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Figuring out how to fund your postgraduate studies can seem immensely confusing, so we’ve created our Ultimate Guide to Postgraduate Funding to help you discover what your options are and how you can pay for your education. Routes for funding postgraduate degrees are quite different to undergraduate degrees, most of which are paid via Student Finance. For postgraduates, you’ll have a few different directions you could follow. From bursaries to budgeting, you will find lots of useful information here for you to consider when applying for your postgraduate degree, along with tips for helping you save money while you study.
The costs for postgraduate degrees and undergraduate degrees are notably different, as while undergraduate degrees are subject to a tuition fee cap (currently £9,250 per year), postgraduate degrees are not. The universities themselves set the tuition fees for postgraduate degrees, which means there can be quite a lot of variation.
Costs for postgraduate degrees average around £11,000 per year, depending on the qualification, course and university. Check out the table below to get an idea of the tuition fees per year for some of the most popular postgraduate qualifications...
|Master's||£3,000 - £30,000|
|PhD||£3,000 - £6,000|
|MBA||£15,000 - £40,000|
|PGCE||Up to £9,250|
To find out up to date costs for degrees that you are interested in, have a browse using our Course Search feature, which can sort courses from the lowest to highest if you’re looking to find an affordable master’s course.
Alongside tuition fees, postgraduate students will also need to take into account the associated living costs for the years they will be studying. This will include things like rent, bills, food, travel and course materials, among others. The cost of living will depend on where in the country you live as rent can vary between cities, and some degrees can require you to buy more course materials than others. It’s wise to put together a realistic budget for living costs and plan your monthly expenses accordingly, which could include the items on this list below below...
A note on Council Tax – as a student, you shouldn’t have to pay it. However, if you live with non-students or with a partner and you want to contribute to the Council Tax bill (bear in mind you don’t legally have to), you should double check that your property is in the right band to avoid unnecessary costs.
There are several options available for postgraduate students when it comes to funding their education. This includes loans from the government specifically for postgraduate students, a range of bursaries and scholarships, employee sponsorships, crowdfunding and even salaried teacher training courses. Previously, the Professional and Career Development Loan scheme was a popular route for postgraduate students, but the government closed applications for it in 2019.
In 2016, the government introduced loans for students looking to embark on postgraduate studies. This began with the Master’s Loan and continued with the Doctoral Loan introduced in 2018. These are not means-tested loans, and they are paid directly to the student. They can be used to pay for course fees and living costs.
For the Master’s Loan, students can get up to £11,836 for courses that start after 1 August 2022. The loan will be paid in three installments over the academic year (or equally divided across each year of your course if it is longer than one year). You must be taking a full, standalone master’s course worth at least 180 credits, and it can be a taught or research-based master’s.
For the Doctoral Loan, students can get up to £27,892 for courses that start after 1 August 2022. The loan will be divided equally across each year of your course. You must be taking a full, standalone doctoral course, and it can be a taught or research-based course (or a combination of the two).
There are other requirements that you must fulfil to be eligible to receive a postgraduate loan from the government, details of which you will be able to find on the gov.uk website.
Similar to the standard undergraduate degree loan, students will have to start repaying their postgraduate loan once they begin to earn an income over a certain threshold.
Go to: Read more about Loan Options for Postgraduate Students
Bursaries and scholarships are also popular for students looking to make postgraduate education more affordable. The names are sometimes used interchangeably, and they can be quite similar, though getting a scholarship is usually a competitive process, while bursaries are available to any student that qualifies for them. However, neither scholarships nor bursaries have to be repaid.
When looking for bursaries or scholarships, the first place you’ll want to look is the university. There will often be university-wide bursaries as well as department-specific bursaries, depending on your subject and/or circumstances. Some postgraduate courses come with a certain number of scholarships attached.
Most universities also offer discounts on postgraduate courses for alumni. If you have completed an undergraduate degree at a university, you could consider staying on or returning to take advantage of this discount. However, your course is an investment; evaluate the department and the reputation of the course carefully and don’t be enticed solely by cost.
