Postgraduate study

Government PhD Loan

  • There’s good news if you’re considering a PhD in 2018: the UK plans to introduce its first ever doctoral student loans in 2018.
  • Both campuses
  • UK/EU students
  • Up to £25,500
  • Research

The UK government PhD loan is for English-resident students looking to study PhD programmes from summer 2018. Any amount up to £25,500 can be borrowed, and can be used to pay for your tuition fees or other costs associated with studying, such as accommodation or travel expenses.

A quick guide to the PhD loan

What’s available?

Student loans for PhD-level qualifications lasting up to eight years in all subjects.

How much can I borrow?

Up to £25,500, not means-tested.

Who is it for?

English-resident UK nationals aged 59 or under without Research Council studentships.

Which Universities?

Any UK university with the ability to award PhDs.

When are they available?

Available in 2018.

What’s the repayments rate?

6% of income over £21,000 per year. Combined with Masters loan debt.

When can I apply?

Applications will open in Spring / Summer 2018.

Further details of the scheme will be finalised ahead of its launch in 2018. 

Have a question? Take a look at our FAQs

Who is it for?

UK nationals aged 59 or under beginning their PhD in the 2018-19 academic year. You must not already hold qualifications at PhD level to be eligible for the loan.

Loans cannot be combined with Research Council funding, NHS funding or other direct Government funding, but can be combined with university funding or funding from other sources.

Will my course be eligible?

Any qualification at level 8 of the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK-Degree Awarding Bodies should be eligible for a loan, though an official comprehensive list will likely be made available prior to the loan being launched.

The PhD loan will be applicable to all subjects, disciplines, research areas or topics.

Does the loan cover part-time study?

The plans for the loan do not currently distinguish between full-time and part-time courses, therefore it is expected that part-time students will be eligible for the loan.

How much will the loan cover?

The doctoral loan will be up to £25,500. You can borrow any amount up to the limit of £25,500 regardless of your financial background.

Is the loan means tested?

No, you can apply for any amount up to the full amount (£25,500) regardless of your financial background, similar to the Masters loan.

Do I have to use the loan to pay the tuition fees?

The loan will come directly to you, not the university, so you can use it to cover tuition fees or living costs, again similar to the Masters loan.

How will I repay the loan?

You will repay 6% of income over £21,000 per year once you have completed the course. This will be combined with Masters loan debt, so you will only make one repayment every month. Regardless of how many student loans you have, you should only ever repay up to 15% of your annual income over the £21,000 threshold.

Will they charge interest on the loan?

Yes, the PhD will have interested added to it, similar to other student loans. The amount of interest you will pay has not yet been confirmed, though it is likely that the amount will be similar to the master’s loan, which is the retail price index (RPI) +3%. This rate will be better than an equivalent commercial loan. Interest will begin accruing as soon as your first loan payment is made.

Can repayment terms and interest rates change?

Potentially. The government plans to fix repayment rates until April 2021. Interest rates can change year-on-year, based on the Retail Prices Index (which is a measure of inflation).

What if I already have a loan?

Other government student loans won't affect your eligibility for the PhD loan. If you already hold a PhD or an equivalent (level 8) qualification, you will not be eligible for the UK government PhD loan, however MPhil graduates can apply.

Will I be able to receive a loan for a PhD offered within the Centre for Doctoral Training?

Many UK PhDs are now offered within Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs). These are consortia of universities that collaborate to fund and support PhD research. They normally do so with the support of Research Council funding.

The PhD loans won't be available to students with a Research Council studentship. This means that you can't receive a PhD loan if your doctorate is funded within a CDT.

However, that doesn't mean you can't use a loan to support yourself as an otherwise self-funding student within one of these university consortia (and benefit from the structured training, shared facilities and ongoing research aims they provide). It's simply that you won't be able to receive a Research Council studentship to do so.

What about Government loans from other countries?

Wales has also suggested it will introduce a similar PhD loan, possibly creating up to 150 fully-funded PhD studentships for its own students in the 2018-19 academic year. Northern Ireland also has plans for its own PhD loan, but they haven’t set a start date as yet.

The UK Government is considering making EU students eligible for the loan, though this will be determined by the Brexit negotiations.

Will my PhD proposal be taken into account?

No. The decision to offer you a loan won't be based on the nature of the topic you intend to research or the quality of your proposal. However, you will need to have been accepted to study a PhD at a UK university and application materials such as your research proposal or interview will be an important part of this process.

What if my PhD programme also awards a Masters degree?

Some PhD courses also include 'integrated' Masters qualifications such as an MRes or an MPhil. This is fine, but the qualification you receive a loan for must be your stated 'exit qualification' and this must be at PhD-level.

As such, you won't be able to apply for a PhD loan to only complete the Masters component of a doctoral programme. Nor will you be able to apply for an additional Masters loan on the basis that your PhD includes Masters-level work and qualifications

Will there be a cap on the number of loans available?

No. The Government's PhD loan consultation had suggested limiting the number of loan-funded PhD students each university can recruit. This proposal has been dropped based on feedback. The PhD loans will now be entirely 'demand led'. This means any student can receive a loan to study at any university, provided other eligibility criteria are met.

Who will be responsible for administering the loans?

PhD loans will be administered by the Student Loans Company. This is the same process as applies to English undergraduate and Masters loans.

Will I have to borrow the full £25,500?

No. £25,500 is simply the maximum amount you can borrow with a PhD loan. You will be able to apply for less than this, but you won't be able to borrow any more.

This should allow you to tailor your loan according to your personal circumstances and take account of any other PhD funding you have.