Government-backed, non-means-tested PhD loans worth up to £25,000 will be introduced from the 2018/19 academic year, to help Doctoral students to cover their tuition fees and living expenses
Much key information, including how students will apply for and receive the PhD loan, will be revealed following government consultation, with many of the following details also under discussion. Here's everything that we know…
Is my programme eligible for a PhD loan?
Under current proposals, almost all PhD programmes and Professional Doctorates at universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be eligible. There are no planned restrictions on certain subjects or programme lengths; this means that full-time, part-time and distance learning courses are covered.
PhDs that are 'upgraded' from a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) are eligible; so too are PhDs with an overseas placement, or joint PhDs delivered in partnership with an international university. However, time spent studying abroad may be capped at 50% of the programme's duration.
The only ineligible research-based qualifications are the standalone MPhil and the Master of Research (MRes), as these are covered by the Masters loan rather than the PhD loan.
Am I eligible?
Under current proposals, you must:
- be a UK national who has lived in England for the last three years for a reason other than study;
- not be receiving a full Research Council studentship, though those receiving a fees-only Research Council studentship or Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) will be eligible.
The latter of these two criterion means that most students pursuing PhD study within a Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) or Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) will be ineligible, since they're often funded by a full Research Council studentship.
How will I repay my PhD loan?
When taken out by students who haven't previously taken out a Masters loan, the PhD loan will be repaid concurrently with the undergraduate student loan on an income-contingent basis at a rate of 9% on your earnings over £21,000.
However, students who have previously taken out a Masters loan will repay a single postgraduate debt amount of up to £35,000. Rather than making two separate repayments - 6% for the Masters loan and 9% for the PhD loan - they'll make only one 9% repayment. This will be repaid concurrently with the undergraduate student loan.
Interest rates will probably be set at retail price index (RPI) + 3%. This means that the interest charged will be the annually-reviewed RPI percentage, plus an additional 3%.
Your employer will take the repayments directly from your wage; 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.
What are the alternative methods of PhD funding?
Until PhD loans are activated, there are several other forms of PhD funding that you could consider. These include:
- scholarships and bursaries (such as the Graduate Teaching Assistantship);
- Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDLs);
- Research Council grants;
- employer sponsorship;
Students who receive such alternative forms of postgraduate funding will still be eligible for the PhD loan when introduced.