Professional and Career Development Loans

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Two banks - Barclays and the Co-operative - offer Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDLs) of between £300 and £10,000 for tuition fees and other study-related costs

How much can I borrow?

The loan, which is one of the most common ways of funding postgraduate study, is split into course fees and living costs. You can borrow between £300 and £10,000.

It can cover up to 80% of your vocational postgraduate course fees if you're in work, or 100% if you've been unemployed for three months or longer prior to your programme beginning. This money is paid directly to the institution. PCDL cover can also extend to course expenses like books, travel, equipment and childcare, which is paid directly to you.

What's more, if you're employed for less than 30 hours every week, you can apply for money to cover living costs like food, rent and clothing.

PCDLs fund up to two years of postgraduate study - or three, if your programme includes one year of work experience. However, they will support only part of courses that last longer. In this case, be smart and arrange for the loan so that it covers the final two years of your study. This will ensure that you don't have to make repayments until you've finished university.

Similarly, the PCDL will only cover the remaining cost - plus living expenses - if you've received a grant that covers part of your course fees. Receiving the PCDL may also affect your benefit entitlement.

Am I eligible for a PCDL?

Regular bank loans – widely available from many institutions but nowhere near as favourable to students as PCDLs - often have complicated eligibility criteria. However, the PCDL is much simpler. To qualify for a PCDL, you must:

  • be aged 18 or over;
  • be a British citizen and have lived in the UK for at least three years before your course starts;
  • intend to work in the UK, European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) after graduation;
  • not have had any County Court Judgements (CCJs), been declared bankrupt or defaulted on any credit agreement in the last six years;
  • not have savings of more than £16,000.

Your course provider must be on the PCDL Register and based in the UK, so check this before you apply. Also, several study options aren't eligible - such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), and foundation or access courses.

Further information can be obtained from either of the banks. Alternatively, you could call the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900 or visit GOV.UK - Professional and Career Development Loans.

How do I apply for a PCDL?

Be prepared to apply well in advance. You can only apply to one bank at once, but can submit an application to the second bank if and when you get turned down by the first.

It may take a while to process the loan application - anywhere from six weeks to three months. Banks tend to be much busier in September and January, so bear this in mind when considering the PCDL as a funding option - particularly if your course is starting soon.

Contact your bank to order an application pack. Once you've completed this, arrange an appointment to discuss how much money you realistically can borrow.

Before you apply, think carefully about how you'll repay the money once your course is finished. The bank will require the loan to be fully repaid even if you choose to leave your course, so commitment to your programme and not borrowing more than you can afford are both very important.

If your application is successful, you'll receive a credit agreement that you must sign and return to the bank, and a Course Start Notification form to part-sign and take to your learning programme. Funds will be released once your learning provider has signed and returned this form, and confirmed that you've started the course.

When do I need to pay it back?

You start repaying the loan one month after graduation, giving you time to find employment. Until then, interest is paid by the government's Skills Funding Agency (SFA), relieving the financial pressure and allowing you to focus on your study.

You'll agree an individual repayment schedule with the bank before your application is processed. Repayments are usually over one to five years, but plans are completely tailored to you. Interest rates are set at a fixed rate that is competitive with other loans.