For the first time in 2018/19, PhD loans worth up to £25,000 will be available to help Doctoral students cover their fees and living expenses
PhD loans at a glance
- Available from 2018/19 for new PhD students.
- Worth up to £25,000.
- For UK nationals resident in England.
- Study at any UK university that awards PhDs.
- Repay 6% of income over £21,000 per year.
How much can I borrow?
You'll be able to borrow any amount up to the maximum of £25,000. PhD loans will not be means-tested, so you can apply for the full amount regardless of your financial background.
The loan can be used however you like - to pay fees, other study-related costs or to help with your living expenses.
Am I eligible for a PhD loan?
- be a UK national ordinarily resident in England
- be aged 59 or under on the first day of the first academic year of your course
- not already hold a PhD or equivalent qualification
- not be receiving a Research Council studentship (including fees-only), NHS funding or other government finance towards your PhD.
You won't be able to get the loan if you began your PhD before 2018/19. It is intended only for those starting their PhD from that year onwards.
The government has not yet announced whether European Union (EU) nationals will be eligible for the PhD loan. This information will be made available ahead of the 2018/19 academic year.
Is my Doctorate eligible?
Most PhD programmes, Professional Doctorates and PhDs 'upgraded' from Master of Philosophy (MPhil) will be eligible, provided they are hosted by a UK university.
Your programme must last at least three years and no longer than eight years. There are no restrictions on what subject you can study and your PhD proposal will not be assessed as part of your loan application.
PhDs by publication are not eligible because they do not involve an active period of studying. You also can't get a PhD loan for a research Masters degree such as an MRes or a standalone MPhil - for these you should apply for a postgraduate loan instead.
If you are studying a PhD within a Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) or Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), your eligibility depends on whether your research is funded by a Research Council studentship. If it is, you won't be able to get a loan.
A full list of eligible courses will be published by the government ahead of the 2018/19 academic year.
How do I apply?
Details of how to apply will be made available in spring/summer 2018 before applications open for the 2018/19 academic year.
How will I receive my PhD loan?
Your PhD loan will be paid in instalments directly into your bank account by the Student Loans Company (SLC).
You will stop receiving your loan if you withdraw from your PhD or transfer to an ineligible programme, but you will still be liable to repay what you have borrowed.
When do I start repaying my loan?
Repayments will start once you have completed your PhD and you're earning at least £21,000 per year. You'll pay at a rate of 6% of your income over this threshold, which is frozen until at least 2021.
If you're employed, your repayments will be taken out of your salary automatically on a monthly basis. If you're self-employed, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will calculate how much you must repay on completion of your annual self-assessment tax return.
You'll be charged interest on your loan from the date you receive the first instalment from the SLC. This will be calculated at the retail price index (RPI) +3%, meaning that that the interest accrued will be the annually-reviewed RPI percentage, plus an additional 3%.
Any outstanding balance will be written off 30 years after your loan first becomes due for repayment. Full details of repayment terms will be published in advance of the loans opening for applications.
Be aware that if you have previously taken out a postgraduate loan of up to £10,280 to fund Masters-level study, this will be combined with your PhD loan. You'll therefore repay a single debt of up to £35,280 (plus interest) at a rate of 6% of your income over £21,000.
However, debt from your undergraduate student loan is paid concurrently rather than combined. This means you may find yourself repaying up to 15% of your income over £21,000, i.e. 9% for your undergraduate loan and 6% for your postgraduate/PhD loan.
What other PhD funding is available?
Other sources of PhD funding include:
Remember that when PhD loans become available in 2018/19, they cannot be combined with other public funding such as Research Council studentships or NHS funding.
PhD loans in Wales
In July 2017, the Welsh government announced that it intended to introduce a Doctoral loans scheme from 2018/19. Eligible students who are ordinarily resident in Wales will be able to borrow up to £25,000 to study for a PhD. As with its English counterpart, this loan will not be means-tested. More information will be available in the spring/summer of 2018.