Financing your LLM or MA in law
There are a range of different options for funding postgraduate legal study
Funding is a hot topic in challenging times for postgraduate recruitment. There are no mandatory awards for postgraduate study in law and fees for a full-time LLM or MA in law tend to be around £5,000 for UK/EU students but are higher at certain institutions.
Most merit-based awards require at least a 2.1 or equivalent at undergraduate level, and competition for awards can be fierce, so putting time into researching and writing your funding applications is key.
University funding for postgraduate students
To entice postgraduate students, particularly with cuts to research council funding, most universities have increased the level of funding they offer, particularly larger institutions.
Awards from universities covering the LLM or MA in law can be subject specific like the University of Edinburgh’s Binks Trust Scholarships, or wider awards for all masters level students, such as the Academic Merit Scholarship from UWE.
Check law school and law department websites as well as the main university fees and funding pages for any awards or prizes or scholarship partnerships: The University of Law has an LLM scholarship scheme in conjunction with the International Bar Association. The Canon Collins Trust offers scholarships to candidates on the University of London’s LLM by distance learning.
Alumni discounts and specialist awards
Many universities offer alumni tuition fee discounts (that aren’t wholly based on merit or financial need) to students continuing their studies at the same institution and some are available for graduates from other universities with links through relatives.
There are also non-subject specific awards such as those for excellence in sport or music to investigate.
It’s advisable to make an early start to investigating university funding on offer, particularly in cases where it’s only possible to apply for the award with a confirmed offer of a course place. Closing dates on university funding can vary quite considerably – and some only remain open while funding is available.
Smaller charities and hardship funds with limited resources often only offer awards to candidates who can show that they’ve exhausted other possibilities. Being able to show that you’ve actively pursued university funding early will work in your favour if you’re taking a portfolio approach.
Charities, grants and professional funding
Several publications provide listings of grant-making charities, trusts and funding bodies. Your careers service or main library should have copies:
- The Grants Register (Palgrave Macmillan)
- Directory of Grant Making Trusts (Directory of Social Change)
- The Guide to Educational Grants (Directory of Social Change)
- Information about research council awards from the AHRC or ESRC if you’re thinking about the LLM with a view to a PhD (this is rarer these days for stand-alone masters courses).
You should also look at the Turn2us website – which has funding search facilities.
If you are choosing an LLM to specialise in a specific area, for example, human rights or conflict and disaster management contact charities and societies with specialist knowledge in that specific area. Even if they don’t offer funding themselves, they may well be able to make suggestions or pass you on to contacts in a position to make suggestions.
Some legal organisations run essay competitions on various areas of law (prizes can be substantial for larger awards) such as the UK Environmental Law Association’s Andrew Lees Prize, The Times and One Essex Court’s essay competition, or the Law Society’s Graham Turnball award.
Loans for postgraduate tuition fees
Currently, postgraduate students are not eligible for loans from the Student Loans Company – although a loan scheme for taught masters courses should be in the pipeline (the details are still being finalised).
- Professional and career development loans (PCDLs) – currently offered by the Cooperative Bank and Barclays and supported by the government. These are commercial loans of between £300-£10,000, to pay for courses or training related to work/your career. The government pays the interest for you while you’re taking the course.
- Private student finance – several finance companies specialise in postgraduate student finance and offer loans for tuition fees and living costs such as Future Finance.
- While not a conventional loan as such, many universities allow self-funding students to pay a deposit and the rest of the tuition fees in instalments. Check with individual universities for their specific arrangements.
- The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) offers Scottish domiciled students tuition fee and living cost loans for eligible courses at particular institutions.
Depending on your individual circumstances, you could be eligible for parents learning allowance, disabled students’ allowance or childcare grants. For more information visit www.gov.uk
Postgraduate teaching posts are a useful way to earn some money and fees can sometimes be offset against earnings. On-campus jobs can also be a useful way of raising funds.
If you are taking up part-time work, make sure that your university will allow you to do so during term time. If planning to work on a student visa, stay within the specified arrangements to avoid visa cancellation (currently 20 hours a week during term-time for full-time students).
Funding help for international students
Additional options for international law students include:
- The British Council’s Education UK website has a funding search for international students applying to study law in the UK.
- There are also a number of schemes for postgraduates from different countries – including Erasmus+ and the CSC.
- Contact your Ministry of Education or local British Council office to find out more about awards that could be available while you’re studying in the UK.
- Check the international students section of university websites for country specific awards on offer to postgraduate students administered by the university’s international student offices.