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UK PhD Loans

Doctoral student loans will be introduced in the UK for the first time in 2018. If you're a UK or EU student, starting a PhD or other postgraduate doctorate, you may be able to borrow up to £25,000 to help pay university fees, living costs and other expenses.

PhD loans - at a glance

The key details for the new doctoral student loans are as follows:

What? Student loans for PhD-level qualifications lasting up to eight years in all subjects.
How much? Up to £25,000, not means-tested.
Who? English-resident UK and EU students, or EU students moving to England for a PhD, aged 59 or under without Research Council funding.
Where? Any UK university with the ability to award PhDs.
When? Available in 2018.
Repayment? 6% of income over £21,000 per year. Combined with Masters loan.
Applications? Opening in Spring / Summer 2018.

Looking for a little extra information, or the answer to a more specific question about the PhD loans? The FAQs on this page provide detailed information on eligibility, payments and more.

Eligible students

You can have a PhD loan if you are a UK national, ordinarily resident in England, beginning a PhD at any UK university in the 2018-19 academic year.

You'll also be able to apply if you're an EU student, ordinarily resident in England or moving to England to study a PhD. This is unaffected by Brexit for doctorates beginning in 2018-19.

You must also be aged 59 or under and not already hold qualifications at PhD level.

Loans can be combined with funding from your university or other sources, but not with a Research Council studentship, NHS funding or other direct Government funding.

Why is there an age-limit and how will it work?

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.

The relevant date for this will normally be as follows:

Course starts between First day of academic year
1st August - 31st December 1st September
1st January - 31st March 1st January
1st April - 30th June 1st April
1st July - 31st July 1st July

Can I combine a loan with a full Research Council studentship or a 'fees only' award?

No. You won't be eligible for a doctoral loan if you also receive Research Council funding for your PhD. This applies even if your award is a 'fees only' studentship.

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.

How will my residency be assessed?

Residency 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.

To qualify as 'ordinarily resident', your home address must be in England (or elsewhere in the EU, EEA and Switzerland, if you are an EU student). This means you can't only have been living in the country as a student (on a three-year undergraduate degree, for example).

What if I've moved to England from another part of the UK?

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.

Will loans be available in other UK countries?

Yes, eventually. Wales plans to introduce similar PhD loans for 2018. Northern Ireland has also been considering plans for PhD loans, but hasn't set a date for these.

We'll continue to follow any new developments, with regular updates on the FindAPhD blog and notifications in our postgraduate newsletter.

I'm already studying a PhD, can I apply for a loan to complete my doctorate?

Unfortunately not. PhD loans will only be available to new students starting a PhD in the 2018-19 academic year.

Will I be able to apply for a PhD loan if I already have a Masters loan or an undergraduate loan?

Yes. Other student loans won't affect your eligibility for PhD loans. Repayments for your PhD loan will be combined with those for your Masters loan. Undergraduate loan repayments.

Can I apply for a loan if I already have a postgraduate research qualification, such as an MPhil?

Yes, provided it is not a PhD-level (level 8) qualification. A research Masters such as an MRes (Master of Research) or MPhil (Master of Philosophy) will not make you ineligible.

However, you cannot receive a PhD loan to study these courses. Your intended qualification must be a doctorate.

Eligible courses and subjects

PhD loans will be available for doctorates awarded by universities across the UK. This includes othertypes of doctorate and isn't restricted by subject area.

The only restriction concerns PhDs by publication. These are sometimes awarded to candidates whose existing body of work that makes an original contribution to knowledge sufficient for a PhD. PhD loans are postgraduate student loans and therefore require the borrower to be following an 'active programme of study'.

Will loans be available for a DPhil?

Yes. The DPhil is equivalent to a PhD and these programmes are eligible for loans in exactly the same way.

Will loans be available for a Professional Doctorate?

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.

How can I be sure my doctoral qualification will be eligible for a PhD loan?

Any qualification at level 8 of the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies should be eligible for a loan.

Will I be able to receive a loan for a PhD offered within a Doctoral Training Partnership or Doctoral Training Centre?

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).

What subjects can I receive a PhD loan for?

There are be no restrictions on subjects, disciplines, research areas or topics.

The government is also encouraging universities to consider offering supplementary funding for 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.

Will my PhD proposal matter for my loan application?

