Postgraduate doctoral loans: Government Response to Consultation


Postgraduate doctoral loans: Government Response to Consultation

Following the Government’s technical consultation on doctoral loans last year, the Government has today published its response as part of Budget 2017. This announcement confirms the Government’s intention to introduce doctoral loans of up to £25,000 for the 2018/19 academic year for eligible students on eligible courses.

Gill Clarke, Vice Chair of UKCGE said,

The Department for Education’s welcome decision to introduce doctoral loans recognises the huge contribution made by doctoral students to the UK’s research base and is a significant step forward in attracting applications from those who would otherwise not have considered such a commitment. The 59 and under’ age restriction, together with a maximum course length of eight years to provide realistic completion goals for part-time students, reflect the importance of supporting flexible study arrangements for diverse applicants.’

Dan Pearson, Chair of the UKCGE PG Funding Working Group said,

Confirmation that the government will launch the Doctoral Loans in 2018/19 was welcome in the recent Chancellor’s statement. Some changes to the original proposals have also been made in response to sector representations, most notably the extension of the length of the loan from six to eight years and the reduction in repayment terms from 9% to 6%. Both changes will have a real affect on students’, particularly those undertaking part-time study, perceptions of the attractiveness of these loans. The Government has committed to providing further information regarding students who are already in receipt of public funding and their eligibility for the loans. Given the variety of funding sources available through government, the proposal to exclude students in receipt of government funding was an area where the Sector requested further clarification – this will be published in advance of the 2018/19 launch date.

The UKCGE will work with members and other colleagues within the HE sector to ensure that there is clear IAG in place for students who are looking to access these loans”

You can access the full Government Response here.

You can also view the independent analysis of consultation responses here and the Department’s equality analysis here.

List of final features of the doctoral loan product 

This list includes the key features of the doctoral loan, which will be launched for the 2018/19 academic year. A complete list of the product’s terms and conditions and eligibility of students and courses for it will be made available in the SLC’s product guidance to students and HEIs. This will be available before the launch of the loan.

Loan Amount

1. Eligible individuals will be able to borrow up to £25,000 for the purpose of completing an eligible postgraduate doctoral qualification.


2. The loan is intended to be a contribution to the cost of doctoral study. The student can use the loan as they wish towards the cost of the qualification, whether on tuition, maintenance, or any other costs associated with study.

Individual Eligibility Criteria

3. Higher Education provision is a devolved matter for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and therefore UK nationals, or individuals with settled status in the UK, ordinarily resident in the Devolved Administrations will not be eligible for the loan. The eligibility of EU students for the doctoral loan will be announced by the Government ahead of the 2018/19 academic year.

4. The loan will be available for students ordinarily resident in England who wish to study in the Devolved Administrations.

5. Individuals will only be eligible for the loan if they are aged 59 or under on the first day of the first academic year of their course.

6. Individual eligibility will not be based on a means test.

7. Individuals already holding a doctoral qualification, an equivalent level qualification or a higher level qualification will not be eligible for the loan. Qualifications obtained outside the UK will be taken into account in determining an individual’s eligibility for the doctoral loan.

8. The loan will only be available to those starting an eligible level 8 qualification from Academic Year 2018/19.

Course Eligibility Criteria

9. The loan will be available for most Level 8 qualifications provided by a HEI with recognised degree awarding powers where these involve an active programme of study, in accordance with the QAA. Doctorates by retrospective publication are ineligible for the loan. Full details of course eligibility, and guidance for HEIs, will be published in advance of applications opening for the loan.

10. Students will only be eligible for the loan if the programme of study is a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 8 years.

Institutional Eligibility Criteria

11. All Higher Education Institutes in the UK with QAA recognised Research Degree Awarding Powers are eligible for students to access the loan.

12. Alternative providers are defined as providers of higher education which do not receive annual funding from HEFCE, or any other direct annual public funding. Only alternative providers who have been reviewed by QAA and received recognised Research Degree Awarding powers will be counted as eligible institutions for the purposes of the loan.

Repayment Terms

13. The loan interest will be calculated at RPI+3% and interest will accrue from the date the first loan instalment is paid by SLC to the borrower.

14. Repayments of the doctoral loan will be contingent upon and commence once the borrower has an annual income of £21,000 or more.

15. The £21,000 annual income threshold will be initially frozen until 2021 and subject to review.

16. Repayments of the doctoral loan will be made through the existing category for postgraduate loans in the student finance system. The loan will be added to the master’s loan if the borrower has also previously taken this loan out. The loan repayment will be calculated at 6% of income above the income threshold. These repayments will occur alongside any outstanding undergraduate student loan repayments.

17. The Statutory Repayment Due Date (SRDD) for doctoral loan balances for courses up to 4 years in length will be 6 April following the earlier of the course end date, or the withdrawal date when the student withdraws from the course. Full details of repayment terms will be published in advance of the loans opening for applications, including the SRDD for students on courses over 4 years in duration.

18. Any outstanding doctoral loan balance will be written off 30 years after the date the borrower’s loan balance becomes due for repayment.

19. The doctoral loan will attract better than commercial interest rates; or match commercial interest rates with better terms. The repayment terms will be monitored and be subject to review.

Administration of the loan

20. The Student Loans Company will issue the doctoral loan, directly to the student.

21. A student will not be entitled to receive subsequent tranches of the loan if they change to a course that is not eligible, or withdraw from study. HEIs will be expected to inform the SLC if the student is no longer in attendance and when the student submits their thesis. The student will be liable for the doctoral loan and must make repayments if they withdraw or do not complete their course.

22. The loan will be recovered by HMRC for students who are in the UK tax system and by the SLC for individuals residing overseas.