Introduction of loans for postgraduate students

Published Thursday, December 3, 2015

This briefing provides details of the new postgraduate loan system, including the consultation and the reaction to the announcement of the scheme.

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The funding available to postgraduate students has generally been limited compared to that available for undergraduates. Concerns have been raised that this lack of funding could be contributing to a decline in the number of UK postgraduate students, particularly for taught courses, and could limit social mobility. As a result, a number of reports have recommended the introduction of a system of postgraduate loans.

In the Autumn Statement 2014, the Chancellor announced that the Government intended to introduce a new system of income contingent loans for some postgraduate students under the age of 30 on taught masters courses from 2016-17. The March 2015 budget additionally announced that the Government intended to introduce income-contingent loans of up to £25,000 for PhDs and research-based masters degrees.

On 25 March 2015, the Coalition Government published a consultation on the proposed loans systems. A response to the consultation was published in November 2015. This stated that loans of up to £10,000 for both taught masters courses and research-based masters would be available from 2016-17. Under the scheme:

  • Non-means tested loans of up to £10,000 will be available to eligible students aged under 60 on eligible 1 or 2 year full-time masters courses. Students studying part-time at a minimum of 50% intensity of full-time study will also be able to access loans. Individuals who already have a postgraduate masters qualification will not be eligible.
  • Eligible courses will include taught, research, distance learning or professional masters courses across all disciplines.
  • Loans will be available to eligible students studying at a publicly funded higher education institution in the UK or at an alternative provider with degree awarding powers. Students ordinarily resident in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will not be eligible.
  • The repayment rate will be 6% and loans will be repaid concurrently with other student loans.
  • The repayment threshold will be £21,000 and will be frozen until 2021.
  • Repayments will commence from April 2019, but individuals will be able to make voluntary repayments before this time if they wish.

With regards to PhD students, the consultation response stated that the Government was “committed to the introduction of income-contingent loans for Doctoral study”. No further information was provided.

Commons Briefing papers SN07049

Authors: Susan Hubble; David Foster

Topics: Higher education, Students

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