If you're looking to become a teacher, you might be eligable for a bursary from the government depending on the subject you want to teach. You'll need a 2:2 or higher bachelor’s degree, a master’s or a PhD in the subject to qualify for the bursary, alongside some more terms and conditions which are available on the gov.uk website. The subjects and bursary can be found on the table below...
|Design and Technology||£20,000|
There are also scholarships available for people looking to become teachers in certain subjects, offered by other independent institutions. Students will need to apply directly to the institution for these scholarships, and meet the institution's critera. The subjects, scholarship amounts and institutions are listed on the label below...
|Chemistry||£29,000||The Royal Society of Chemistry|
|Computing||£29,000||BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT|
|Maths||£29,000||The Institute of Mathematics and its Applications|
|Physics||£29,000||The Institute of Physics|
|Languages*||£27,000||The British Council|
*French, German and Spanish only
The NHS provides a Learning Support Fund as additional funding for students on pre-registration postgraduate courses for a number of subjects. Eligible students can get a training grant of £5,000 per academic year which is not means-tested and does not need to be repaid. You’ll have to reapply for the training grant for each academic year of your study. The Learning Support Fund can be received by students studying for the following courses:
Students can also receive a Specialist Subject Payment of an additional £1,000 aper academic year if they are studying one of these particular courses:
The Learning Support Fund features more funding alongside the training grant. There is a £2,000 annual Parental Support grant for students who have parental responsibility for a child. The Travel and Dual Accommodation Expenses to help pay for excess travel and accommodation for students undertaking clinical placements for their practical training. The Exceptional Support Fund also provides funding for students facing unforeseen financial difficulties.
The NHS can also provide a bursary for postgraduate students who are studying an approved Social Work course, comprised of a non-means-tested basic grant and a means-tested maintenance grant.
You can also look further afield for bursaries and grants, as various charities, trusts, and societies across the UK will offer them to students studying in related subjects, since it is in their interest to further research in that area or train more individuals to work in the sector. Explore the established groups that exist in and around the subject you are looking to study to see if there is funding available to you.
For example, The Royal Geographical Society supports fieldwork projects with grants for master’s and PhD students. Cancer Research UK also supports PhD students looking to help make medical breakthroughs in the line of research. The Scott Trust offers multiple bursaries each year for students looking to take an MA in journalism.
Several societies and trusts offer scholarships to members of under-represented groups to support academics from all backgrounds and build diversity of ideas in sectors that need it. Some companies will even work with the universities themselves to help establish these scholarships and bursaries, so get in touch with the institutions you’re interested in to see if they have any funding that you can receive.
For example, the Windsor Fellowship works with the likes of UCL, DeepMind, Cancer Research UK and Visa to offer scholarships for students from under-represented communities for a variety of postgraduate courses. The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Scholarship offers funding for future diversity leaders, complete with mentoring and training.
You may be able to access funds from a local council or charity where you live, or where you will be living during your studies. Often small towns and rural communities have charities and hardship funds where money goes unclaimed. If you can demonstrate that you were, or are, a contributing member of the community, and that you are hoping to further your education and job prospects, you may be able to secure a financial contribution. Reaching out to your local council to see what is available should form part of your university funding research.
The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) can be used by postgraduate and undergraduate students to support with study-related costs. Students can get up to £25,575 in the 2022 to 2023 academic year to help meet disability-related costs of studying, which can include paying for specialist equipment, non-medical helpers and extra travel expenditure.
Eligible students may be asked to book a needs assessment to determine what will be needed for their courses. The DSA does not need to be repaid. You’ll be able to find more information, including eligibility criteria, on the gov.uk website.
The Ministry of Defence aims to promote ‘lifelong learning amongst members of the Armed Forces’ with its Enhanced Learning Credits Scheme (ELC). This scheme provides financial support for a maximum of three separate years to contribute towards the costs of a degree with a qualifying institution. The ELC can be claimed by personnel who have recently left or serving members of the Armed Forces depending on their eligibility.
Research Councils are publicly funded bodies that exist to further research in various academic fields and subject areas. Part of their role is to fund PhD and master’s students. Your university applies for funding, and courses or subjects that have received grants from research councils should advertise this when prospective students are researching courses or applying. You will then have to apply to the department or school, so it varies from university to university as to the competition and application requirements.
