This is where you'd start if you began by looking at funding but, as I'm at pains to demonstrate here, that isn't always the best approach.
Knowing I can get a postgraduate loan for my Masters is nice, but that doesn't mean a whole lot unless I know how far that loan has to go. Having figured this out, I can start working towards that figure - starting with those loans.
Step 1 - postgraduate loans
Postgraduate loans should be your first call if you're looking for funding as a UK student (or an EU student) but they work a bit differently to undergraduate loans.
Instead of being linked directly to your course fees, your loan will be capped at a specific amount set by student finance. And (with the exception of Scotland) there isn't any separate maintenance loan.
It's really easy for students to miss this and assume that the loan is a one-stop-shop. It isn't. This is why it's so important to work out your likely costs beforehand.
My example - Alternative timeline Mark would be eligible for an English postgraduate loan of up to £12,167 (real Mark wouldn't be eligible now because he already has a Masters and a PhD, but nevermind). I've worked out the actual cost of my Masters as roughly £19,000 so, if I take the full loan, I still need to find an additional £6,833.
Step 2 - alumni perks
One way to make a Masters easier to fund is to make it cheaper.
These days it's very common for universities to offer 'alumni discounts' to graduates who stay (or come back) for a Masters. The amount varies and there are sometimes a few other strings attached (such as getting a certain grade for your Bachelors) but 10% is fairly typical.
Obviously this isn't much help if your dream Masters is at another university, but it's worth considering if you can find a suitable course at your institution, or there isn't much in it.
My example - So, we'll assume my undergraduate university offers a 10% discount and a Masters I like. Turning to my trusty calculator I can work out that my fees are now about £7,866 (a pretty solid reduction). This means my overall cost is down to £18,126. So, after my postgraduate loan is used up I now need £5,959.
Step 3 - other grants and scholarships
The funding I've covered so far is as close to universal as you can get for a Masters (most UK students can access some form of postgraduate loan and lots of universities offer alumni discounts).
From here on though, things get a bit more specific and its harder to say what will (or won't) be available to you.
There's probably going to be something out there though and it's probably going to come from one of the following sources:
- University awards - There's a pretty good chance your university will have some of its own postgraduate funding available (universities are used to Masters students needing more help with their course costs). It's probably going to be competitively awarded, but that's no reason not to apply.
- Charitable grants - This is a catch-all category for a range of other organisations that fund postgraduate study. The amount they offer and the things they're looking to fund will vary, but there are a lot of them out there.
Spend a bit of time exploring these options and you could make up some (or perhaps even all) of your funding shortfall.
My example - I'm going to imagine I'm lucky enough to find £1,000 in extra funding. That's far from guaranteed, but it isn't an unrealistic target if I'm organised enough. It leaves me with £4,959 to find for a year of postgraduate study.
Step 4 - working out the last bit
We've now exhausted student finance, university discounts and other scholarships. You can try other options such as crowdfunding or asking for help from an employer, but these only work in some cases and they require a lot of very specific preparation.
Instead I'm going to assume you do what most students do when they need some extra money: work alongside your degree.
Now, working alongside a Masters is possible and the kind of work you can get may well be better than the jobs you did as an undergrad. Just bear in mind that a Masters is more demanding.
If you aren't sure how much part-time work you can fit around your course, there's no harm in asking a prospective tutor. They'll know how much study they expect of you; they may also have some idea of the sort of work other students have done.
My example - I've decided my hypothetical parallel-universe twin can manage to work 10 hours a week (a couple of shifts somewhere)provided he gets some studying done during evenings and weekends. Based on the minimum wage, that's going to net him at least £5,293 (thank you again dear calculator) which leaves him up about £330.
You may also decide to take on additional work during the holidays to help take the financial pressure off during your semesters.