How to get Postgraduate Funding

how to get funding for postgraduate study and how to write a postgraduate funding application how to find funding for graduate school how does graduate school funding work
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Published Date:07-07-2017
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The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate 10 Student GRANTS from CHARITY New Section on Crowdfunding Postgrad Study Details of over 500 sources of Funding Over 500,000 copies sold AWARD WINNING Student Guide for CHARITY FUNDING Licensed to University of Birmingham by LUKE BLAXILL & SHUZHI ZHOU 20164201714 The Purpose of the Guide TOP 500 CHARITIES & TRUSTS ....................80 APPLYING FOR FUNDING ......................44 10 CHARITIES & TRUSTS 82 4Other useful links & addresses & publications HINTS & TIPS .............130 6 MAKING YOUR APPLICATION 46 4Writing the application- Personal Statement 4Writing the application- Financial Statement 4References 4Presenting your application 11 SUPPLEMENTING YOUR 4Maintaining good relations with INCOME 132 bodies 4Renewing awards for subsequent 12 KEEPING COSTS DOWN 134 years 4Research, travel, and conference 13 INNOVATIVE NEW APPROACHES 136 expenses 4Crowdfunding 4Fourth year PhD study 4Rejection 14 CHARITIES & YOUR CAREER 146 7 ADVANCED TECHNIQUES 58 15 FREQUENTLY ASKED 4Specific Advice: Masters Students QUESTIONS 150 4Specific Advice: PhD Students Acknowledgments 158 4Specific Advice: Part-time Students 4Specific Advice: Overseas Students 4Specific Advice: Mature Students 8 EXAMPLE STATEMENTS 69 4Example Personal Statements and Trustee's Opinion 9 MODEL FINANCIAL STATEMENT 76 3 Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Guide ©L.Blaxill. L.Blaxill. Licensed to University of Birmingham. 1 The Purpose of this Guide Your roadmap to the world of Alternative Postgraduate Funding How to fund postgraduate study is a crucial question for the vast majority of students. Securing scholarships, bursaries, or grants to cover your fees, maintenance, and research costs during your Masters or PhD can be extremely challenging, especially if you have been rejected, or are ineligible to apply for a scholarship from a public funder, such as a university or research council. This guide is designed to explore the alternatives avail- able through the voluntary sector - from charities, trusts, foundations and independent bodies - which will consider funding your fees, maintenance, research, travel, and conference expenses. There are thousands of charities out there that give out millions of pounds in grants every year. However, relatively few students know they exist, or have much idea how to apply to them strongly. Why? Simply because - before this book - there has been very little guidance available. Few students realised this kind of funding was even a possibility. We're happy to say that now this is changing. You can apply to charities and trusts if you have an anticipated deficit in your funding package either for the current academic year or for one in the future. A deficit is simply where your anticipated expenditure exceeds your anticipated income. So if you are struggling to finance your PhD or Masters, fund your research or travel expenses, or budget for your fourth year of PhD study, there are almost certainly bodies out there who will be 4 14 The Purpose of this Guide 10 "Build up a prepared to help you whatever your sub- portfolio of ject, nationality, age, or academic record. modest awards Whether you are looking for a few hundred pounds to pay for a research trip, or are try- from a number of ing to raise thousands to finance a whole PhD bodies" or Masters, you will gain a great deal by look- ing at what the voluntary sector can offer you. The trouble is knowing where and how to begin. This guide is intended to solve that problem: it will show you not just how to find bodies, but also outline the winning techniques we've developed through working with hun- dreds of students and dozens of charities. This will give your applications the best possible chance. Generally, there are two types of grants you can win from the voluntary sector. The first type is general sup- port for your fees and maintenance, and this is the main emphasis of this guide. These grants will be useful for any student who does not enjoy ‘full funding’ at research council rates (i.e. payment of fees and a stipend of £1,000 or more a month). The second type is to support travel, research expenses, and conference attendance which you can apply to even if you already have full fund- 5 Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Guide ©L.Blaxill. L.Blaxill. Licensed to University of Birmingham. ing. Ultimately, finding and securing either type of grant involves similar techniques, and the guidance provided in the coming chapters applies to both. On a cautionary note, it is important to remember that although the voluntary sector is an extensive and underrated source of student funding, it does have its limitations. Charities seldom have the resources of big government bodies like research councils, and individual awards are unlikely to exceed £2000 each. If you want to use charities to fund an entire PhD or Masters, it's