If you are interested in completing a postgraduate course to advance your career prospects in the organisation you work for, it’s worth asking if the company will sponsor you in some way. Some businesses will have official schemes in place for this, but if there is no official scheme, it’s up to you to negotiate an arrangement and hope that your employer will see the potential.
Whether you are planning to do a part-time course, either in attendance or through distance learning, or take time out to complete a full-time course, you need to think about the logistics and the terms of your employment. Ensure you are clear on any agreements you make with your employer when arranging your sponsorship, as some agreements may require you to return funds used for your course should you leave the company within a specified period.
If you need to provide an argument for why your employer should sponsor your education, think about presenting how it will help your contribution to the business, how it fits in with your long-term development goals at the organisation and the value it could add to the company.
Part-time work can help contribute towards living costs while studying for your postgraduate degree. Many places will have part-time jobs, but we also recommend looking to find a part-time job at your university. Whether it’s acting as an ambassador for open day, helping with administration tasks or shifts working at the Students’ Union, they will respect that you are there first and foremost for your education.
You should speak to your tutor prior to finding part-time work to check whether they think you will have enough time to make it a realistic option. Depending on how intense your course is, it may get in the way of assignments and/or increase your stress levels.
If you are looking for further assistance paying for your tuition fees or living costs, you may want to consider crowdfunding as an option. Appealing to friends, family, and strangers the internet will not be the dependable method for raising the full amount needed for your degree, but combined with other funding routes, crowdfunding a small portion of the money needed can help make progressing through your studies much more achievable from a financial standpoint.
Websites like GoFundMe and Crowdfunder can be used to host your crowdfunding campaigns, though be aware that they will charge fees for using their service. You can use social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to get the campaign out into the world and post updates. Marketing is a vital part of crowdfunding, as it will allow you to show why taking your postgraduate degree is important. Try to think about how your study will help develop not only your prospects, but also a particular field or specific community.
Alongside the funding options available, many students will also be looking for ways to save money while studying for their postgraduate degree. With that in mind, we’ve put together a handy selection of tips to help you look after your money at university.
The first place to start is your bank account. As obvious as it sounds, having the right account with benefits tailored to graduates is essential when assessing your funding options for postgraduate study. Some graduate accounts will offer an interest-free overdraft for up to three years, which is useful for clearing your overdraft debt without adding to it in the meantime.
You may want to stick with the bank where you had your student account, but it is worth your time looking around to see what features the graduate accounts from other banks have. This can include different sizes and lengths of overdraft, along with other freebies.
A huge number of shops and brands will offer student discounts, which can really help to save you money. You’ll usually need to show your student ID or provide your university email address to benefit from student discounts. There are also student discount cards available, like the TOTUM card (previously known as the NUS Extra card), which have even more exclusive deals to offer.
Many shops will also have loyalty cards for you to use when you shop to collect points or get money off your purchases. This includes the likes of the Tesco Clubcard, Nectar Card, and the Boots Advantage Card. These cards are almost always free and can be used online and in person, so they’re worth picking up if you regularly shop at these places.
If you need to travel by train frequently, take a look at the selection of Railcards available from National Rail. Many of these, like the 16-25 or the 26-30 Railcard, can let you get 1/3 off train tickets across the country. Students in London can also get an 18+ Student Oyster Photocard to save 30% on Travelcards and Bus and Tram Pass season tickets.
Some universities will offer various incentives to encourage students to travel by bike, including free bike checks. If you already have a bike, or can find a good student discount on one, this can help you save money on train and bus tickets throughout your studies.
Cooking food with housemates is a good way to save money, as these meals will often work out to be cheaper than cooking just for yourself. Plus, you’ll get to spend time with your housemates, and if you’re in student accommodation, this is a great way to make friends.
Similarly, cooking in bulk and freezing portions to eat for the next couple of days is another good way to save money on ingredients, with the added benefit of saving you time in the evenings. You can find plenty of recipes on the internet for bulk cooking, and there are even cookbooks dedicated to bulk cooking, too.
Student discounts will once again be your friend should you need to eat out, as a host of restaurants will have some tasty student deals. You may also find that some student discount cards also come with access to a Tastecard, which can get you exclusive deals in all sorts of restaurants and cafes.
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