Written by Karam Filfilan, Editor, Graduate Prospects, October 2011
Coming to the UK to study is not a cheap option. As a student from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), you will be expected to pay the full cost of your tuition fees, which can range from £6,500 for an arts-based course to more than £29,000 for a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). Add in living costs and that year studying abroad can look very expensive.
When it comes to funding postgraduate study in the UK, there are a couple of general rules. Firstly, there is usually more funding available for research degrees. Secondly, there are only a handful of full scholarships. To find out what is available, search postgraduate funding.
While there are sources of funding in the UK, international students are encouraged to investigate what overseas study funding is available in their own country first - for example, through regional or national government initiatives. At the same time, you should contact The British Council office closest to you.
Prominent schemes for international postgraduates include the British Chevening Scholarships which are funded by the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. More than 30,000 scholarships have been awarded to international students at UK universities over the last 26 years, but with only one in every 25 applicants currently being successful, competition is intense. Funding is available for both full-time and part-time courses and you will be eligible as long as you aren’t a British citizen and have at least one degree-level qualification.
A key component of winning a Chevening Scholarship - or any other funding - is to apply often and early. This particularly applies to awards made by higher education institutions themselves, who will often specify application deadlines around April and May for awards starting the following academic year.
‘Universities often offer far more than meets the eye, so it’s very important that students look at departmental websites and not just the university’s own website. Definitely look for the deadline of any scholarship. It’s very frustrating to find that you would have qualified but that you missed the deadline. It happens often!’Suzanne Alexander, director University of Leicester’s international office
A good place to start is your local or national government, as they may offer support to study abroad - the Government of Ontario in Canada, for example, runs a Student Assistance Programme. Next on the agenda should be your local British Council, Embassy or High Commission office, where you will find a wealth of information about potential funding. Chief among these are:
As you might expect, each award is aimed at different prospective postgraduates; the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan seeks to fund Commonwealth citizens, who demonstrate proven academic ability. Funding is provided for the cost of travel to and from the UK, tuition fees and living expenses.
The Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme caters for students from developing Commonwealth countries, who are under 35, have shown high academic achievement, will benefit from UK postgraduate education themselves and, in turn, will transfer this benefit to their home countries.
It’s also worth looking at more niche funding opportunities. For example, women in further education around the globe can apply for grants and scholarships from the International Federation of University Women (IFUW) which has national affiliates in 120 countries throughout the world.
‘We provide maintenance grants to women graduates to help with living expenses while registered for study or research at an approved institution in Great Britain. We award a maximum grant of £6,000 for main foundation grants, or £2,500 for emergency grants.’Val Considine, company secretary British Federation of Women Graduates, the British affiliate of the IFUW
International organisations, such as UNESCO and the WHO, administer some schemes, as do a range of voluntary organisations. UK universities also offer comprehensive advice on sources of funding via their websites. Cranfield University, for example, points international students towards the:
Make full use of anything that makes you stand out from the other students, whether it’s your nationality, age or qualifications.
As well as covering tuition fees and course materials, international students need to adapt to the different cost of living in the UK. This will vary depending on where you choose to study, as accommodation prices in London will be considerably more than in the northern cities of Sheffield or Newcastle. Most universities will provide cost of living information to new students on their websites, but there are a couple of steps you can take to save money regardless of where you choose to study.
For a start, make full use of your student ID card. Many universities are affiliated with the National Union of Students (NUS) which means your student ID card will entitle you to discounts on shopping, transport and entertainment. Always ask if there is a student discount when shopping.
Secondly, choose where you shop carefully. It is often cheaper to buy from local, independent grocers and butchers than from large supermarkets. Many stores in student areas run promotions and discount items that are popular with students.
Finally, take advantage of free communication. It is likely that you will be phoning home often in your first few months in the UK. Instead of paying large mobile or home phone costs, use free internet applications such as Skype to cut down on costs and keep in touch with friends and family.
Finding postgraduate funding and coping with living costs isn’t easy, but the sooner you begin planning, the more likely you are to be successful.
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