The UK government PhD loan is for English-resident students looking to study PhD programmes. Any amount up to £27,265 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 doctoral qualifications in all subjects, lasting up to eight academic years.

How much can I borrow?

Up to £27,265, not means-tested.

Who is it for?

UK or EU nationals ordinarily resident in England (you didn't move here just to study) or EU students who meet certain criteria. Students must also be aged under 60 and not be in receipt of research council studentships.

Which universities?

Any UK university with the ability to award PhDs.

When are they available?

Available for the 2021/22 academic year.

How do I repay?

You’ll have to start repaying your loan when your income is over a certain amount (the ‘threshold’ amount).

You’ll be charged interest from the day you get the first payment.

When can I apply?

Applications can be made GOV.UK website.

Have a question? Take a look at our FAQs

Who is it for?

You can apply for the loan if you are a UK or EU national, or have 'settled status', so there are no restrictions on how long you can stay, and you are ordinarily resident in England (that is, you didn't move here just to study). You must also have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for three years before starting your course.

You may also be eligible for the loan if you are an EU national and you are living in England on the first day of the first year of your course, you have normally lived in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland for the past three years, and you will be studying at a university in England.

You may also be eligible if you are the child of a Swiss national or a Turkish worker, a refugee or a relative of one, an EEA or Swiss migrant worker (or a relative of one), under humanitarian protection or a relative of someone who has been granted it, or if you are 18 or over and have lived in the UK for at least 20 years or at least half your life.

Additionally, all students must be aged under 60 on the first day of the first academic year of your course and you must not already hold qualifications at PhD level. 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?

Part-time students are eligible to apply for the loan.

How much will the loan cover?

The doctoral loan will be up to £27,265. You can borrow any amount up to the limit of £27,265 regardless of your financial background.

Is the loan means-tested?

No, you can apply for any amount up to the full amount (£27,265) regardless of your financial background, similar to the master's 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 master's loan.

How will I repay the loan?

You’ll have to start repaying your loan when your income is over a certain amount (the ‘threshold’ amount).

You’ll be charged interest from the day you get the first payment.

Will they charge interest on the loan?

You’ll be charged interest from the day you get the first payment.

Interest is charged at the same rate as master's loans: RPI (the Retail Price Index) +3%.

Can repayment terms and interest rates change?

Potentially. 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 a 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 also.

What about government loans from other countries?

The Welsh Government are also offering a doctoral loan. Find out more on the Student Finance Wales website.

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 master's degree?

Some PhD courses also include 'integrated' master's 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 master's component of a doctoral programme. Nor will you be able to apply for an additional master's loan on the basis that your PhD includes master's-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 master's loans.

Will I have to borrow the full £27,265?

No. £27,265 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.