very unlikely that you will gain 100% of the money you need to cover the full costs of fees and living which will usually be around £15,000-20,000 per year, and much more if you're from overseas. What is possible - with determi- nation, perseverance, and creativity - is to build up a portfolio of modest awards from a number of bodies, and you can raise a good portion of what you need. If you 6 14 The Purpose of this Guide 10 2 supplement this with work and savings, you can finance postgraduate study without a full scholarship. The contents of this guide are self-explanatory. In sec- tion 2, we begin by outlining public funding sources like research councils and discussing how you can maximise your chances. In section 3, we introduce the diverse world of voluntary sector funding before offering advice on finding and approaching these bodies in sections 4 and 5. Sections 6 and 7 describe how to make a strong application, and sections 8 and 9 illustrate this further by showing example personal statements, and an example financial statement. In section 10, we present a list of around 500 charities and trusts, and some other use- ful links, which will get you off to a great start when you begin your hunt for funders. Sections 11 and 12 briefly explore two other important allies in balanc- ing your budget: effective cost-cutting and part-time work. Next, Section 13 considers some innovative new approaches for fundraising if you really want to push the boat out, such as crowdfunding. Finally, Sections 14 and 15 consider the wider positive impact that securing charity funding might have on your career, and deal with frequently asked questions. 7Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Approach 814 The Purpose of the Guide CHARITIES & TRUSTS: an introduction This section introduces the world of charities and trusts. It begins with a brief overview of publicly available funding, before moving onto alternative sources, and how they differ. We also discuss three different over arching strategies for funding: the industrial approach, the targeted approach, and the mixed approach. Decide which one is best for you 9Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Guide Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Approach ©L.Blaxill. L.Blaxill. Licensed to University of Birmingham. 2 10 Public Sources of Funding The obvious first port of call Although this guide is principally concerned with the voluntary sector, it is useful to briefly discuss what funding is publicly available. The principal funders of postgraduate study for Home or EU students are the research councils. There are seven in the UK: the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). These bodies award studentships which provide full funding (3-4 years for a PhD and 9-12 months for a Masters), covering your fees and maintenance, include a budget for research expenses, transferable skills train- ing, and travel. A small number of the largest educa- tional charities - for example the Wellcome Trust, Nuffield Foundation and Leverhulme Trust - also occasionally award studentships at the same (or better) rates, and universities often have their own internal competitions, sometimes funded by alumni donations. In the Sciences, some large companies, often in medicine or industry, also sometimes fully finance Masters and PhDs on certain topics in which they have an interest, or fund them col- laboratively with a research council or university. If you are lucky enough to gain a public scholarship, then your postgraduate funding problems will be largely solved, so it’s certainly worth exploring the possibilities. 10 24 Public Sources of Funding 14 The Purpose of the Guide 10 In the past, it was often necessary for students to apply directly to Research Councils to gain a scholarship in an ‘open competition’, but this has now been entirely phased out. Studentships now fall into two main categories: The first type is a quota or block grant based system where a university department (or occasionally a non- HEI research centre like a museum) secures awards in advance and distributes and administrates them itself. The department in question will usually have an excel- lent research rating, and will secure multiple funded studentships per year, and offer a good range of training facilities. The second type consist of dedicated PhD stu- dentships attached to projects under named supervisors at particular universities. These projects can be larger research grants on major projects, potentially with sev- eral postdocs, PhDs, and Masters studentships attached to them. This setup is quite usual in the Sciences, and the student forms part of a research team, often work- ing in close collaboration with others. On the other hand, these studentships can also simply be stand-alone pro- jects, where the supervisor has secured funding from the university or research council for a single student to research a particular topic. 