PhD loans are available in 2020/21 to help Doctoral students living in England or Wales pay for their course fees and living expenses
PhD loans at a glance
- Worth up to £26,445 for 2020/21.
- For UK nationals resident in England or Wales.
- Study at any UK university that awards PhDs.
- Repayments combined with Masters loans.
How much can I borrow?
With these government-backed postgraduate Doctoral loans, you can borrow any amount up to £25,000 if your course began before 1 August 2019, or £26,445 if it started on or after 1 August 2020.
PhD loans are not means-tested, so you can apply for the full amount regardless of your financial background. Also, the loan can be used however you like - to cover fees, other study-related costs or to help with your living expenses.
If you have a disability, you may be entitled to additional support in the form of Disabled Students' Allowances.
Am I eligible for a PhD loan?
- be a UK or European Union (EU) national ordinarily resident in England
- have lived in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for three years before starting the course
- be under the age of 60 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 can't get the loan if you began your PhD before the 2018/19 academic year.
Following Brexit negotiations, if you're an EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein national planning on starting a PhD course on or after 1 August 2021, you must gain settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to be eligible for student finance.
To discover whether you qualify for PhD funding, see GOV.UK - Doctoral loan eligibility.
Is my Doctorate eligible?
Most full and part-time PhD programmes, Professional Doctorates and PhDs 'upgraded' from Master of Philosophy (MPhil) are 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're studying for 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.
How do I apply?
Visit GOV.UK - Apply for a Doctoral loan for full details of how to apply for PhD funding via Student Finance England.
The deadline for Doctoral loan applications is nine months after the first day of the final academic year of your PhD - meaning you can still apply after you have started studying.
How will I receive my PhD loan?
Your loan will be paid in three instalments (33%, 33% and 34%) per academic year directly into your bank account by the Student Loans Company (SLC). It will be spread evenly across your studies.
You'll stop receiving your loan if you withdraw from your PhD or transfer to an ineligible programme, but you'll 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 (£1,750 per month before tax and other deductions). 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% (currently 5.6%).
Any outstanding balance will be written off 30 years after your loan first becomes due for repayment.
Be aware that if you have previously taken out a postgraduate loan to fund Masters-level study, this will be combined with your PhD loan. You'll therefore repay a single debt 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 - 9% for your undergraduate loan and 6% for your postgraduate/PhD loan.
What other PhD funding is available?
Remember that PhD loans cannot be combined with other public funding such as Research Council studentships or NHS funding.
PhD loans in Wales
In 2020/21, the Welsh government has confirmed that eligible students ordinarily resident in Wales are able to borrow up to £26,445 to study for a full or part-time PhD. As with the postgraduate Doctoral loan scheme for residents in England, it isn't means-tested.
If your course started in 2019/20, you can apply for a loan of up to £25,700.
Explore how and when to apply by visiting Student Finance Wales.
Doctoral funding in Scotland and Northern Ireland
PhD loans are not currently available in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but there are other options you can pursue in order to fund your education.
For instance, organisations such as The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and the Department for the Economy (DfE) offer a number of PhD scholarships to residents of Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.