In the UK, the cost of postgraduate courses varies enormously. Expect tuition fees of £3k-£15k and living costs of around £12k per year. International students pay higher tuition fees than UK. Costs for EU students from the academic year 2021/22 onward depends on decisions made during the Brexit transition phase.
Many postgraduate students get money from multiple sources, for example, money from bursaries, part-time jobs, charitable trusts, private savings and loans. Funding bodies usually have strict eligibility criteria.
In the first instance establish how students normally fund the course you wish to apply for; course administrators and graduate admissions officers should be able to help with this. For general information on applying for funding see Prospects Postgraduate Funding Guide.
UK Postgraduate Masters Loans
England: Loans of up to £11,222 (2020/21) are now available to UK and EU students (subject to eligibility) for study at UK universities. These are not means-tested. Repayment begins after your postgraduate course ends, and only when your income exceeds a threshold amount. These loans are only available for students who do not already hold a masters degree. They are not available for students who have an integrated masters as part of their undergraduate study (eg via a 4-year science course) or for masters which are part of a PhD course. For full details see the UK government information on Masters loans and the useful overview of UK masters loans by Find A Masters.
Funding for postgraduate loans is different if you normally live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. In Scotland funding is administered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland. Student Finance Wales advise on funding in Wales and in Northern Ireland the relevant body is Student Finance Northern Ireland.
UK Postgraduate Doctoral Loans
Loans of up to £26,445 are available to UK and EU students. These are not means-tested. Repayment begins after your postgraduate course ends, and only when your income exceeds a threshold amount. Doctoral loans cannot be used to top-up funds from other UK government sources, for example a research council or NHS bursary. For full details see the UK government information on doctoral loans and a useful overview of doctoral loans by Find A PhD.
UK Research Councils (for research degrees)
Research Councils are the main public investors in fundamental research in the UK, with interests ranging from bio-medicine and particle physics to the environment, engineering and economic research.
Funding is allocated to university departments or to Doctoral Training Centres, who then nominate students to receive the awards. Most research councils also publish lists of courses and institutions that have received studentships in the past which may be useful as a guide. None of the research councils accept applications direct from students – you apply to the relevant university institution.
Eligibility, particularly in the types of courses funded, varies according to the relevant Research Council. Check the relevant information carefully.
Government bursaries for some NHS-related courses are available for Masters in Social Work courses and for Graduate Entry Medicine and Dentistry courses in the UK.
Disabled Student Allowance (DSA)
The Disabled Student Allowance provides up £20,580 (2020/21) for students diagnosed with a long term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulties to contribute to expenses incurred in accommodating that condition.
Scholarships & awards
Information about available scholarships for each course should be provided by the institution you are applying to. Explore their graduate admissions and departmental web-pages, and talk to your potential department. There are also a number of more general funding search engines – none are completely comprehensive, but all are worth a try:
Funding specific to Oxford University
Use the Oxford University graduate funding search to find details of funding options at Oxford. The Graduate Prospectus, The University of Oxford Gazette, also contain information about funding opportunities for those hoping to study at Oxford. In particular, The University Gazette publishes a supplement at the start of each academic year detailing scholarships, fellowships, studentships, grants and prizes. Oxford colleges also provide funding for many of their students.
Sponsorship by employers or other external organisations
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships allow graduates to be employed while working towards a postgraduate qualification (typically a DPhil) based on real projects in small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs). CASE, CASE-plus and Industrial CASE awards allow industrial partners to top-up research council grants for research students in science and engineering disciplines. They are available from NERC, EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC and STFC, though you should approach your department in the first instance.
This may be either within the university or outside it. These options may include research and graduate teaching assistantships, which are advertised in the educational press, in specialist journals, and on Jobs.ac.uk. Talk to your department about teaching opportunities. At Oxford and Cambridge you may get work giving tutorials to undergraduates through colleges. Oxford University’s Temporary Staffing Service may also be able to help.
Charitable Trusts are organisations that administer sums of money set aside by individuals or corporations to help specific kinds of people. They may be able to help with costs such as maintenance, fees, books, equipment, travel, childcare, field trips; however, resources are limited, and help, if any, is generally small scale. The charity's aims are likely to be very specific, e.g. they may help according to age, sex, nationality, religion, subject area and so on. There is no point applying unless you are sure that you fit their requirements.
There is no one source of information on charitable funding, so you will need to look a range of resources. Use the scholarship search engines listed above, and the books (available at the Careers Service) The Directory of Grant Making Trusts and The Grants Register.
Funding for non-UK EU Students
Students from the European Union are entitled to many of the sources of funding described above. Career Development Loans are available only to students in England, Wales and Scotland. Research Councils can award grants to cover the tuition fees but not the maintenance costs. You might also find Erasmus, and the UK Research Office helpful.
Funding for International Students
International students will find that they are ineligible for many of the sources of UK funding. However, many institutions offer scholarships specifically aimed at international students, see above. You may also find the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), the International Education Financial Aid, and The British Council helpful.
Impact of Brexit?
The UK government has guaranteed that EU students starting a degree in the UK in 2020-21 will pay the same fees as UK students and continue to have access to student loans and other funding for the duration of their courses. Arrangements beyond that depend on decisions made during the transition period.
The situation for UK students studying in the EU is not clear. The current withdrawal agreement allows UK students to continue on pre-Brexit terms until the end of 2020. If a no-deal Brexit occurs each EU country will then make its own decision about the rights of UK students.
The FindaMasters Brexit blog provides clear and up-to-date information on the likely impact of Brexit on postgraduate study.