Page:Postgraduate student funding

Postgraduate student funding

If you are planning to do a postgraduate course, you need to think about funding for your course well before you start.

The main sources of funding for UK postgraduate students are:

  • Postgraduate Loan for Masters courses from Student Finance England
  • New Doctoral Loans for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes from September 2018.
  • University and other scholarships
  • Professional and Career Development Loans
  • Student Loans for Teacher Training
  • NHS funding for certain Health Courses

Further details on these are provided below.

There are also some scholarships available to EU and international students.

The University has compiled detailed information on postgraduate funding, whether you are planning to study for a Taught Masters degree or a Research degree.

The government introduced Postgraduate loans for Masters courses starting on or after 1st August 2016. You can apply for a maximum of £10,609 (September 2018 figures) to help pay for your Masters studies.Entitlement is not dependant on your household income Please note: The amount you get is dependant on the year you started your course, and is subject to change on a yearly basis. For up to date figures please check the website.

You can get it for Part Time and Distance learning courses. Please note for Part Time courses, the maximum amount you can get still remains the same as the full time (as above), and it is spread equally across the duration of your course.

More details on Postgraduate Loans including eligibility and how to apply can be found on the government website here.

Postgraduate loans are paid directly to the student, so it is your responsibility to pay the fees to the university and set up an appropriate payment plan.

It is also important to remember that the maximum Postgraduate loan you can get is £10,609 (2018/19 rate), so it is not likely to be enough to cover both your tuition fees and living costs. Therefore, it is important to plan and budget how much money you will need before you start the course and plan how you will make up the shortfall after the Postgraduate loan, whether it be through savings, part time work or other sources of funding.


From September 2018, the government introduced Postgraduate Doctoral Loans for new Phd students. Full details, including eligibility, repayment and how to apply can be found on the government website

Some key features of the  Postgraduate Doctoral Loan include:

  • Available from 2018/19 for new PhD students. Existing PhD students registered before 1st August 2018 do not qualify.
  • You can get up to £25,000 for the duration of your course.
  • It is not dependant on household income
  • You can get it for Part Time and Distance learning courses. Please note for Part Time courses, the maximum amount you can get still remains the same as the full time (£25,000), and it is spread equally across the duration of your course.

To be eligible, you must:

  • be a UK national ordinarily resident in England.
  • be aged 59 or under on the first day of the first academic year of your course.
  • Not previously hold a Doctoral degree.
  • 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.
  • Be registered on a full standalone Doctoral Course

Again it is a important to remember that the maximum Postgraduate Doctoral Loan you can get is £25,000 for the whole course, so it is not likely to be enough to cover both your tuition fees and living costs. Therefore, it is important to plan and budget how much money you will need before you start the course and plan how you will make up the shortfall after the Postgraduate loan, whether it be through savings, part time work or other sources of funding (Although you are not entitled to the loan if you get any form of Research Council funding).

The University of Sheffield offers over 100 scholarships worth £10,000 each for home students starting a taught postgraduate course in  September 2018.

The scholarships are for students who meet at least one of the widening participation criteria and/or students who achieve a first in their undergraduate degree. If your application is successful you can use the scholarship towards fees or living expenses.

You can apply for a scholarship if you meet the following four criteria:

  • Studying a taught postgraduate course full-time or part-time for a maximum of four years.
  • Living in the UK or European Union (EU) and not charged international rate fees.
  • Not already qualified at masters level, or higher.
  • Must be self funding - courses fully funded by the NHS or the Initial Teacher Training bursary, or courses that are eligible for undergraduate funding such as integrated masters are not eligible.

And one or both of the following:

For more details on eligibility criteria, application details and the selection process please visit the university webpage here.

There are also a range of other scholarships available from the university and external sources for postgraduate studies. For further details please visit the university scholarships webpage.

Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDL) are bank loans that can be used to fund your Postgraduate study. Your course must only last up to 2 years, or 3 years if they include 1 year of work experience.

If your application is approved, you may be able to borrow between £300 and £10,000.

Loans are usually offered at a reduced interest rate and the government pays interest while you’re studying. You start repaying the loan (plus interest at a reduced rate) 1 month after leaving your course.

Repayments are not based on a minimum income threshold, and you still have to repay your loan even if you don’t complete the course or your course provider goes out of business.

Please note: this loan scheme is now coming to an end. The final date for applications will  be 25th Jan 2019. After this no new applications for Career Development Loans will be accepted.

