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Flexible Funding - Finding Support During a Postgraduate Course

Studying for your Masters or PhD isn’t just a case of paying for your tuition. It’s also about having a means to fund your maintenance: reading materials, rent, food.

The introduction of the UK postgraduate loans has made Masters study more accessible for many students. And, with PhD loans soon to be on the way, this will be the case for doctorate study too.

But, what if you don’t want to be in debt by taking out a loan? And what if you aren’t eligible?

There’s an assumption that you must have received funding before you start postgraduate study. However, there are many ways which you can find funding during your degree.

This blog will explain how you can access small pots of funding during your Masters or PhD.

University scholarships

One of the most common forms of postgraduate funding, scholarships are often offered by universities.

You’ll normally apply for this sort of support before you start your course, but that isn’t always the case.

Some universities will make smaller awards available to their current postgraduates. PhD students may also be able to apply (or re-apply) for larger scholarships during subsequent years of study.

It’s important to note that scholarships are usually offered based on academic merit. You could find that strong progress during your course improves your eligibility for these.

Others may be aimed at widening participation for students who would not usually apply to university. So, eligibility criteria may include your income and where you live, whether you have a disability, or whether you are a BME (black ethnic minority) student.

It’s also worth noting here that scholarships may also be available from other organisations such as learned societies, or even the local council. Again, these awards may well be offered during a course – so keep an eye out once you’ve started.

If you’re looking to study abroad, our guides offer information on the funding sources available by country.

Funding from charities, trusts and foundations

Organisations such as charities, trusts and foundations offer a range of merit-based and finance-based scholarships, grants and bursaries.

This kind of funding is ideal if you’re looking for extra support during your course. The amounts tend to be smaller, but deadlines are much more flexible, with pots of funding being made available all year-round.

The funding on offer may be linked with research into a specific subject, such as Maths, Science, History and so on.

There are many societies dedicated to different subjects, such as the Royal History Society based in the UK, which offer funding of this kind.

Other foundations offer funding for research that may be deemed to benefit the wider community.

Receiving charitable donations of this kind is useful because it generally doesn’t conflict with other funding. So, you may apply to receive grants from more than once trust or charity.

In some cases, it is actually beneficial to have already received grants for research, when applying for more funding from different organisations. Charities in particular may be more likely to support students who are already making progress towards their funding goals.

Travel grants and conference funding

Other sources of funding during a course include grants to cover specific expenses (or take advantage of additional opportunities) during your programme.

One example of this is funding to attend (or even speak at) academic conferences:

Your university (or the conference organiser) may sponsor you to attend and present at academic events all around the world. Grants for this purpose may cover expenses such as travel costs, accommodation and registration fees.

This funding is typically aimed at PhD students, but Masters students may also be eligible to apply.

For longer periods of travel (or exchange), Erasmus+ offer a range of travel grants for Masters and PhD students to undertake traineeships and studentships abroad.

These are usually undertaken for 2-12 months at a time, and you might be based in more than country for the duration of your programmes.

It’s also worth mentioning here that MSCA funding – another part of the broader Erasmus programme - is available to doctorate students. This scheme is designed to fund a full PhD abroad. For more information, read our guide.

Residential fellowships and placements

Have you ever considered gaining some work experience during your course, but aren’t sure how to go about it? There are many organisations offering funded fellowships and placements, which you can undertake as part of your degree.

These opportunities can take place at a research lab or testing centre, heritage site or historic building, or even a school or community centre.

Although such placements don’t always offer a stipend, they will generally offer accommodation, which greatly cuts down some of your living costs.

But of course, the real value is in the research partnership itself, and its ability to benefit both parties successfully.

Placements and fellowships offer an opportunity to foster ongoing working relationships, and engage a broader audience or community within the research threshold.

These placements are also ideal if you don’t want to travel abroad, as you are likely to find plenty of offers closer to home.

Working part-time

Okay, so this isn’t the same as finding some ready-available funding. But, it may prove equally valuable.

Now that you’ve graduated from a Bachelors, you may be able to find professional part-time work which benefits your studies and is relevant to your research.

This might include teaching in your field, editing journals or even assisting on private research projects.

Not only does this provide you with means to live, but (just like a placement) may offer opportunities to network and build professional relationships.

And, if you can utilise any language skills you may have, you’ll potentially have an added bonus.

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Last Updated: 21 June 2017