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Student Finance: Postgraduate Students

On the one hand, a postgraduate qualification may be very helpful in making you stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs or building up your business acumen. On the other hand, it may not if many sections of industry are shrinking, offering jobs for which you may be regarded as overqualified. Depending on the sector you would like to get into, a Masters degree or Phd may not make the difference you thought it would. The main point is:

do your research to make the most of your funds, your time and your studies.

Of course, if money isn’t an object and you are studying out of interest and not because you want to pursue a specific career, this doesn’t come into play.

Just like there are different sources of funding for undergraduate study, there are different sources of funding for postgraduate studies. Unfortunately there is no government funded scheme, such as that through the Student Funding Agency  for postgraduate students. There are quite a few other options however, and the government website will give you some ideas and information as well.


Most universities offers studentships which are paid for, sometimes/often including your living costs. You will have to apply for these whenever there are vacancies through the university website. often they can be found on a university’s vacancy site.  The following links may help you find an opportunity:

  • www.jobs.ac.uk: a university jobsite where you can find studentships (Masters and Phd) from all over the UK with all universities; click on your specialism –> tick either Masters or Phd, or both on the next page and you will get a list of opportunities with details.
  • The Open University studentships: for studentships with the Open University scroll to ‘other’ at the bottom.
  • Prospects: more studentship opportunities from Prospects


There are a number of possibilities for borrowing money.

Professional and Development loans, offered by banks in the UK, are an example of a loan where you have to have lived in the UK for at least 3 years and will therefore not be available for the average EU postgraduate student. If however, you have completed your undergraduate degree in the UK and you are going straight onto a postgraduate degree, you may qualify. The decision whether you are entitled to the loan rests with the bank however.

For more information:

Commercial loans are another option, if you can’t get a Professional and Development loan. Obviously this may turn out more expensive than the previous option, but you can take it out at any bank, even a bank in your own country, and only the bank’s requirements need to be fulfilled. If this is your preferred option I would advise you to perform a cost/benefit exercise to make sure it’s going to pay for itself in the medium to long run (if that’s important for you).

Bursaries, Scholarships and Grants

These are offered by a range of institutions, mainly linked to academia, such as universities, the Research Councils, scientific bodies etc… Some are also offered by companies with the aim of funding research and/or ensuring they have a body of high quality, well educated staff.

Universities: You could find out from your preferred university whether they have any grants on offer for postgraduate students with your specialism or preferred course. Alternatively you could have a look on the relevant section on the Prospects website. If you do this, don’t rely on just this tool however, and contact your preferred universities as well. Sometimes it’s possible to find a paid position at a university, in your chosen field, to help you pay for your studies. Obviously there is a big demand for these and you have to be quick/lucky!

Research Councils UKResearch Councils UK are seven awarding bodies which offer grants for students out of public money to promote research and knowledge. Competition is really fierce and you need a good first degree to be able to apply (2:1 as a minimum if you have a UK degree). You normally will have to have lived in the UK for three years, which can include full time undergraduate study, and you have to be an EU citizen. Sometimes there is flexibility if you don’t fit in with the criteria so it pays to contact the relevant Research Council in the link.

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

If you are disabled, have a long term (mental) health condition or a learning difficulty you may be entitled to DSA. Please bear in mind that DSA and some other funding options are mutually exclusive. You will find more details about DSA on the direct.gov.uk website.


You could ask for your employer to sponsor you. This may not be as far fetched as it first sounds. Quality employers usually value quality staff to ensure their business and if you can put a strong case together for your studies an employer may be willing to pay for (part of) your studies. There may be some reciprocical agreements attached to this, as no employer will normally pay for your studies only to see you disappear to the competition straight after finishing them. The flip side could be that your promotion opportunities with your employer may increase substantially as a result of you ‘upgrading’ your knowledge and skills.

If there isn’t a scheme in your workplace already, make sure you prepare your case thoroughly and accentuate what benefits your employer will get from your venture. However important your learning is to you, to your employer their business opportunities will be the most important to them, and remember… they pay…


This is a more obvious source of funding, either part time or full time. There are a large number of part time options for study available, depending on which direction you would like to specialise in. I don’t need to say that this is not an easy option, especially if you decide to continue your full time work and study alongside. It’s important to take into account everything you are doing at the moment and take stock.

  •  what can you cut down on to give you enough time for study.
  •  what are the things that are too important to give up, and does that leave you enough time for study
  •  talk to ex-students on your qualification and ask how much time in reality is spent on their studies

above all… don’t underestimate the work you need to do or overestimate the free time you have! Stress and being overworked doesn’t make for excellent results!

Studying with the Open University

Most Open University students are part time students. It is possible to build up enough modules every year to make your studies full time. This will require considerable input, however. It would be very important to make sure of the intensity of your course before you enrol. Since Open university study is mainly modular, and different modules have different fees attached to them, the best way of finding out what your chosen path of study is going to cost, versus the same course at a mainstream university, is to look at individual modules, programmes and courses on their website.

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