Paying your own way – self-funding your postgraduate course

Paying your own way

Competition for places on fully-funded courses can be fierce, and these places are more likely to be for longer research courses, rather than shorter courses or masters programmes. So many students will self-fund their course fees and living costs themselves, or in conjunction with a university tuition fee discount or bursary.

This doesn’t mean that you need to save all of the money yourself before you begin your course. There are several finance options for postgraduate students, as well as support from charities and other organisations.

Postgraduate loans for masters courses

For courses starting after 1 August 2016, there are government-backed postgraduate loans for masters students.

Loans of up to £10,000 for tuition fees and living costs are available for students taking a course that leads to a masters qualification at a UK university. The loans are open to students under 60 who don’t already have an equivalent qualification (or higher).

Education is a devolved issue in the UK, so currently these loans are only available to students normally resident in England, or elsewhere in the EU. The hope is that Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will introduce similar schemes for postgrad students.

Find out more about student and course eligibility and repayment.

Professional and careers development loan

Money saved or loaned by friends and family can also be topped up with a professional and careers development loan (PCDL) of between £300 and £10,000.

The loans are available for anyone over 18 and living in the UK (find out more about eligibility), for two years – or three if work for a year is included as part of the course.

During that time the government picks up the tab for the interest on the loan, until a month after you finish studying, then it’s up to you. The interest charged should be about the same as a commercially available high-street loan, and of course, you’re able to shop around to see whether another replacement loan might leave you financially better off when that time comes.

The Co-operative Bank currently offers the PCDL (Barclays stopped accepting new applications in July). For more information and an application pack, contact the National Careers Service who will send you the particulars.

Bank loans and specialist student finance

A number of banks offer graduate loans that often come at a more favourable rate than the standard products that you might be eligible for when you’ve just finished university. HSBC offers its current account customers a graduate loan at 3.3% APR when borrowing between £5,000–£25,000 for example.

Metro Bank has a partnership with The University of Law, offering professional studies loans of between £1,000–£25,000 to GDL, LPC and BPTC students. The loans can be used towards course and living expenses and there are no early repayment fees, but there is an arrangement fee of £299.

Specialist private student finance firm Future Finance offers loans of between £500–£40,000 for tuition fees and living costs. You will need to make repayments while you study, but those payments are set at a lower rate to make them more affordable.

Future Finance lends money to UK, EU and overseas students (with a UK resident as a guarantor) studying part time or full time at an accredited UK university. The average rate is 11.2% variable, making it a more expensive option than a government-backed student loan – but much cheaper than propping up your finances with a typical credit card or pay day loan if you’ve maxed out other possibilities and need an injection of funds.

MBA loan scheme

Many MBA students are self-financing and the Association of MBAs Loan Scheme helped to cover hefty MBA fees.

Regrettably this rather useful source of funding is no longer available to those taking an MBA. At the moment there isn’t another AMBA recommended product to take its place. The association’s current advice is ‘to talk to your bank about what personal loans are available’.