Postgraduate study develops you both professionally and personally, giving you the opportunity to study a subject at a strategic level and helping you stand out in a highly competitive jobs market. A master’s qualification demonstrates a level of understanding that is required to enter a senior role in professions such as Marketing and Project Management.
Re-entering education can be daunting enough, without the additional worry of finding the extra money to support course fees. With rent, travel, utilities, family costs, and food to name but a few, where can you find an additional £10-12k to fund your course?
In the past, the upfront cost for course fees was a potential barrier to education, preventing aspiring students from reaching their full personal, professional and earning potential. But through careful budgeting and planning, funding your course and continuing to meet your existing commitments, it can be relatively stress free.
Today, you don’t have to go to university full-time in order to gain your postgraduate degree. Higher education can now be as flexible as you need it to be. You can choose to study online, offline, compressed blended, part-time or full-time. This flexibility in courses doesn’t just suit ongoing commitments such as family or work, but can also have a positive benefit on your finances. By working online or part-time you can stay in employment while completing your master’s degree, giving you an income whilst you study, like our LLB (Hons) student, Richard Wing.
In addition to flexible study options, there are other solutions to help you fund your postgraduate degree. Student or bank loans, bursaries, budgeting and trusts can all help. Here we take a quick look at some of the options open to you.
The Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan
The Government now offers student loans that can finance postgraduate study. Before, they only covered undergraduate study, but those taking a master’s degree or MBA course have been able to apply for a Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan since June 2016.
As with an undergraduate loan, you start to pay back a postgraduate loan after your degree. You won’t start paying the loan back until you reach the agreed earnings threshold of £21,000.
The Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan provides up to £10,000, which can be used to cover tuition fees and living costs. For more information and to see if you qualify, check out our postgraduate loan information page.
You can apply for a postgraduate loan directly through the Government’s website from the end of June 2016.
Believe it or not, there are organisations whose main aim is to help you reach your full potential. In the UK there are a range of charitable trusts that fund the postgraduate study for those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those who have achieved a certain level of academic excellence.
Each trust has different requirements, different application terms and will support you in different ways – some may pay part of your fees, others might just cover equipment costs. Bursaries, scholarships and prizes can range from hundreds to thousands of pounds.
As with all aspects of postgraduate study, it’s worth doing your research and only applying to the trusts that best suit your circumstances. Some trusts need to receive your application 8-10 months before your course start date, so don’t leave it to the last minute!
A good place to start is the Postgraduate Studentships site, although you’ll need to spend some time using the search functions, as it lists courses as well as funding. Another good site is Charity Choice – here you can search for charities that specifically support Higher Education.
You can also apply directly to The Leverhulme Trust, the Sir Richard Stapely Trust, or if you have a family or live at home and are aged over 14, Family Action may be able to help, through their educational grant programme (depending on your circumstances).
Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDLs)
Some banks offer PCDLs for postgraduate students. Unlike a traditional loan, their terms are much more favourable and they can be easier to set up. PCDLs are not usually paid back until you have finished your postgraduate degree; the Government will pay your interest whilst you study.
The two main banks offering PCDLs are Barclays and the Co-operative. These loans range from £300 to £10,000. They will cover up to 80% of your vocational course fees if you’re employed and 100% of fees if you have been unemployed for more than three months. If you are employed for less than 30 hours a week you can also apply for part of the loan to cover living costs.
PCDLs are only available for two years of study (three if your course includes a year of work experience), so it’s best to apply if you are on a course that is 2 years or less, or to only apply for the loans for the last 2 years of your course. That way you don’t risk having to start paying it back while you are still studying.
If you are currently employed and you want to study to further your career, why not ask your employer if they can help? Many companies want to support and develop their workforce, keeping talent within the company.
Convincing your employer may seem a bit scary, but it could ultimately be worthwhile. You’ll need to show evidence that it is worth both the money and time they give you to complete your studies. You may also need to show a willingness to part-fund and explain to them how you will fit your studies around your work and social commitments – which may require a reduction in working hours.
Check if your employer runs any training schemes or has supported any other employees to study. Some organisations are very open about their desire to train their staff and may offer an annual training budget for each employee.
If you don’t know if there is a funding programme available, approach your line manager or HR representative. To make a strong case, make sure you have all course details, costs, benefits to the company and course logistics (i.e. how much time it will take and how many hours you’ll need per week to study) to create a simple proposal, which you can present. You may want to take a copy of our Employer Funding Guide with you, which can help give extra weight to your proposition.
Some employers might ask you to commit to staying with them for an agreed length of time after your course has finished, in order for them to cover the costs of your studies. If you wish to leave before this time, you may have to pay back part of the fees.
A good tip is to make a note of how much of the course fee your company will cover and whether you’ll need to work part-time or be given leave to cover your exams. Employer support is great, but you will have to be very dedicated to both your job and your study, which will require careful planning and organisation.
A new source of funding has developed in the past few years – crowdfunding. Instead of applying to one organisation for help, you appeal to a large number of people through a crowdfunding website. Strangers can make small to large scale donations; a high number of small-scale supporters can quickly get you to the funding amount you require.
However, crowdfunding isn’t for everyone. To make it work you need to prove to people why helping you to study is going to make a difference to the world. In addition, it helps if you have a large network of people who will be willing to donate and to push out your funding message through their social media accounts. If you don’t reach your funding target, you won’t get any of the money.
Whatever you wish to study there are many options for funding, so don’t be put off if one avenue doesn’t work. You may wish to try all the above options separately or in parallel; by proving to funding bodies and/or your employer that you have already worked hard to part-fund your postgraduate study, you will show them you have a strong desire to succeed, which will make them more likely to invest in your career and future.
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