Funding options for postgraduate students.
Once you decide to go for postgraduate study the next hurdle is getting the funding. This process is very different from applying for undergraduate grants and loans, and can be a complicated process.
Further education doesn't come cheap. According to UCAS postgraduate tuition fees can range from around £4,900 a year to over £30,000, with the average around £11,000 per year. And that's just fees – on top of that don't forget that you'll need to consider general living costs too.
For the majority of postgraduate education there is no official closing date. Be aware though, that there may well be deadlines in regards to getting financial support from the funding bodies, so don't leave things too late.
"Generally speaking you apply to a taught master's course via an application form. Most do not have closing dates but there is some mileage in applying early to pick up the best options on any funding that might be available," says Mandy Burns, careers adviser at the University of Plymouth's careers services.
Don't panic though, there are many routes available when looking into ways of supporting yourself through your studies. A scholarship is one option. Charities and educational trusts can also offer small grants and sponsorship and although uncommon, some employers may offer sponsorship - there's no harm in asking, is there?
International students should approach the British Council [new window] for information on scholarships available to help UK study.
Career development loans (CDL) may also an option. CDLs are offered by a consortium of banks for students on vocational courses and can be between £300 and £10,000 towards tuition and / or living expenses for a period of up to two years' study.
The interest on the loan is paid by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) during the course and you begin to pay back the loan a month after your course finishes. If you don't fit into this criteria, it still may be worth discussing a loan with your bank, as some banks can be willing to offer loans with preferential rates for those people attempting to better themselves.
If money is tight, there is also the option of doing your postgraduate study part-time, or perhaps taking a year out to work and save up money to support yourself. But if this is something you want enough, you'll find a way.
Unfortunately, with the exception of teacher training, funding for postgraduate study is not automatic. As with everything else in the education process, a lot of research may be necessary in order to find any possible funding. It can depend on your chosen subject, so look around for companies and institutions - such as the IET - that deal with your area of expertise, and then find out further info on application processes and deadlines.
Also discuss funding with your university. Many institutions offer several scholarships for specific courses each academic year.
Although it may not feel like it at times, there are a large number of funding bodies out there, it's just a matter of finding them. A good place to start is at your university's academic department – staff there should be happy to point you in the direction of the right bodies for the course you want to follow.
"People always panic about funding and it is very competitive but the point is there is still funding to be had in many cases and science and engineering is better supported than some subject areas," says Burns. "Courses may attract research council funding, some universities may have their own scholarships and some may have collaborative awards with industry. If a loan does have to be taken out it may prove to be a very worthwhile investment, but again this means that the applicant does need to conduct a careful risk/benefits analysis and do their research adequately," she adds.
Once you've found some useful bodies to approach in regards to funding, the next step is to find out if you are eligible to apply. Some awards can be aimed at quite specific areas of the community, so make sure you fit the criteria rather than wasting your time.
The key is to start looking into funding as early as looking into courses, and consider your options carefully. Finding funding is probably one of the hardest areas of further education, so once you've done that, you'll be ready to take on anything.
The Careers Service, The University of Plymouth
Updated March 2017