11 Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Guide ©L.Blaxill. L.Blaxill. Licensed to University of Birmingham. Whichever category of public funding you go for, you must bear in mind that the competition is likely to be extremely fierce, especially for the AHRC and ESRC, with only a small minority of applicants being successful. Indeed, hundreds of funded PhD and Masters places have been cut by research councils in the last couple of years in light of the economic climate, and many internal university com- petitions have been discontinued, making things tougher than ever before. Masters funding in particular has been drastically scaled back, with several (such as the BBSRC and the ESRC) now no longer supporting stand-alone Masters programmes. Instead, Masters scholarships are now combined with 4 year PhD programmes, where a student completes the Masters course in year one, before transferring to a PhD in year two. If you just want funding for a Masters on its own, and do not intend to go on to do a PhD, then your public funding options will probably be extremely limited. 12 24 Public Sources of Funding 10 Considering making an Application The first thing you should do if you are considering applying for an award is to see what is available at your university department. Because decisions are being made by your university, a strong dialogue between you, your department, and your supervisor or pro- spective supervisor is absolutely vital. There will be a good deal of general information and advice available through your university's website on how to make your application, but you will gain most through close com- munication with the people who matter. Once you have asked around (if in doubt, try "Try your departmental administrator as a first not to point of contact) you ought to have a despair if you're far better idea of your likely chances of success, and whether you should go to rejected. The the effort of putting in an application. voluntary sector is still an option" The strength of the competition and the ever altering and evolving strategic pri- orities of your department or research council mean that success can appear somewhat random, and may not necessarily correspond to your academic track record. Much will depend on how ‘fashionable’ your subject is at the moment: it's simply the reality of academ- ic research that certain topics are ‘hotter’ at certain times than others, and this will undoubtedly affect how likely you are to win a scholarship. The research record of your supervisor, and how many PhD students he or she already has, may also be factors. All of this means that candidates with first-class degrees can be rejected, and students with 2:1s (and occasionally 2:2s) can be successful. Also, some universities have quite a lot more funding than others, and much will depend on what is available. Also, try not to despair if you are rejected despite an excel- lent CV; it is bitterly disappointing but it happens to lots of 13 Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Guide ©L.Blaxill. L.Blaxill. Licensed to University of Birmingham. people every year. The fact that you have a good CV and have been rejected in spite of it will stand you in very good stead if you approach the voluntary sector. Top Tips The first thing to remember when you apply for a research council studentship through the quota-based competition is that it is in your supervisor’s or prospective super- visor’s interest that you are successful. Postgraduate students bring prestige and (potentially) research grants to supervisors and departments. They will be prepared to give you quite a lot of help with your applica- tion. Don’t bombard them, but do have a chat on how you will argue your case, and send them draft statements to read over. As a prospective doctoral student, it is always extremely sensible to make prior contact with a supervisor before applying to a university. Although the 'official' application system may not require it, in practice it will put you at a tremendous advantage. If you’re applying for a quota-based studentship at your chosen university, it is important to bear in mind that although you can only apply once for funding from each research council per year, you are sometimes allowed to reapply in subsequent years in the middle of your PhD or part-time masters, even if you were rejected previ- ously. The policy on this varies from place to place, but if your university allows it, it can be possible to become fully-funded after one or more years of self-financing. However, it is obviously perilously risky to begin a course unfunded and be reliant on securing a studentship later on. If you do this, a backup plan is essential. 14 24 Public Sources of Funding 10 If your area of research is on the ‘borderline’ of the remits of two research councils (as is sometimes the case, for example, with the AHRC and the ESRC in subjects such as Law, War Studies, and History) you may be able to apply to both in the same year with slightly differently present- ed applications, thus doubling your chances. If you intend to try this, make sure you discuss it thoroughly with the departments involved. Government Postgraduate Loans Some subjects - those which are classed as vocational - are eligible for a Career Development Loan (CDL) of £300- £10,000, which can cover fees and maintenance. Your loan is interest-free while you study, but will start to be charged when you graduate at an interest rate of 9.9% per year. You start paying back the loan one month after you leave your course. If you