made at 6% of income over £21,000 per year. Debt and repayments will be combined with your Masters loan (if you have one).
PhD loans will be administered by the Student Loans Company, on behalf of Student Finance England. This is the same process as applies to English undergraduate and Masters loans.
No. You will be able to apply for the maximum PhD loan regardless of your financial background.
Not. As with the £10,000 Masters loans, £25,000 is simply the maximum amount you can borrow with a PhD loan. You will be able to apply for less than this, but you won't be able to borrow any more.
This should allow you to tailor your loan according to your personal circumstances and take account of any other PhD funding you have.
This will depend. The intention is for the PhD loans to be 'non-duplicative': as a form of public finance they won't be intended to support students who already receive public funding from other sources.
The main impact of this is that you cannot take out a PhD loan if you receive a studentship from one of the UK Research Councils. As of November 2016, this applies to fees-only awards as well as full studentships.
Note that you will still be eligible to apply for Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) whilst receiving a PhD loan. You will also be able to receive funding from other 'independent' sources, such as your university, your employer or charities and trusts.
Compatibility with other public funding will be subject to further clarification in future.
You will begin repaying your PhD loan once you have completed your course. Repayments will be income-contingent, deducated from your earnings at 6% of any annual salary over £21,000.
Note that repayments will normally be taken monthly, but will still be based on your overall annual salary.
Postgraduate loan repayments are intended to be combined. This means that you will repay a single debt amount of up to £35,000 if you have both a Masters and a PhD loan.
However, the rate at which you repay will also be adjusted. Instead of making two repayments at 6% you will only make one repayment.
This should help ensure that graduates with undergraduate, Masters and PhD loan debt are not faced with excessive salary deductions.
Full details of these repayment plans will be finalised following a public consultation.
Yes, PhD loans will be subject to interest in the same way as other student loans. The rate for this is planned to be RPI (Retail Prices Index) +3%. This rate will be better than an equivalent commercial loan. Interest will begin accruing as soon as your first loan payment is made.
Potentially. The government plans to fix repayment rates until April 2021. Interest rates can change year-on-year, based on the Retail Prices Index (which is a measure of inflation).
As with the Masters loans, the PhD loans are intended as a general contribution to the costs of postgraduate study. This means that they aren't tied to the specific cost of a doctoral programme or the living costs incurred by PhD students.
In practice, both of these amounts will vary depending on factors such as the fees charged by your institution and the cost of living in your local area.
£25,000 should significantly reduce the financial burden of PhD study, but it won't necessarily cover full fees and living costs for a three year doctorate.
These updated PhD loan plans are now subject to an open consultation, during which the government is inviting views from different groups and individuals (including students). This process will run until the 16th December, 2016. The government will then reflect on the results of its consultation before issuing updated proposals.
As always, we'll do our best to keep you updated. Any significant changes to the loans will be reflected on this page. We'll also continue to cover the plans on the FindAPhD blog and provide updates via our newsletter.
You can also read the government's consultation document, which outlines objectives for the loans and the rationale behind them.
Last updated - 08/11/2016