Following the announcement - although details are still to be finalised - of the loan scheme for English and EU masters students due to start in 2016, this raises a question: if you think you will qualify for the loan in 2016, is it better to start your study in 2015, or to wait for the loan scheme in 2016?
A loan can be a very good way of funding your study - but you may be eligible to apply for a new, one-off scheme which will see funding awards made available for study starting in 2015 only. And if you wait for 2016, the cost of courses may have risen in the meantime.
In the autumn of 2014, some students started masters study funded through a new HEFCE postgraduate masters support scheme. For 2015 this scheme has been continued, with awards - rather than loans - of £10,000 each being made available through Universities for award to students. In each case the £10,000 would be paid for half by HEFCE, and half by the University concerned - and the University's half may take the form of a reduction in fees.
Each University will have a maximum number of awards it can offer, and funding may already have been announced, or will be announced soon, by participating Universities. Most UK Universities will have some awards to allocate but the number on offer will be different for each University.
The funding will be offered, in each University, to students who are in some way under-represented in masters level study at that University: for example to disabled students, to students who are the first in their family to attend University, or to women in subjects where fewer women study at postgraduate level such as engineering. These are just a few examples of criteria that Universities can use and it will vary by University so you will need to look at each announcement carefully, but the core criteria that all students must satisfy are:
- students must be progressing on from an undergraduate course for which they were charged the higher tuition fee applying since 2012 - generally £9,000 per year.
- students must be undertaking masters courses in any subject, studying full-time or part-time for a maximum of two years
- students must be officially living in the UK or European Union (EU)
In total, the government is planning to spend £50 million on this scheme for entry in 2015 for students, so there will be a substantial number of awards made available, as long as the individual Universities can match whatever the government is making available to them.
Universities will probably advertise this funding on their own and other websites like www.PostgraduateStudentships.co.uk in the first few months of 2015 - so if you think you might qualify, it may well be worth looking out for these awards, rather than waiting for the loan scheme in 2016.