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Postgraduate Student Funding in Europe


PLEASE NOTE: As a result of Brexit, from Autumn 2021 postgraduate students from the European Union studying at a UK university will be charged the same tuition fees as international students. Meanwhile, UK students studying their postgraduate course at a European university are also likely to incur higher tuition fees than their EU counterparts. It is advisable to check with the individual universities in the UK and Europe for up-to-date information on tuition fees for all postgraduate programs.

Student loans Choosing to study for a postgraduate course is not something to be taken lightly. Some masters programs in Europe cost over €16,000 so you need to make sure that this is something you;

a) Really want to do, and

b) Can afford to do.

However, there are ways to reduce these costs if you know where to look and you can apply for more than one funding source. So get it right and you could cut the cost of your postgraduate studies massively.

The main methods of student funding are bursaries, scholarships, grants, and private funding. Here we take a brief look at what these are and what’s available in the EU for the prospective postgraduate student. And remember many institutions offer their own scholarship programs so it is worth getting online and checking out the funding opportunities at your desired institution.

UK/EU Research Councils Grants

There are seven research councils in the UK that offer the majority of additional funding to postgraduate students. These councils fund specific study areas and look for promising students that wish to study in areas which come under a particular council’s remit. For instance all councils like ‘The Art and Humanities Research Council’ offer awards called ‘Studentships’ that cover the full course cost and living expenses (called a stipend amount). These amounts can be up to £15,500 (€19,000) per year. Competition is great and a 2:1 degree is usually required. Some awards are given after study for outstanding work such as specific academic prizes of up to £3,000 (€3,700).

Erasmus+ Masters Loan Scheme

The Erasmus+ Masters Loan Scheme  is good news for European students considering studying for a masters degree, but struggling to find funding.  It’s a promising scheme to provide financial support for prospective masters students within the EU, but there’s a slight catch …

The Erasmus exchange program, which has for many years funded overseas work and study placements –  and continues to do so in the Erasmus+ era –  facilitates the movement of students between partner countries, usually providing financial support to students who take up the opportunity.

It’s all about providing an education experience that is about more than just study: their aim is to broaden horizons through travel, experience and interaction with other European nations and cultures, and to prepare students for the international academic and professional communities that they will eventually inhabit.

The Erasmus+ Masters Loans Scheme has the same ambitions, and aims to offer affordable loan support for students who want to study for a masters degree in a different country. The scheme provides EU support for bank loans up to €12,000 for a one year masters degree, or up to €18,000 for a two year program. All good news, but look carefully at the eligibility criteria and you will realise that the loan applies only to students looking to study in a) a country that is not their country of residence; and b) a country in which they have not previously studied.  So while this is great for a Spanish student hoping to study for their MA/MSc at, for example, Bangor University in the UK, it can’t be used by the same student looking to continue their study in a Spanish university

But this shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a limitation. The loan scheme, after all, is intended to adhere to the principles of the original Erasmus program – to effect the mobility of students within the EU and wider European community – and with such limited options for postgraduate funding within the EU, the Erasmus+ Masters Loan Scheme represents a big step forward for postgraduate financial support.

It’s anticipated that the loans will be provided by various banks across the EU, though it is yet to be determined which banks will be the main providers. However, as with the Career Development Loans offered by some UK high street banks, it is likely that the loans will be offered on a deferred repayment basis, at an interest rate lower than the market rate and with the option of a payment holiday of up to one year.

For more details about this scheme, take a look at the Erasmus+ website.

Student Loan

EU scholarships & grants

There are many grants available for countries in the EU. Here we have selected just a few good funding options to give you some idea of what is out there. Have a look and see if any of these are suitable for you – and if they’re not search online for something that suits your needs!

Germany has its own comprehensive database of scholarships which is well worth looking at. 

Denmark and all nearly all EU countries participate in the Erasmus Mundus program which provides scholarships and grants to individuals.

If you study in Ireland you can get ‘Fee grants’ that cover the course cost and ‘Maintenance grants’ to cover living expenses. Click here for a list of available funding in Ireland.

For students in the Netherlands there are many ‘grants’ available but these must be repaid in monthly instalments. The ‘Fondation Fernand Lazard’ offers up to €25,000 worth of funding to students in the EU. Students in the EU can also look into The Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) which offers grants to students that participate in collaborative programs across Europe. 

Students in Scotland can apply for grants through ‘The Student Awards agency for Scotland’.

These are just a few examples of the sources of funding available to postgraduate students in Europe. There are many other funding bodies across Europe so find a course that you like or a country you would like to study in and investigate what’s out there.

Click here for links to useful postgraduate student funding websites in European countries.

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Other sources of PG student funding


Other sources of funding are available to certain students such as the disabled. Disabled Students Allowance helps with extra costs that may be incurred by the student such as extra travel or additional money for expensive accommodation that is nearer campus needed by a wheelchair user.


Women from the UK can apply for grants to help with their living costs through the ‘Funds for Women Graduates’

Charitable Organisations

There are many charitable organisations such as ‘The Rotary Club’ that can offer one-off payments to support graduates who are hard up or have special circumstances where funds would really help.

Work opportunities in the EU for postgraduate students

If all else fails then part-time work is an option for students, but do remember why you are at university in the first place though. Don’t fail your postgraduate course because you are working to fund your living costs or expensive socialising! There are thousands of part-time jobs across Europe, many which you can apply for before you arrive. Check the Europa Website to begin searching, but do only work if you’re sure you can manage a job alongside your intensive postgraduate. 

In conclusion

There is literally a wealth of funding out there for you to apply for so get your head down and do some research. There are often some very obscure sources of funding that you will only find by picking up the phone and discussing your situation with a course director. If you want to study abroad contact different universities that offer your ideal course and request an email with links to relevant funding sites. Funding opportunities change each year, so what’s up on the Web right now may not be up to date. One year your course may be out of favour with a research council, the next year it may be a priority, so keep asking questions, take you time and give yourself a lot of time to do your research. You should start looking at funding at least one year before your commence you studies and then keep searching right up until you start your course.


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