I Can't Get Postgraduate Funding: What Are My Alternatives?
Postgraduate study can be expensive. A PhD or equivalent qualification can entail a huge range of costs, including living expenses and the cost of the course itself.
Funding is available for postgraduate study from a range of institutions. But this funding is limited, and competition is fierce. So what are your options if you can’t secure conventional postgraduate funding?
Bank LoansMany people turn to conventional bank loans or other forms of personal credit in lieu of postgraduate funding. You might choose to take out a loan from your High Street bank or use your credit card. In more extreme circumstances, some home-owners use things like equity release schemes to help them get the cash they need to complete their studies.
It is important that you understand the potential problems associated with this course of action. Primarily, you should understand that you will normally have to start paying off a conventional loan as soon as you take it out. This is very different to most ‘student’ loans, on which repayments normally only begin when you finish your course or are earning a certain amount.
Furthermore, banks and other lenders take a very dim view of missed repayments. Before taking out a loan of this sort you need to make absolutely sure that you will have the necessary cash available to make the monthly repayments Use a repayment calculator to work out exactly how much you will need to find each month, and how much the loan will cost you in total.
Family and FriendsSome students instead choose to approach family or friends for financial help. In many cases this can be a less high-risk option than a bank loan, primarily because your family are unlikely to send round the bailiffs in the event that you can’t pay.
But that doesn’t mean it is without potential problems. Borrowing from friends and family can be awkward, and it can change your relationship – not necessarily for the better. You need to make absolutely sure that you will be able to pay the loan back when you promise to.
You might also choose to draw up a written agreement between you and the lender, outlining exactly how much they are lending, over what period, and any other conditions that might be attached. This might seem like an unnecessary step, but it can help to prevent disagreements and arguments later on.
SponsorshipIt is not uncommon for postgraduate students to find sponsorship to help fund their studies. This is particularly common in industries like engineering, where firms are keen to have employees who have as wide a range of relevant skills as possible.
Sponsorship arrangements of this sort often involve the employer paying all of the costs of the course, and they can therefore be a fantastic way of getting the qualifications you need. But you should make sure that you fully understand the terms of the deal before you begin. Many employers will require you to work for them for a certain period after you finish your study; this is often three years or more. You should therefore make sure that you would be happy staying at that company, as this is likely to be a legal requirement if you take the sponsorship.
Is Postgraduate Study Really for you?Finally, if you are really struggling to get funding for your postgraduate study, you should consider whether or not it really is the right choice for you. Universities will often offer to fund study proposals that they deem to be interesting or useful, so you might wish to consider whether it is your proposal that is letting you down. Could you improve it? Are you applying to the sorts of institutions that would find it exciting?
You should also remember that a postgraduate qualification is not necessarily a prerequisite for a job. In many cases, entering the world of work and gaining the valuable experience that a job provides, can be the best possible option.