Postgraduate Study

Postgraduate study funding sources

How will you fund your post-grad studies? Let’s take a look at what your options are, from scholarships to employer funding.

If only all things in life were free. Unfortunately, just like your undergraduate degree, a postgraduate degree comes at a price. However, unlike an undergraduate degree, there is not a standard “student loan” on offer.

There’s no doubt that the financial aspects of further study are likely to be weighing heavy on your mind as you may have already read our article on the cost of post-grad study!

Thankfully though, there are plenty of options out there to help you along the way whether it’s help from your university or even sponsorship from a company. But where do you even start when looking for them and how much can you get? We explore your options here.

Research Council Grants (Studentships)

It’s worth noting that as of 2013 research council grants won’t be available to those who are taking a taught masters degree (these are 1 year courses that are not part of a PhD).

Research Councils are the main public investors in research in the UK, and provide funding in seven main different subject areas.

They only award around 6,000 scholarships every year, so competition is extremely tough. You need to be an EU resident who has been living in the UK for the past three years, and will usually have to have a 2:1 at undergraduate level but relevant work experience can sometimes make you the exception.

You should start searching and applying for research grants around Spring time.

So, how much can you get? Students who are successful in getting a studentship will have their fees paid for them as well as be given a living cost grant. The minimum for 2012/13 was £13,590 and some students could receive up to £15,500 a year.

Check out the Research Council website for details on how to apply.

University funding

It’s hard to point you in the direction of any specific university funding for post-grad course as what’s on offer differs between each institution. There is a wide choice of  studentships, scholarships & bursaries (see below) or even fee discounts for alumni.

As an example, Bournemouth University has a scheme called Bright People, Bright Futures, and the University of Kent has an £8million fund for supporting its post-grads.

Some universities even offer funding for specific courses in the form of field trip funding or help with research.

Bursaries and scholarships

Bursaries and scholarships are usually given out to high potential students in their respective fields either via the university, learning funds or through teaching assistanships.

Some areas, such as scientific research, have more opportunities than others, so it’s important that you do your own research based on the area that you want to go into. You should also be aware that competition is high!

Teaching Assistanships

Some universities offer the opportunity for graduates to teach at the same time as completing their post-graduate course to help with their costs.

Most graduates are required to offer around 180 hours (around 8 hours a week) of contact teaching time throughout the year which can be in the form of anything from taking lectures and tutorials to marking papers.

In return for the work most successful applicants will receive the same type of funding as a research council grant in the form of a fee waiver and £13,000+ to cover living costs.

Teaching vacancies are usually advertised on the universities website.

Scholarships & Awards

If you are able to excel in a research or teaching field then you may be offered a scholarship or award from your university or a funding body.

The funding amount will vary depending on your chosen university and field of study as well as what is on offer from your chosen university.

Access to Learning Fund

Students from a less privileged background may be able to claim an access to learning grant if they suffer from any financial hardship during the duration of their course.

You will have to provide financial records and proof that you are struggling financially and each case is seen on an individual basis meaning that you could receive a grant from as little as £500 up to £3000.

You can only apply for this fund once the university year has started.

Funding from other sources

It’s not only the universities that offer funding for those looking to take on postgraduate study so make sure you take a look at the following sources for funding too.

Charities, foundations and trusts

There is a growing number of charities, foundations and trusts that help out students who are studying in their field of interest.

There are a whole world of charities out there that might be looking to help you through your studies but you’ll need to track them down. It’s worth noting that the applications for a lot of charity funding schemes can be quite lengthy.

A few examples include Funds for Women Graduates (for outstanding women), The Royal Society (for 1,200 scientists) & the Wellcome Trust (for those in the medical fields).

Employer sponsorship

Some graduate schemes or even graduate roles in accountancy & business require you to do some further or post-grad study, and a lot of the time, this could be funded for you. It’s the perfect situation as you can get your study paid for as well as increase your employability.

If your employer does not have a further study scheme in place then you may have to put together a strong business case explaining how it would help you to do your job and add further value to the business.

Always make sure that you fully understand the terms of any agreement, as you’ll sometimes be required to pay the money back if you leave the employer within a certain period of time.

Career Development Loans

Career Development Loans (or CDLs) are special bank loans that are available to those looking to further their careers or boost employability. Currently, Barclays bank and the Co-op bank are the only places to offer them.

With a CDL you can borrow anything from £500 to £10,000 and the government pays the interest for the whole time that you are studying.

However, watch out for the interest and repayments once your study period is over as most have to be repaid in full within 1 to 5 years and some people end up paying a staggering £200+ a month to cover repayments.

Bank loans

If you are really struggling for funding then a last resort could be a standard bank loan.

In theory, there’s nothing stopping you from taking out a loan with your bank to cover the costs of your post-grad study. Remember that you got a really good deal with the Student Loans Company in terms of interest, so you can expect to be paying much more back when you get a traditional bank loan.

Book a meeting with your bank to discuss how much you could lend and how much you’ll have to pay back.

Part-time jobs

If you’ve exhausted all your other options, you might have to work part-time to fund your studies. Always remember that this approach will take masses of commitment in your behalf, and you’ll have to become a master of time management and organisation!

A flexible and understanding employer is also a very good thing to have in these circumstances.

Family, Friends & Savings

If you are lucky enough to have a family that is willing to help fund your further education then it is definitely a good option.

Some graduates in the past have even been known to contact leading figures within the field of their study to ask for small donations towards their study. The downside is that it can take a long time and success is not always guaranteed.


The options available can be overwhelming, but the best approach is to identify potential methods of support as early as you can and get your applications in straight away. Leaving everything until the last minute is never a good plan when it comes to post-grad funding!

Are you thinking about going on to further study? Have you considered how you will pay for it?

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