Postgraduate loans for doctoral students

If you’re coming to Manchester this year to begin or continue postgraduate doctoral research, you could qualify for a loan from the UK government.

The maximum loan available for those starting a programme on or after 1 August 2021 is £27,265. Applications are open now.

This postgraduate student loan is paid directly to you, and is non-means tested. The loan is a contribution towards cost of study and is unlikely to fund the full cost of your doctoral studies. You will need to research how to fund any shortfall.

The information on this page is about the loan available to English students studying in the UK. There are similar funding arrangements for UK students resident in Wales; apply online at Student Finance Wales. Students ordinarily resident in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man may also be eligible for support.

Eligibility

To apply for a postgraduate doctoral loan, you must:

  • be a UK or Irish national or have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or indefinite leave to remain so there are no restrictions on how long you can stay;
  • normally live in England;
  • have been living in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland for three continuous years before the first day of your course, apart from temporary absences such as going on holiday; 
  • UK applicants from Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man who move to England solely for the purpose of attending the course will not be eligible.

You may also be eligible if you’re a UK national (or family member of a UK national) who either:

  • returned to the UK on or after 1 January 2018 and by 31 December 2020 after living in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein;
  • was living in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein on 31 December 2020 and has been living in the UK, the EU, Gibraltar, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein for the past three years.

If you’re an EU national or a family member of an EU national

You may be eligible if you’re an EU national, or a family member of an EU national, and all the following apply:

  • you have settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • you’ve normally lived in the UK, Gibraltar, EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein for the past three years (this is also known as being ‘ordinarily resident’);
  • you’ll be studying at a university or college in England.

You could also be eligible if you’re:

  • the child of a Swiss national and you and your parent have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • a migrant worker from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein with pre-settled status, or a family member of a migrant worker where both have pre-settled status;
  • a resident of Gibraltar who is a UK or EU national, or their family member.

You may also be eligible with another residency status. See the gov.uk website for full details.

Age 

You must be under 60 on the first day of the first academic year of your course to get a postgraduate doctoral loan.

Previous study

If you have a loan from a previous undergraduate course or postgraduate master’s course, it won’t affect your eligibility for a postgraduate doctoral loan.

You can only get a postgraduate doctoral loan if you don’t already have an equivalent doctoral qualification or a higher-level qualification such as a PhD.

If you borrow a postgraduate doctoral loan for a course but don’t complete it, you won’t be able to get a second postgraduate doctoral loan. However, if you have to withdraw from your course for compelling personal reasons, such as illness, you may still be able to apply for another postgraduate doctoral loan.

Other eligibility

You won’t be able to get a postgraduate doctoral loan if you are getting any Research Council funding.

Course eligibility

The course you’re studying must be a full postgraduate doctoral course leading to a qualification such as:

  • subject specialist doctorates: a formal programme of study such as a PhD;
  • integrated subject specialist doctorates: a supervised research project undertaken alongside a more structured taught course, or may depend on successful completion of taught elements and be undertaken in later years. Integrated doctorates normally offer exit awards at master's level based on successful completion of taught course units (students must register for the doctoral degree at the outset to be eligible for postgraduate doctoral loan);
  • professional and practice-based doctorates: post-experience qualifications aimed at mid-career professionals, for example an Engineering Doctorate (EngD).

A postgraduate doctoral loan isn't available to students wanting to ‘top up’ a lower-level qualification to a doctoral degree. Your course must be a full standalone doctoral course. The loan is available whether you are studying your course in person or by distance learning, and your course can be:

  • a full-time course lasting at least three years;
  • a part-time course lasting up to eight years.

How to apply

You only need to apply once for the postgraduate doctoral loan, as the application and funding is for the duration of your course. If you’re studying over three or more academic years, you’ll get a letter each year confirming your payments for the upcoming academic year.

The quickest way to apply for a postgraduate doctoral loan is online.

If you can’t apply online, you should download a paper application form.  

When to apply

You should apply as soon as possible, so that the Student Loans Company can contact you if they need any further information or evidence. You must apply no more than nine months after the first day of the last academic year of your course.

Please note if you apply after your first year, you might not get the maximum loan amount. 

When you’re paid

You get the first payment after your course start date, once your university or college confirms that you’ve registered.

The loan will be paid in three instalments of 33%, 33% and 34% each year. After your application has been approved you’ll be sent a letter with your payment dates or you can check them in your online account.

Repayments

Interest will be charged from the day the first payment is made to you, and will be charged at the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 3%.

You’ll be due to start making repayments the April after you finish or leave your course, or the April four years after the beginning of your course, whichever is sooner. You’ll only start repaying when your income is over £21,000 per year, £1,750 a month, or £404 a week.

You will repay 6% of what you earn over the threshold. So if you’re paid monthly and earn £2,500 per month before tax, you’ll repay 6% of the difference between what you earn and the threshold.

For example:

  • £2,500 - £1,750 = £750
  • 6% of £750 = £45

The following table shows how much you’ll repay towards your loan: 

Yearly income before taxMonthly income before taxMonthly repayment
£21,000 £1,750 £0
£22,000 £1,833 £5
£23,500 £1,958 £12
£25,000 £2,083 £20
£30,000 £2,500 £45

Previous loans

If you have had a previous loan from the Student Loans Company, you’ll continue to repay these loans at the same time. How much you’ll repay depends on when you started your undergraduate course. 

Courses that started after 1 September 2012

If you borrowed a loan for an undergraduate course that started after 1 September 2012, you’ll repay 9% of your income above £27,295 a year towards that loan and 6% of your income above £21,000 a year towards your postgraduate loan. If you borrowed a postgraduate loan for a master’s course as well as a doctoral programme, the repayment amount due will remain at 6%, combining both postgraduate loans.

The table below shows how much you’ll repay towards your loans. 

Yearly income before taxMonthly income before taxPlan 2 undergraduate loan repaymentPostgraduate loan repayment
£21,000 £1,750 £0 £0
£23,000 £1,916 £0 £10
£25,000 £2,083 £0 £20
£30,000 £2,500 £20 £45
£35,000 £2,916 £58 £70