consider a CDL, a possible tip to con- sider is to take out the maximum amount possible, and put the money you don't need in a high interest bank account while you study. You aren't paying interest on the loan dur- ing your course, but it can still generate interest for you. 15Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Guide ©L.Blaxill. L.Blaxill. Licensed to University of Birmingham. More substantively, there's also a new general postgrad- uate loans system coming in for the 2016-17 academic year for Home and EU students. It will be for Masters funding, but PhD loans are also coming in for the 2018- 19 academic year, for students resident in England. The Masters loans are £10,000 a year available for taught and research masters, in all subjects, and for part and full- time courses. Repayments are 6% of annual income over £21,000 once you graduate. PhD loans will be £25,000 for the whole degree. This new loans system represents amongst the biggest shakeup of the postgraduate fund- ing system we've seen in a long time: a lot more money (albeit loaned money) will be available to most students. While the loans are seemingly a boon, it's best to think before you take one out. To start with, you might ask yourself: do I want to get into any more debt than I am already in? If you are happy to take out a further loan, do also bear in mind that the loans not enough to bankroll a whole course. A full loan of £10,000 for Master's courses will probably take care of your fees, but it will only leave (at best) a few thousand pounds for your maintenance. For a PhD, the full loan will average £8,300 a year if your doctorate takes three years, and £6,250 a year if you take four. But the cost of study overall, when maintained is also factored in, is likely to be at least double this. 16 24 Public Sources of Funding 10 An important point to consider, then, is how to use the loans to potentially leverage more money from charities and trusts to fill the gap you will still have in your fund- ing package? One key advantage a loan gives you is that you now have a bona fide source of finance, and you are not entirely unfunded. Charities are much likelier to back a student who has another source of income (ide- ally from grants, savings, or part time work) but a loan from a respectable source, like this scheme, will also be acceptable. The loan will help reduce the gap between the money you have, and the money you need, and charity will probably be more likely to offer you the supplemen- tary award you need to bridge the gap, than it might have done had your deficit been larger and beyond the charity's ability to meet. While the loan might put you in a stronger position to gain charity funding, and indeed might encourage you to apply for a postgraduate course you otherwise might not have done, do be mindful, as you always should be when beginning a course with a deficit, that you are taking a risk. There is no guarantee other funding will emerge to supplement the loan, so having a backup plan is always sensible if top up funding from charity does not emerge. 17Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Guide ©L.Blaxill. L.Blaxill. Licensed to University of Birmingham. International Students International students from outside the EU have it tough when it comes to public sources of funding. The Overseas Research Students Award Scheme (ORSAS) which used to exist has now been discontinued, and so the main options for full scholarships from large bodies come from three main sources. The first is, fairly obvi- ously, funding from your own government's research councils, which will vary from country to country in their availability and scope (in particular, whether you can hold them in the UK). The second are large inter- national bodies such as the Fulbright Commission, Commonwealth Scholarships, Gates Foundation, and Rhodes Scholarship which fund students from a particu- lar country, or group of countries. The third are schol- arships from large UK organizations designed to fund exceptional international students to study here, such as Chevening Scholarships, which are funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), or various schol- arships administered through the British Council. But in general, while an international student should definitely check out all of the above routes, the academic calibre and luck required to gain funding by one of these routes (especially the second and third) is extremely high, and competition uniquely fierce. 