PhD Loans

In the UK, some PhD students in some parts of the country can access government-funded postgraduate loans to assist with all sorts of funding issues related to the intense reality of being a PhD student. PhD students in England and Wales have recently been able to avail of student loans similar to those UK Government loans available to undergraduate and masters level students. However, this has not been rolled out by the Scottish and Northern Irish governments, and overall the funding of PhDs is often on a university or even departmental level.

Government PhD loans in England

What students are eligible?

Some PhD students are eligible for loans, but many are not because of their alternative funding arrangements. As with all UK Government student loans, students must be usually resident in England for three years before making the application. If you are an EU national, then you must have settled or pre-settled basis if you are starting your PhD after the 1st of August 2021. Other international students must have indefinite leave to remain in the UK and all students must be under the age of 60 on the first academic day of their studies.

What students are not eligible?

Students who are not eligible for a PhD student loan in England are those who have received or will receive funding from one of the Research Councils, those who are getting a Social Work bursary, an Educational Psychology bursary and those who are getting other funding from Student Finance England. If you have received funding for a PhD in the past, then you may not qualify for funding unless you left your course for a serious personal reason. Students who are also eligible to apply for an NHS bursary, even if they don't apply for it, are not eligible for a government PhD loan, and neither are those who already have a PhD. Students who are behind in their payments to the Student Loan Company will also be rendered ineligible.

What courses are eligible?

The PhDs eligible for a PhD loan are those studied on a structured basis either part-time or full-time. PhDs by publication and top-up PhDs are not eligible for Government PhD loans in England. The PhD must last between three and eight years, and the student must have started their PhD on or after the 1st of August 2018. The course must also be based at a UK public university with research degree awarding powers, or the lead university of your PhD must be a UK university and 50% of your time must be spent in the UK for the duration of your PhD. Many postgraduate doctoral qualifications are eligible and these include a PhD or DPhil, Doctor of Engineering (EngD) and a Doctor of Education (EdD).

Is the value of the loan linked to course fees?

No, the amounts you borrow is up to you rather than the Government, as long as it doesn't exceed the annual limit. If you are studying an integrated masters and PhD program, then you can apply for PhD funding but not masters funding.

Who should you apply to and by when?

Students should apply to Student Finance England, either online, using their online forms or by telephone if there is difficulty using a computer, because some reason such as a disability. You must apply within nine months of the first day of the last academic year of your PhD to access any Government loans, and this must be done once you have a secured PhD place.

Does the debt get cancelled at any point?

Any PhD loan that is still outstanding 30 years after the repayments start is cancelled. For students who become unable to work because of disability or ill health any amount they owe is also cancelled.

Government PhD loans in Wales

Which students are eligible?

Those PhD students eligible for a Government PhD loan in Wales are any student that has been resident in Wales for three years and is a UK citizen, an EU citizen with settled or pre-settled status or has permanent leave to remain the UK. International students who are refugees are also often eligible as are many children of migrants and refugees. EU or EEA and Swiss students who are travelling to Wales to study can all access Welsh Government loans. Students must be under 60 years of age on the first day of their course and the PhD must be the first postgraduate doctoral-level course they have studied. Distance learning PhD students are eligible for Government loans if they are resident in Wales for the duration of the PhD. As are those students who are in the armed forces or are the dependents of someone in the armed forces and are based abroad.

What courses are eligible?

Distance learning PhD courses are eligible for Government PhD loans in Wales, as are both full- and part-time PhDs. However, integrated masters and PhD courses are only eligible for masters-level funding. Students must be attending a UK-based publicly funded university or if it is a private university, then the PhD course must be approved by the Welsh Government. Similarly to Student Finance England, a student applying to Student Finance Wales can be based at two universities but must spend 50% of their time in the UK-based institution. The PhD must be research-based and completed in three to eight years. The amount you can borrow is not related to the topic you are studying.

Who should you apply to and when?

You should apply to Student Finance Wales and you can do this before you have a secured place at a university, but funds will not be released until you have a PhD position. The PhD loan applications are done online, but there is provision for those who need assistance with online applications and must be completed within nine months of the first day of your course.

Does the debt get cancelled at any point?

The debt can be cancelled 30 years after the first repayment is made or if the student becomes too ill or disabled to work.

