Written by Jo O'Connor, January 2009
Paying for postgraduate study is a hurdle many students face but it is by no means insurmountable. As well as course fees, you will need to factor in living costs and money for materials. Despite this many students are continuing on to diplomas, Masters and PhDs, having found some way to pay.
The biggest provider of postgraduate funding is Research Councils. Competition is tough but between them they offer around 12,000 awards a year to students studying Masters and PhDs.
‘From around 5,500 applications to our postgraduate schemes, we make around 1,500 awards,’ says a spokesperson from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
But a first class degree alone will not secure you funding.SpokespersonArts and Humanities Research Council
‘And from around 1,500 applications to our research schemes, we make around 550-600 awards. Our postgraduate schemes are extremely competitive and a high proportion of awards are granted to students holding a first class honours degree.’
But a first class degree alone will not secure you funding, as the AHRC points out.
‘Your degree results form only one of a number of factors which will be taken into consideration during the assessment process. Other factors include evidence of the quality of the applicant, evidence that the applicant is well-prepared for his/her proposed study and future career, evidence of the quality and feasibility of the proposed study and evidence of the quality and appropriateness of HEI support and resources.’
The AHRC is not the only Council that awards funding to students. There’s the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).
But unlike the AHRC, applications for funding from these Councils are made directly to the university you wish to study at. Usually, Research Councils allocate funding to departments and universities, so it is up to you to apply for funding.
Departments usually begin advertising funding for the following October in November of the previous year, although just as with deadlines this may differ slightly according to Research Council and Institution, so it is worth keeping an eye on the individual Councils’ websites.
Taking out a loan on top of existing debt from your undergraduate days may not seem ideal but is an option for some. Career Development Loans (CDLs), are run by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in partnership with three high street banks, Barclays, The Co-operative Bank and The Royal Bank of Scotland.
CDLs are mainly for those pursuing vocational courses, law or journalism, for example. You can borrow up to £8,000 to fund up to two years of learning (three years if the course includes relevant work experience). The LSC pays the interest on the loan while you are studying but you are expected to start repayments one month after you’ve completed the course. You can agree a repayment period with the bank and it is important to read the small print regarding the rate at which you will repay it.
You can also use your CDL to pay for other costs, such as living costs, books, equipment, childcare and travel expenses. These costs must not already be covered by a grant or state benefit, however.
There are lots of charities, foundations and trusts offering assistance to postgraduate students. They range in size from the Wellcome Trust, the world’s largest medical charity which awards hundreds of studentships each year to the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT), which offers scholarships to science students.
The types of scheme available include studentships, scholarships, grants, bursaries, competitions and prizes. Some awards are dedicated to a particular purpose while others have very general eligibility criteria.
To find out more, get hold of a copy of the Grant’s Register, a comprehensive guide to awards available from charities, trusts and foundations. Most careers services will have a copy.
I think it is necessary to continue your study throughout your working life, so you are always at the forefront of your fieldKate LaneMA student
The most common way to fund further study is actually through earnings from a part-time or full-time job.
Universities understand that students have to work and so a lot of courses are structured to allow people time off for work and other commitments. It’s not an easy option but it is by no means unachievable. Thousands of students hold down part-time jobs whilst studying and make it through to the other end successfully, including Kate Lane who combined her Masters with motherhood and her job performing cabaret.
‘I am one of the founding members of CanBootyCan, a dance group who perform at festivals and concerts all over the world,’ explains Kate. ‘I also make the costumes and realised that something that started as a bit of a giggle could be turned into a business, so I enrolled on an MA in Costume Design for Performance.’
Kate’s Masters has allowed her to specialise but it was a challenge to balance her commitments.
‘Working and studying and bringing up my daughter was a tough balancing act but being self-employed and working from home allowed me to move my hours around to suit. I was working or studying at least six days a week but I don’t see any disadvantages. I think it is necessary to continue your study throughout your working life, so you are always at the forefront of your field.’
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