Funding postgraduate study

student working on laptop

Need extra student finance? Here's how to get the funds you need to pursue postgrad education

MONEY. It’s one of the biggest worries for students. In fact, a recent National Student Money Survey revealed that 79% of students worry about money, with 77% wishing they had a better financial education.

If you’ve already taken out loans, and used a student overdraft to get through your undergraduate degree, you might even be wondering if a postgraduate course is actually worth the extra expense. 

But whether you’ve got big ambitions to get your Master’s or PhD, or you’re on the fence about postgraduate study – you may find that cost is less of a barrier than you think.

With plenty of funding available to make postgrad an option, here’s what money is available, how much it costs – and how you can get your hands on it.

How much does postgraduate study cost?

How much money you’ll need depends on the postgrad course you’re looking to take. Fees can vary a lot – for example, a doctorate costs more than a Master’s degree, while a MBA can set you back more than a PhD.

According to Ucas, postgrad tuition fees range from around £4,900 a year to more than £30,000, with the average full-time postgrad course costing around £11,000 per year.

These costs are usually higher for international students. But, on the plus side, courses in the UK are generally shorter than a lot of other countries – which helps to reduce both tuition fee and accommodation costs.

How can you pay for postgraduate study?

There are a variety of ways to fund your postgrad study. 

A good place to start is to check the scholarships, bursaries and educational grants that may be available. These are cash awards that you don’t have to pay back and – contrary to popular belief – they’re not just for students with the top grades. 

Government loans are also available for many students (but, as with undergraduate loans, this loan must be repaid once your earnings are above a certain threshold).

Some students may opt for commercial loans from banks or other lenders to fund further study. Just remember that these types of loans will need to be paid back regardless of your postgraduate earnings.

Alternatively, many postgraduate students choose to support themselves during their studies with a side income from a part-time job.

Landing a scholarship or bursary

When you're researching postgraduate funding options, this is where you should start. There are a wide range of scholarships and bursaries for postgraduate applicants that give you access to cash that you don’t have to pay back.

Getting this kind of award might provide the freedom you need to continue your studies. That was certainly the case for Annie Warman, a psychology postgraduate student from University of East Anglia (UEA)

“It has given me confidence to realise that I can achieve academically,” she says. “I feel very privileged to be a scholarship holder in a highly regarded university."

Scholarships, grants and bursaries are available from a range of places, including the university, organisations related to your field of study or interest, and charities.

How much you can get will depend on the award. Some will be set amounts while others may cover the costs of your tuition fees.

The good news is that applying for funding is surprisingly easy, as Jasmine - a law student at UEA - discovered.

“The scholarship process was relatively quick and streamlined,” she says. “I was repeatedly prompted to apply either during my application or thereafter by email. 

“This gave the impression that the UEA almost wanted to award you with a scholarship, which was welcomed.”

Jasmine Brewer
Jasmine found it was a straightforward process to apply for funding

The main catch is that these types of awards are only available in limited numbers, but if you meet the eligibility criteria, you’ve got nothing to lose. 

In fact, a recent survey found that just 31% of students receive funding from grants, bursaries and scholarships – with UK students potentially missing out on over £150 million in unclaimed scholarships each year.

“I saw that there was one full tuition scholarship available for a UK postgraduate international development student [but] I never thought that I would actually be the recipient of this scholarship,” says Olivia, a Master’s student at UEA.

“I didn't actually apply for my scholarship which was why I was surprised to receive it. 

“I was chosen based on my personal statement I used to apply for my MA! It has taken a huge financial pressure off me as postgraduate study can be really expensive.

“It has given me the freedom to research to the best of my ability and have time for other activities and opportunities UEA has to offer, without having to worry about how I will pay my rent."

Getting your hands on a postgraduate study loan

The government’s postgraduate study loan means that students enrolling in 2020/2021 can borrow up to £11,222 to support full-time postgraduate studies, and up to £5,611 per year for two years of part-time study.

This loan covers all subject areas and both full and part-time study, but there are a few boxes you’ll have to tick. To be eligible you must:  

  • Apply for a course that’s a taught, research or professional Master’s programme (including an MA, MSc, MRes, MBA and LLM)
  • Not have previously studied a Master’s degree or PhD
  • Be under 60 years old at the start of your course
  • Normally live in England (and have been living in England for at least 3 years before starting the course for reasons other than to study)

Although it might be tempting, you do not have to borrow the full amount. It’s entirely up to you how much of the £11,222 you choose to access.

Once you’ve confirmed the amount, the loan will be paid directly to you by the Student Loans Company in three instalments each year.

It’s worth noting that postgraduate loan funding is different for UK residents who don't normally live in England. You can find information for students living and/or studying in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – as well as options for overseas students – on the relevant student finance sites.

You can also find out more about the loans available for postgraduate study – including doctoral loans, Master’s loans, loans for MBA courses and non-repayable disabled student allowances – over at TSR’s Student Finance Zone.

Working while you study

If you’re worried about having to pay back any funding for your postgraduate study then a part-time job could help.

Juggling work and study won’t always be easy – especially with the demands of a postgrad course, but there are a few ways you can have the best of both worlds.

Opting to study part-time is one way to keep working throughout your course without having to spread yourself too thin.

Alternatively, some employers will offer – and often fund – study that’s related to your industry, so it’s always worth scoping out the work/study options available in your chosen field.

About our sponsor

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is a UK top-25 university (The Times/Sunday Times 2020 and Complete University Guide 2020).

Not only is UEA highly rated in the league tables, it has also received a TEF gold award for excellence in teaching, learning and outcomes.

Located on the edge of Norwich, a lively city full of secret gems just waiting to be discovered.

Visit their profile page to learn more or join the conversation on TSR's UEA forum.

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