On 3 December 2014, in his Autumn Statement Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans to introduce government-backed postgraduate loans from 2016/17. The proposals expect to bring an additional 10,000 students into postgraduate study in England.

Worth up to £10,000, the 2016/17 postgraduate loans will be offered in any master’s subject, but eligibility will be restricted to students under the age of 30 who are either resident in England studying in the UK or EU students studying at universities in England. The loans will be available to both part-time and full-time students but will be repaid concurrently with undergraduate loans.

There will be a consultation ahead of the final loan details, but they could be charged at a higher rate than undergraduate loans, while remaining below commercial rates.

Prior to the introduction of the 2016/17 postgraduate loans, the majority of postgraduate courses have not received any support through government-backed funding. There are some exceptions to this, including PGCE teacher training courses, postgraduate Social Work and certain NHS-funded qualifications, but for other subject areas postgraduate students have often had to search and compete for scholarships and bursaries or consider funding their studies themselves.

The Winners

Eligible students will have the option to apply for government-backed loans to progress to a postgraduate course from September 2016. In an increasingly competitive graduate jobs market, postgraduate study can enable graduates to develop their knowledge and skills further or to specialise in a niche area related to their undergraduate degree subject. Carefully selecting postgraduate courses which are relevant to a particular career outcome or industry sector could give students a competitive advantage when applying for jobs in that sector and distinguishing themselves from other candidates. For many students for whom securing funding is a deciding factor in whether they can consider studying at postgraduate level at all, the loans are likely to be a welcome sight – as long as they are able to meet the eligibility criteria.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) will have the opportunity to attract a greater number of students to a wider range of postgraduate subjects than may have previously been the case if the new loans succeed in widening access to postgraduate courses for students who may have found obstacles they faced with funding made studying prohibitive.

Employers will also benefit from a growing number of graduates who have upskilled or developed additional knowledge through postgraduate studies before applying for jobs with them. For employers who already have graduates within their workforce, there is potentially the incentive to support a request from employees who will be eligible for the new 2016/17 loans if the burden of fees can be absorbed by the employee.

The Losers

Students who will be over 30 at the time the loans come into force will still face the same challenges in seeking out funding opportunities as they do now. Students who are resident in England but who are studying outside the UK will not be able to apply for the new loans irrespective of their age.

This need not be a show-stopper and prospective students should be encouraged that scholarships or bursaries may be available for postgraduate courses if they are not eligible for the new postgraduate loans. Funding sources, types and availability can vary depending upon the subject area of proposed study. Prospective students are advised to research what’s potentially available in advance to find out when they will need to apply for this type of funding in relation to the course intake they may be applying to join. Further information about seeking this type of funding opportunities for postgraduate study can be found on the Prospects website.

New postgraduate scholarships for 2015/16

There’s never been a better time to study a postgraduate course at Birmingham City University. A Master’s level award can help you stand out from the crowd in a competitive job market, earn a better wage and secure roles which are only open to postgraduates

And there are now more ways than ever to find financial support! We’re aiming to make a postgraduate qualification affordable to everyone and can offer awards of up to £10,000 to selected students.

Find out more

Help for prospective Birmingham City University students

You can speak to our course advisors at our postgraduate open day on Wednesday 22 April for help and information about postgraduate study. Find out more.

You can also contact our Course Enquiries Team by calling us on 0121 331 5595 or completing our online enquiry form.

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Shona McQuillan

Senior adviser and manager of the Course Enquiries Team at Birmingham City University.

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