5 Of The Best Ways To Fund Postgraduate Study

There are so many ways in which a postgraduate course – be that a masters, a PhD, or a professional qualification – can boost your career and enrich your life. Even without considering the benefits of your chosen course, university life is full of extra-curricular activities, social events, and optional learning and networking opportunities. But continuing on into further study, or returning to it after a few years of work does come with its fair share of challenges: one of the most pressing is how to fund postgraduate study.

How much does a postgraduate course cost?

The overall price-tag for taking a year (or more) out to study varies a lot; depending upon how long your course lasts, what kind of course it is, where you will be studying, your citizenship status, and what is your expected standard of living. The tuition cost of a UK masters begins at around £9,000, for UK and EU students, while the average cost for an international student is around £14,000. To this, you can expect to add between £9,600 – £13,000 in living costs. This can vary significantly depending upon where you live; I was able to live quite comfortably in Cambridge (one of Britain’s most expensive cities) on £1,200 per month. Collegiate universities, like Oxford and Cambridge, will also charge you college fees – which will amount to another few thousand pounds each year. Taken together, this means a single year of postgraduate study can amount to upwards of £30,000. So how can you find that much cash?

1. Prizes, scholarships, and bursaries

A lot of universities and charitable trusts have generous sums of money set aside for supporting young scholars. Some of these – such as the Fulbright and Erasmus Programmes – are well known and are run independently of any specific institution, while others, such as the Rhodes Scholarships at Oxford, are tied to specific universities. Most universities will put you forward automatically for any internal funding for which you are eligible when you apply, but this isn’t always the case – so make sure you ask first. It’s also worth checking with your undergraduate institution as a first port of call: I discovered that, as I’d managed to secure a first in my final exams and won an academic scholarship as a result, my college would pay half my fees and maintenance for a masters degree, if I returned to Cambridge.

2. Professional sponsorship

Just as many universities and educational trusts sponsor further study, so do private and public sector organisations. If you have been working for a large corporation for some time, and your chosen degree is relevant to their business, they may be willing to contribute towards the cost of your studies, or even pay for them in their entirety. This is particularly common amongst law firms, who award training contracts to recent graduates that cover the fees and maintenance costs of both law conversion and professional training courses. There is a quid pro quo here – most companies will expect you to return to the fold after graduation, and may require that you sign a contract to that effect.

3. Research funding

If you’re looking for a postgraduate opportunity that is based on research, it can be worthwhile treating it as you would looking for a job, rather than applying for a taught course. Universities apply for large amounts of funding to cover their projects, and this will often include funding for PhD students to research some particular aspect of the overall project. These funded positions will be advertised online just like any other job at the university, and you would apply for them in the same way. This is an excellent way in to postgraduate research; the best approach is to identify which universities have a specialism in your chosen subfield, and keep an eye on their jobs pages.

4. Crowdfunding

Increasingly, people are using crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon to fund postgraduate study. Although this approach does have its limitations – especially as most crowdfunding platforms take a cut of the money you raise – it does provide an opportunity to simultaneously raise money and build a popular audience for your research findings. This is perhaps best suited to research topics that are of clear interest to the public.

5. Working and saving up

Most of us involved in further study have relied upon paid work to support our studies. This can range from teaching, to something entirely unrelated to academia. Taking out a couple of years to save up and pay for that masters you’ve got your eye on is no bad thing; even if you ultimately want to go on to PhD and beyond. Getting work experience in a different sector can contribute immensely to an academic, or portfolio, career.



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