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.

Will £25,000 loans be available for research Masters degrees?

No. The £25,000 PhD loans are only for doctoral programmes. Separate loans of £10,609 are available to cover research-based programmes at Masters-level (such as the MRes and MPhil).

What if I am initially registered for an MPhil? Will my PhD programme still be eligible for a loan?

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.

What if my PhD programme also awards a Masters degree?

Some PhD courses also include 'integrated' Masters qualifications such as an MRes or an MPhil. This is fine, but the final qualification you receive a loan for must be a doctorate.

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.

Can I apply for a loan to study a part-time PhD?

Yes, although the loans don't actually distinguish between part-time or full-time study. Instead you must state your intended completion time when you apply.

How long can my PhD last?

Your PhD must be between three and eight years long. The length of your programme will be based on the intended completion time set by your university.

Where can I study with a PhD loan?

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.

Will loans be available for PhDs by distance learning?

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.

What if my PhD is a joint-doctorate, or includes an overseas placement?

Loans are available for PhDs with an overseas placement or for joint-PhDs delivered in partnership with foreign universities.

Your PhD must be awarded by a university in the UK and you cannot spend more than 50% of your degree outside the country.

Will there be a cap on the number of loans available?

No, there is no limit to the number of doctoral loans that can be provided. Any student can receive a loan to study at any UK university, provided other eligibility criteria are met.

Did you know we currently list 4,639 PhD opportunities worldwide?

Why not take a look?

Loan amount and repayment

PhD loans will be worth up to £25,000. Repayments will be income-contingent, at 6% of income over £21,000 per year. Debt and repayments will be combined with your Masters loan (if you have one).

Who will be responsible for administering the loans?

PhD loans will be administered by the Student Loans Company. This is the same process as applies to English undergraduate and Masters loans.

Are the PhD loans means-tested?

No. You will be able to apply for the maximum PhD loan regardless of your financial background.

Will I have to borrow the full £25,000?

No. £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.

How will the loans be paid?

Your PhD loan will be split evenly across the duration of your PhD. The total amount you request will be divided equally between each year of your course. These annual amounts will then be paid to you in three instalments per year.

Will I be able to combine a PhD loan with other funding?

This will depend. You cannot take out a PhD loan if you receive a studentship from one of the UK Research Councils. 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.

How will repayments work?

Doctoral loan repayments are income-contingent, deducted from your earnings at 6% of any annual salary over £21,000. You will be eligible to start making these repayments in the first April after you leave your course, or the April four years after your course starts. Remember that you only repay if and when you are earning more than £21,000 a year.

Note that repayments will normally be taken monthly, but will still be based on your overall annual salary.

How will PhD loan repayments work alongside other student loan debt?

Repayments for doctoral loans Masters loans will be combined. So, if you have both a £10,280 Masters loan and a £25,000 PhD loan, you will make a single monthly repayment at 6% of income over £1,750 (the monthly equivalent of £21,000) towards a total postgraduate loan debt of £35,280.

This should help ensure that graduates with undergraduate, Masters and PhD loan debt don't face excessive salary deductions. Regardless of how many student loans you have, you should only ever repay a maximum of 15% of your annual income over the threshold.

Will interest be charged on my PhD loan?

Yes, PhD loans will be subject to interest from the date the first payment is made to you. The current rate is 6.1%, based on the Retail Prices Index (RPI) + 3%.

Can repayment terms and interest rates change?

Repayment rates will be fixed until April 2021. Interest rates can change year-on-year, based on inflation.

Will £25,000 cover the full cost of studying a PhD?

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 probably won't cover fees and living costs for a full doctorate.

PhD loans in Wales

The Welsh Government also intends to introduce doctoral loans in 2018-19 and is conducting a public consultation on its plans. Wales is also considering introducing up to 150 PhD scholarships for Welsh students, but these are not likely to be available in 2018.

The Welsh PhD loans are likely to work similarly to the English loans, but will be offered to Welsh-resident students for PhD study across the UK.

We'll provide more information on this page and through our newsletter when further details are available.

Further information

Applications for the PhD loans are expected to open in the spring or summer of 2018.

Further details (including clarification of EU eligibility) are expected ahead of the application window. As always, we'll do our best to keep you updated.

Last updated - 13/02/2018

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