Government PhD Loans in Scotland & Northern Ireland

The Scottish and Northern Irish Governments do not offer any loans to PhD students in any form. This includes those masters level students who are studying a masters that is an integrated into a PhD, however these students may well be eligible to apply for a UK Government masters loan.

UK Government PhD Loans… in a nutshell

So, in summary, what PhD loans are avaialble from the UK Governments?

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Other PhD loan options in Scotland & Northern Ireland

Students in Scotland and Northern Ireland will have to find alternative funding methods, such as the UK Research Councils and other funding bodies or private loans. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, PhD students often receive public funds in the form of grants and bursaries from the Research Councils based in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The governments in these home nations fund areas they wish to see more research through these different research councils and organisations. Check with the university you are applying to for your PhD, as they will have a significant understanding of the financing options for your particular research area. As part of your application for a research PhD, you will find that funding your studies will be a large part of your investigations.

Are any private loans available for PhD students in the UK?

There are a few private lenders who work with some universities in the UK to offer specialised loans to PhD students. Lendwise is one good private loan option, this private loan company offers loans of between £5,000 and £100,000 and has the advantage of student-friendly considerations such as fee-free early repayment. This type of lenders will contact your university to ensure that you are studying there, but don't usually require a co-signer for the loan. The amount they will lend to you and the conditions are based on your credit rating in the UK and the subject that you are researching. However, in comparison to UK Government loans, you can receive other funding sources and this does not impact on how much you can borrow.

PhD bank loans

PhD students are able to get bank loans if they meet the eligibility requirements. If you are studying your PhD part time and working at the same time, then your income should allow you to borrow money from traditional banks. For full-time students, borrowing money like this will be less likely as the bank will want to know how you will pay back the money. Also, the repayments will start immediately and you are unlikely to be offered a discounted rate like private or publicly funded student loans. If you have a limited credit rating, then you may find that you cannot have a loan without a guarantor or co-signatory.

PhD loan repayments

Whatever type of PhD loan you opt for, it is crucial that you are fully aware of the repayment terms. So let’s take a look at what these could be.

Here we have compiled answers to frequently asked questions about UK PhD loans. If you still have any unanswered questions about PhD loans please email us and we will do our best to help.

What courses qualify for a UK Government PhD loan?

The PhD loan is only available for students in England and Wales. The PhDs eligible for a PhD loan are those studied on a structured basis either part-time or full-time. PhDs by publication and top-up PhDs are not eligible for Government PhD loans in England. If you are studying an integrated masters and PhD program, then you can apply for PhD funding but not masters funding.

Can I apply for a UK Government PhD loan in Scotland or Northern Ireland?

No – UK Government PhD-funding is only available for PhD students in England and Wales. Other private and commercial PhD funding options are available in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Are UK Government PhD loans means-tested?

No – all that matters is that you and your PhD are eligible for the loan, your income and savings do not affect your eligibility.

Can I apply for a UK Government PhD loan if I’ve lived outside the UK in the last three years?  

No – to apply for a loan as a UK student you must have lived in the UK for three years prior to your PhD. You can have travelled from the UK for holidays or periods of temporary absence during these three years, but you shouldn’t have become ordinarily resident in another country.

Will my credit history be checked? 

Your personal credit rating and existing debts won’t matter for UK Government PhD loans unless you are in arrears with the Student Loans Company. Your credit history will usually be checked with private funding companies.

Can I get a PhD loan whilst working?

Yes – you can have a job during your PhD studies and still access UK Government PhD student finance. You will also be able to apply for a private loan from companies like Lendwise if studying your PhD whilst working.

When will I have to start making my PhD loan repayments?

Your loan repayments will depend on what home nation or private company you got your loan from. It is important to check the repayment terms before you commit to taking out the loan

Disclaimer: Prodigy Finance and Lendwise are two of many potential funding options for postgraduate students. Other student funding options are available; research all your options thoroughly before making a commitment. Please be aware that Postgrad Solutions Ltd receives a commission from both parties for any successful loan applications taken out by Postgrad.com and LLMstudy.com users. Postgrad Solutions accepts no responsibility for your choice of loan and does not endorse or support Prodigy Finance or Lendwise. Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, and entered on the Financial Services Register under firm registration number 612713. Lendwise Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority under firm registration number 782496.

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