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 by Ben Taylor
, posted on 30 Sep '20

4 Ways to Top Up Your Masters Funding

You may know you can get a postgraduate loan of up to £11,222 (or more) for a Masters. That probably seems like a lot of money (and it is!) but it’s unlikely to cover the entirety of your tuition fees and your living expenses.

Indeed, we calculated that someone studying the average taught Masters in Sheffield would have to make up a shortfall of around £5,300 in funding, even if they claimed the full £11,222 postgrad loan.

So, you’re possibly wondering where to look for this spare £5,300. It’s hardly the kind of sum you might hope to find stuffed down the side of your sofa (unless your name is Tony Soprano). The good news is there are plenty of ways you can ‘top up’ your postgraduate loan to cover the costs of a Masters. You might have to be a little creative but it is possible.

#1 University scholarships

You’d probably be surprised by the range of scholarships on offer by universities, which usually come in a few different forms:

  • Academic excellence scholarships
  • Widening participation scholarships
  • Masters scholarships for international students

These kinds of scholarship don’t normally affect your eligibility for a Masters loan (or vice versa), making them a great way of supplementing your funds for the duration of your studies.

We’ve put together a handy (and rather long) list of links to each UK university’s postgraduate funding page – this is an excellent way of starting your search for a university scholarship.

#2 Alumni discounts

If you want to study a Masters at the same university as your Bachelors degree, it’s likely that you’ll be eligible for an alumni discount on your tuition fees. This is usually 10%, which means that you’ll pay £794 less for the average UK taught Masters – not to be sniffed at.

Of course, depending on the cost of the Masters you’re applying for, the reduction could be greater (or smaller).

There are usually certain conditions attached to an alumni discount. For example, you may need to have graduated within a certain time period. And you won’t be able to claim the discount in cash – instead, it’ll simply be applied to your tuition fee invoice.

Find out more about alumni discounts.

#3 Charities and trusts

Beyond the universities themselves, there are lots of charities and trusts that offer financial support to postgraduate students. In fact, the sheer number of these organisations – which come in all shapes and sizes – can sometimes make it difficult to work out where exactly to begin your search.

Luckily, there are a few resources that can help you with this:

  • The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding is a comprehensive database of postgraduate funding sources. You’ll need a subscription to access it, but most universities have one of these.
  • Turn2us is a charity with an online, searchable database of charitable grants from across the UK.
  • The Grants Register is similar to the Alternative Guide, but is only available in print form. Your local library (or university) may have a copy.

Some charities are huge, like the Wellcome Trust and its £20 billion endowment. Others are tiny and cater to some fairly niche circumstances, such as the Clan Forsyth Society – dedicated to people whose surname is Forsyth.

#4 Part-time work

Part-time employment is a necessary evil for many Masters students, helping to bridge the gap between the postgraduate loan and their tuition fees / living expenses.

With a little planning and excellent time management skills, it’s possible to balance part-time work with a Masters programme. Of course, coronavirus has made part-time work harder to come by, particularly in-person roles. You may want to explore possibilities for online work, offering your graduate skills as a tutor or freelancing.

Editor's note: This blog was originally published on 11/07/2019. We've reviewed and updated it for current readers.

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