To find out more about eligibility criteria and how to apply please click here.

University of Sheffield offers a postgraduate course in initial teacher training – Postgraduate Diplomas in Education (PGDE). They also offer Schools Direct PGDE.

The fees for both Teacher Training courses are equivalent to undergraduate fees. You can apply for a tuition fee loan from Student Finance England to pay your fees in the same way that undergraduate students can. You can also apply for a Maintenance Loan in the same way.

You may also be eligible for a bursary or scholarship, depending on the subject area that you are training in. You can find more details about this funding on the Department for Education website.

Certain courses such as MA Social Work  may attract bursary from the NHS to help with fees and funding. However this is subject to continuous change, so it is advised for you to check the course webpage for up to date information.

From August 2017, the government phased out NHS bursaries and replaced the funding for the relevant coruses with loans from Student Finance England. The MMedSci in Nursing (Previously Postgraduate Diploma) is one of these affected courses. Please visit your course webpage for up to date details about the relevant funding if you are not sure.

For further information on how this relates to your course, please contact the relevant academic department or a money adviser at the Student Advice Centre.

Postgraduate students who are studying on a course for at least one year are eligible to apply for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

DSA helps to pay for any extra study-related costs which you incur at University due to an illness or disability. This includes mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

DSA can help with the costs of:

• support workers like specialist study skills tutors, support and guidance mentors or sign language interpreters

• specialist equipment you need for studying, like digital recorders or computers and assistive software

• travel to and from University

For more examples of the kinds of support which students can be funded for through DSA see the following University Disability & Dyslexia Support Service's webpage.

The DSA application support and delivery is provided by the University Disability & Dyslexia Support Service. Please contact DDSS for further information with regards to your individual situation and assistance in applying.

If you are a home PhD student and you have finished your full time study, you may be able to claim benefits while you are writing up. You must be writing up on a part time basis to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support or Employment and Support Allowance if you are not fit for work.

Please note: Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support are administered by the Local Authority that you reside in. The above links for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support are for Sheffield City Council, for people living in Sheffield. If you are not living in Sheffield, you will need to apply for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support from your Local Authority.

Most students are simply registered as writing up. You will need to show that you are not required to attend full time if this is the case in order to claim benefits. Your department or the Research & Innovation Services should be able to provide confirmation of this.

Postgraduate students that have dependent children are able to claim benefits if you meet the other eligibility requirements of the benefit. Examples of benefits you may be able to claim (and links to the information and application pages):

  • Tax Credits (Child and Working Tax). You can also use the Tax Credits calculator to help determine your eligibility and entitlement.
  • Child Benefit
  • Income Support if you are a single parent with the care of a child under the age of 5 or You’re studying on a part-time course and you’re a lone parent, disabled or don’t get support from your parents.
  • Housing Benefit from your local authority to help towards your rent.
  • Universal Credit a universal umbrella benefit to help with living costs,. It incorporates all the above in one single benefit. Please note: Universal Credit is now replacing Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and Tax Credits. The roll out has started across the country. You will need to check online if Universal Credit is rolled out in your area to determine whether to apply for the benefits individually or just Universal Credit.
  • Jobseekers Allowance in the long vacation if you are a single parent or you are part of a student couple with children looking for work. You can claim Jobseekers Allowance if you are studying a part time course and are available and looking for work. Some restrictions apply, however, and if and your course hours fall within your ‘pattern of availability’ for work, you may be required to give up your course to take up available employment. Please note: the majority of these benefits are means tested benefits (Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance) and dependant on your income. Student income is also taken into consideration for the means tested benefits. 30% of the Postgraduate Masters Loan is taken into consideration as income for means tested benefits. Even if you don’t take out the full loan, the deduction is applied to the full loan you are entitled to.
  • Childcare - If you do not qualify for the Childcare Element of Working Tax Credits, and you are struggling with childcare cost you may be able to apply for a nursery subsidy if your child attends the university nursery or financial support toward the cost of childcare if they are cared for elsewhere (NB this would include breakfast, after school and holiday clubs for older children).

If you are pregnant or recently given birth, you may be entitled to additional funding. Please click on the links below for more information:

You can use the Maternity Benefits Calculator to help work out which, if any maternity support, you are entitled to.

  • If you are a Postgraduate Research student, and are not entitled to any other funding during your maternity leave including those mentioned above, and you funder/sponsor if you have one) will not pay any support in your maternity leave, you may be eligible for a maternity assistance payment from the university to allow you to take some maternity leave.
  • Sponsored / funded Postgraduate Research Students. Many sponsors / funders will continue funding students with living costs in their maternity leave for a set period of time. Please contact your funding administrator for further details.

