Postgraduate loan scheme details released

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The government has recently released the initial details for it’s Postgraduate Loan Scheme which will allow postgraduate students beginning their course in 2016 access to up to £10,000.

The loan will be available to all postgraduate students studying taught or research Master’s courses but will not be available for everyone, despite being non means-tested. This loan is only available to those who are residents in England as funding for postgraduates in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is a devolved matter. However, there will be no restrictions dependent on degree subject.

After the original plans for the loan only included those aged under 30 caused a stir the government decided to increase the upper age limit to 60 years old.

There are still some restrictions for students commencing their Master’s course in the 2016/2017 academic year. Students applying for the new loan scheme will have to be under 60 years old, studying a full-time, part-time (at least 50% of a full-time course) or a distance-learning course. Students who have already completed a postgraduate course and have a Master’s qualification will not be eligible to apply.

The repayment scheme is similar to that of the current undergraduate repayment scheme where students will not make payments until a salary of £21,000 is being earned. Repayments will also be delayed until 2019 meaning that students who begin their study in the upcoming academic year will not begin the repayment of their postgraduate loan until two years after completing their course, regardless of their salary.

The current plans for repayment are in line with the undergraduate loan scheme where it will be charged at 6% of annual income over £21,000. This is lower than had originally been discussed.

The interest rate on the postgraduate loan scheme will be the Retail Price Index (RPI) + 3%.

The original announcement created a lot of media coverage because it is the first time the government has introduced a loan scheme to cover postgraduates. The scheme has received mixed feedback since it’s first announcement back in 2014.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, told The Times Higher Education that the details for the introduction of the postgraduate loan scheme are “welcome and better than many people feared”.

Sally Hunt, the General Secretary for the University and College Union, disagreed with Hillman saying that the government’s main solution seemed to be “extending loans and loading more debt onto students”.

Hunt continued: “This approach will lead to the poorest paying most for their education”

Photograph: Sammie Caine
Photograph: Sammie Caine

During the Christmas break the University sent out a letter to all final year students asking them if they had considered taking postgraduate degree. This letter also included details of the new postgraduate loan scheme in the aim of making students aware of the funding that is now on offer.

The new loan scheme is expected to aid at least 40,000 postgraduates who will be beginning the next stages of their studies later this year. The full effects of the scheme, however, will not be seen until it is fully introduced and the government can examine how many more people have taken up postgraduate studies as a result of the scheme.

Full details of the scheme and the repayment system are expected in early 2016.

Further information on the postgraduate loan scheme and Lancaster postgraduate courses can be found here: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/

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