If you're ineligible for a postgraduate loan, a Professional and Career Development Loan (PCDL) could give your career the kick-start it needs

What is a career development loan?

The PCDL is a commercial loan offered at a reduced interest rate by The Co-operative Bank to help with the cost of training for your career. The interest is paid by the government while you study.

These loans for postgraduate students are worth between £300 and £10,000. They can be used towards tuition fees, study costs and living expenses - but you must provide evidence of what you're borrowing the money for.

The loan can cover up to 80% of your course fees, or all of the fees if you're unemployed. It can also pay for other relevant costs (such as books, equipment, childcare and travel expenses) as well as living expenses.

The contribution towards tuition fees will be paid to your university or training provider in instalments, while the rest will be paid directly to you. You should discuss how this will work with the bank.

Am I eligible for a PCDL?

Regular bank loans are widely available but they're nowhere near as favourable to students as the PCDL and often come with more complicated eligibility criteria.

To qualify for a PCDL you must:

  • be aged 18 or over
  • be a British citizen
  • have lived in the UK for at least three years before your course starts
  • plan to work in the UK, European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) when your course ends
  • not be receiving any other grants or state benefits that cover the same costs
  • not have savings over £16,000.
  • not had any County Court Judgments (CCJs), entered into any Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), or Trust Deeds, nor been declared bankrupt within the last 6 years.

Is my course eligible?

To be eligible for a PCDL, your course must help you get a job or make progress in your career, but it doesn't have to lead to a qualification. It should be no more than two years long, or three years if it includes a year of work experience.

The PCDL therefore covers many:

Your course provider has to be listed on the UK Register of Learning Providers. Check this with your university or training provider.

Before taking out a commercial loan, find out whether you are eligible for a government-backed postgraduate loan in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland as these have more favourable repayment terms.

You can't get a PCDL for a full-time first degree at undergraduate level. See student loans and finance for more information. Neither can you use a PCDL for a PhD as they take longer than two years. From 2018/19 you can consider a PhD loan instead.

How do I apply for a career development loan?

You should apply online via GOV.UK, bearing in mind that your course must start within eight weeks of your application being made. You'll need your National Insurance number, bank details and course information in order to complete the application form.

If your application is successful, you'll need to sign a credit agreement with the bank. The funds won't be released by the bank until your university or training provider has confirmed you've started studying.

When will I start repaying my PCDL?

You'll start making monthly repayments in the second month after your course ends (or after you leave the course early). You can repay your PCDL over one to five years, or in a single lump sum.

The loans have a representative APR of 9.9% and a fixed interest rate of 9.58%. Find out more about what these terms mean at The Co-operative Bank. The government pays the interest on your loan for the duration of your course, so it will only start accumulating a month after you finish studying.

Failing to repay a PCDL will have an impact on your credit rating.

Find out more