1. The University offers a Carers bursary for postgraduate students who have recognised caring responsibilities for an ill or disabled family member to assist with support for study costs.

You will need to provide evidence of your caring responsibilities, which include any of the following:

  • Carers Allowance most recent award letter even though you may no longer be receiving it as a student, however the most recent award letter prior to coming to university will confirm your carers status.
  • If you are not able to provide this you can must provide evidence detailing your role in the care of your relative. This will need to be on headed notepaper from one of the following sources:
    • Carer's Support Group
    • Social Services / Local Authority
    • Your relative's NHS or Private Support Worker

For more information on the carers bursary from the university, including how to apply, please click here.

2. Carers allowance: You can’t usually claim carers allowance if you’re a full-time student (classed as studying for 21 hours or more a week or more (this includes supervised study and things like coursework and experiments, not just time spent with a tutor).

If you are on a part time course for less than 21 hours a week, and you have caring responsibilities for an ill or disabled family member/ other person for over 35 hours a week, you may be able to claim Carers Allowance.

If you are under the age of 25 on the first day of your course, UK home student, and you are estranged from your parents you may be entitled to additional support from the university to help with the cost of your studies by way of the estranged students bursary.

To be classed as an Estranged student, you would have to be:

Irreconcilably estranged from both parents

By 'irreconcilably estranged' it would mean that either:

  • You have had no contact at all with both your parents for at least 12 months and this is unlikely to change. This can include students who have been in care.
  • You have recently become estranged from both your parents in exceptional circumstances, and there is no chance of reconciliation. This can include students whose parents have both died or one parent has died and they are estranged from the other.

You would need to provide a supporting letter with your application from a professional person that knows and confirm your circumstances. This can be a social worker, teacher, nurse, doctor, minister etc.

For more information on the estranged students bursary from the university, including how to apply, please click here.

Students registered at the University of Sheffield that come into unforeseen financial difficulty can apply to the university Financial Support Fund for a hardship grant to help ease their financial difficulty. This is a one off grant that does not need to be repaid, which you can only apply once in an academic year. You must demonstrate that you are in financial hardship and that it was unforeseen.

Please note; as this is a hardship fund, each application will be assessed on need, and often an award or only very small award can be made due to limited funds, so it cannot be used as a shortfall or min source of funding.

Below are links to other resources for potential funding sources if you are facing financial difficulty:

Funding for international students is very limited, and students are expected to secure their full maintenance and tuition fee funding before they arrive in the UK.

If you are international financial student in financial hardship, please see the above section 'Students in financial hardship' for details on potential funding sources.

You may also find our webpage ‘Funding for International Students’ useful.

For general details on postgraduate funding available (including for EU students), please visit the university's postgraduate funding table and general information on postgraduate funding page

If you are an EU student resident in England, you may be eligible for a Postgraduate Loan to help with the cost of your Masters course. Please visit the website for more information.

For Postgraduate students studying the PGDE, if you meet the eligibility criteria for student finance as explained above you can apply for tuition fee support and/maintenance support. If you are studying Medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, architecture, social work, courses which attract an NHS bursary and Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses as a second degree you may be able to get a maintenance loan for living costs from Student Finance England. Please contact us for further information if this applies to you.

Please note, this advice will be rapidly changing as BREXIT starts in the near future, therefore if you are not sure on your situation please come and see a money adviser at the Student Advice Centre.

As well as disabled students allowance, Home students with illnesses or disabilities may be entitled to additional money from the government due to their health condition.

These are (click on the links for further information including how to apply) :

  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit depending on where you live. If you are a full time student and are in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, you would qualify for Employment and Support Allowance and be treated this in full and should be classed as having limited capability for work without requiring a further medical assessment.

Please note; Employment and Support Allowance is usually means tested, which means the amount you get depends on your household income. Student funding oil be included in this. If you are a Postgraduate Masters Student and are entitled to a Masters loan (even if you haven’t taken it out), the DWP would include 30% of your master’s loan eligibility as income for the ESA calculation.

Our money advisers at the Student Advice Centre can assist you with the applications and the forms for these benefits, and even attend medical assessment for the benefit if you require this additional support.

If you would like support in applying for one of these benefits or want to discuss them further, please make and appointment to see a money adviser at the Student Advice Centre.

Last updated: October 2018