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How will my postgraduate student income affect the amount of ESA (IR) and HB I get?

How will my postgraduate student income affect the amount of ESA (IR) and HB I get (existing claimants only)?

If you are in receipt of a research council award, a postgraduate studentship or stipend, or a government Master's or Doctoral Loan this will be counted as income in your benefits assessments over 52 weeks, or the length of your course if it is less than one calendar year. Only 30% of a Master's or Doctoral Loan is counted.

There is more information about government loans in our Postgraduate Funding guide.

Thirty percent of the maximum goverment loan that you are eligible for will be taken into account as income for your means tested benefits. We understand that this means that if you choose not to take a government loan where you are eligible, this amount will still be taken into account. This should not be applied if you are a part time student claiming Universal Credit who is subject to a “no work related requirement”.

If you are receiving the Disabled Students Allowances from Student Finance England, these will not affect your benefit entitlement.

What do I need to tell my JCP and HB offices?

You must tell your JCP and HB offices in writing as soon as your circumstances change. This includes: when you become a full-time student see sample letter 1, take time out of your studies, or complete your course. You must also send your JCP and HB offices proof of your student income such as a QMUL studentship or a Master's or Doctoral loan.

Full time postgraduates need to have the required NI contributions or be getting DLA or be getting the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in order to be eligible to continue to claim ESA. 

How will I know if my ESA (IR) and HB claims have been assessed correctly?

If you are in receipt of a research council award, a postgraduate studentship or stipend you may not get ESA (IR) during the course because your student income may be too high but you might still get a reduced amount of UC. If you are only getting a government loan, 30% is taken into account so you should be able to continue to get some ESA(IR). How much you get depends on your individual circumstances. A Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service can check this for you.

If you do not get ESA, your HB office will expect you to meet limited capability for work regulations in order to continue to get HB. Contact a Welfare Adviser for advice about this.

When your ESA (IR) and HB entitlement has been assessed, the JCP and HB offices will write to you. The letter will include a calculation showing you how they did the assessment. Check that the JCP and HB offices have not included any elements of your student income which should have been ignored. A Welfare Adviser can check this for you if you are unsure, and can help you appeal against the decision if you need to.


Law, regulations and policies can change quickly. The information on our website is given in good faith and has been carefully checked but QMUL cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. QMUL is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites which are provided for further information.

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