18 34 The Voluntary Sector 10 3 The Voluntary Sector The world of Alternative Funding Historically, Britain has a strong tradition of philanthropy, and there are many thousands of charities, trusts, and foundations which are active today. Some of these vol- untary bodies are huge multi-million pound organisations like Oxfam, but most are quite small. They are usually run by volunteers: members of the general public who act as the trustees in their spare time. The charity might be connected to a utilities company like British Gas, a local church, a school, an old merchant's guild, an academic society, or more or less anything. A large number of chari- ties distribute funds for education, and some of these are prepared to consider postgraduate student applicants. These are the bodies for you. A number of the better known voluntary bodies may be listed on your university's funding webpage, but the majority are fairly obscure, difficult to find, and based on quite specific and occasionally somewhat eccentric eligibil- ity criteria. Many are pots of 'old money' and make grants by interpreting the wishes of their often long-deceased patrons. In practical terms, this may involve you showing that you are of a certain religion, have resided in a certain part of the country, or have a family link to a particular trade. Some charities look to allocate funds to applicants of a certain nationality, others are exclusive to particular age groups, and some are only available to women. The bottom line is that charities are completely different from public funding sources, and you must treat them entirely differently to have a good chance. 19Postgraduate Funding4 The Alternative Guide ©L.Blaxill. L.Blaxill. Licensed to University of Birmingham. A glance at section 10 of this guide will show you just how diverse charities are. The Vegetarian Charity, for example, will only support students with histories of vegetarianism or veganism, and the Leverhulme Trades Charities Trust will only make awards to the sons and daughters of grocers, chemists, or commercial travellers. Public Scholarships versus charities: the main differences Public Funders versus Charities: the main differences Public Scholarships (Research Councils, University Scholarships) Public Funders (Research Councils, University Scholarships) Usually heavily academic: your research project and/or your academic record are critical. Usually heavily academic: your research project and/or your academic record are critical. Grants are large (fees plus a maintenance grant of £1,000 a month). They are not means- Grants are large (fees plus a maintenance grant of £1,000 a month). They are not tested. You get the same scholarship regardless of your financial situation. means-tested. You get the same scholarship regardless of your financial situation. Very formal, rigid application process where you must stick to word-limits and Very formal, rigid application process where you must stick to word-limits and cannot provide extra documents/information. cannot provide extra documents/information. Extremely competitive. Only a very small number of students gain public funding. Extremely competitive. Only a very small number of students gain public funding. Slow. You have to apply many months in advance. Decisions are also slow. Slow. You have to apply many months in advance. Decisions are also slow. One deadline per year. One deadline per year. Eligibility criteria is usually not an issue, except in a couple of areas. Awards usually Eligibility criteria is usually not an issue, except in a couple of areas. Awards usually available to all students. available to all students. Well-known, well advertised funds with clear information widely available. Well-known, well advertised funds with clear information widely available. The seniority of your referees, and their academic profile, can be critical to your success. The seniority of your referees, and their academic profile, can be critical to your success. Often will not fund vocational Masters Courses, fourth year PhDs, or research costs. Often will not fund vocational Masters Courses, fourth year PhDs, or research costs. There are few bodies: seven research councils, plus universities themselves. There are few bodies: seven research councils, plus universities themselves. 20 14 The Purpose of the Guide 34 The Voluntary Sector 10 Overall, although there are also many general bodies which will consider any student, the majority of your potential funders will be fairly specific to you, your back- ground, and your studies. Your list of 'target bodies' will therefore probably be quite different from someone else’s, and this is why it's essential to do your own research. Charities and Trusts Usually much less academic. Your research project and/or your record are much less important. Smaller grants of £500-2,000. Need to win multiple awards (plus yearly renewals) to raise larger sums. Grants are usually means tested: you must show you have a deficit in your funding package for your course (does not apply for research and travel costs.). Usually informal. You can include extra documents, there are no word limits, and you can be quite creative in your approach. You can even phone them up. Competitiveness varies: some are, but others are much less so. The reason few students are funded by charities isn’t due to stiff competition, but simply because few know about them Fast: charities will usually reply in a month, sometimes less. Usually multiple deadlines per year: 4, 6, sometimes even 12. Eligibility criteria are common. They can sometimes be complex, unusual, or idiosyncratic. Often small, obscure organisations which are quite hard to find out about (they often do not have a website or email address) and which are sometimes a little ‘old fashioned’. Who your referees are is much less important. Will fund anything: you just need to make the argument. Tens of thousands of bodies of all kinds and sizes. 21

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