If you’re starting a full standalone doctoral course, you could get a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan to help with your course fees and living costs while you’re studying.

There are no restrictions on subjects, disciplines, research areas or topics. Doctoral loans are available for many of our doctorate degrees and are provided by Student Finance

Please note that details for students starting in 2024 have not yet been released in full by the UK government. All figures and eligibility criteria on these pages refer to those who started in 2023, unless stated otherwise, and will be updated when further information is available (expected Spring 2024).


You can apply for a Doctoral Loan if you are:  

  • Studying a full, standalone doctoral course (not a top-up course) that lasts between 3-8 academic years
  • Under 60 years old (59 or younger) at the beginning of your course
  • Studying at a UK University
  • A UK resident ordinarily resident in England
  • Not receiving Research Council Funding

Please visit GOV.UK for full eligibility criteria and terms and conditions. 

Other student loans won't affect your eligibility for a Doctoral Loan. Repayments for your Doctoral Loan will be combined with those for your Master’s Loan. Undergraduate debt will remain separate.

Doctoral loans aren’t means-tested, meaning you can apply regardless of your existing income or savings.

If you are studying part time, you must state your intended completion time when you apply. This can't be longer than eight years.

Course criteria and exclusions

You can't receive a Doctoral Loan for a standalone MPhil. You should apply for a Master’s Loan instead. However, many PhD students are initially registered for the MPhil (Master of Philosophy) and then ‘upgrade' to a PhD. This is normal practice and will not affect your eligibility for a PhD loan.

Professional doctorates are eligible for a doctoral loan. This covers courses such as the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) EdD (Doctor of Education) and others.

If you already hold a postgraduate research qualification such as an MPhil or MRes will not make you ineligible provided it’s not a PhD-level (level 8) qualification. However, you cannot receive a PhD loan to study these courses. Your intended qualification must be a PhD (or equivalent doctorate).


If your course starts in academic year 2023/24 you can apply for a loan of up to £28,673 from Student Finance England or £28,395 from Student Finance Wales towards your tuition fees, study expenses or living costs. You don't have to hold an offer of a place to apply for a loan and you can even apply if you have an existing undergraduate and/or Masters loan.

You do not have to borrow the full amount, it’s possible to borrow a smaller amount to cover tuition fees or living costs. There is no minimum loan request amount and you can amend the amount requested, providing it's not less than has already been paid to you, up to one month before the end of the academic year.

The loan will be paid directly into your bank account and split equally over the duration of your course. Each year you’ll receive three instalments that will be paid on the following dates: 

  • Course start date.
  • Course start date plus 4 months.
  • Course start date plus 7 months.

You’ll receive your first payment within 3-5 working days of the University confirming to the Student Loans Company that you have started your course. 

Doctoral Loans will be subject to interest in the same way as other student loans. For further information on how interest is calculated visit Student Loan Repayment.


The earliest you’ll start repaying your loan is from the April after you leave your course and only then if your annual income is over the minimum threshold (currently frozen at £21,000).  

You'll repay 6% of your annual income over £21,000. If your salary is £30,000 per annum, the 6% would apply to £9,000, meaning you'd repay around £45 per month. If your income falls below £21,000 a year, for any reason, repayments will stop until your income rises above the threshold again.

For further details including how much you’ll repay and how interest on the loan is calculated visit Student Loan Repayment.

How to apply

You can either apply online through the Student Finance website or download and print the application forms to send by post. You’ll only need to apply once, even if your course is longer than one year.

Note: The deadline for applying is within nine months of the first day of the last academic year of the course. Applying late could impact on the maximum amount of loan you receive so it is important to apply as early as possible.

Start your application

Applying for Research Council support

Research Councils support different areas of research in the UK and take responsibility for associated postgraduate funding especially at doctoral level. There are seven Research Councils who together invest around £380 million into PhD training every year.

For further information visit:

Got a question?

We're here to help make sense of student finance.

Our enquiries team are on hand to ask any questions you may have about how to apply for a student loan, or other financial matters.

If you've previously completed a Staffordshire University undergraduate or postgraduate taught degree (excluding HND and foundation degrees) you may be entitled to a discount of up to 25% off your course fees.

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