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Tracking down funding sources

Wherever you choose to study, there are ways of finding help with funding your course. Here are four tips.
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Help from your university

Many universities offer scholarships and bursaries to postgraduate students: check the universities’ websites for details. Some may be attached to a particular course or given to students undergoing financial hardship. Several Irish institutions offer postgraduate funding for research degrees, on a competitive basis. You should also check individual departments, which may, for example, have funding awarded to research teams (particularly in science and engineering). Universities or individual departments may also advertise separately (in the press or on departmental notice boards) funding opportunities that have become available closer to the start of the academic year. Applications for university funding are often made at the same time as for academic places on a specific funding application form. The North-South Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme offers funding to postgraduates undertaking a recognised masters or first year of a PhD programme, taught or research, in the other Irish jurisdiction. The scholarships are offered by Universities Ireland; Dublin Institute of Technology, the Open University and the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) are partners in the scheme. The 2013/14 scholarships were worth €15,000 (approx £12,000) each and in 2012 there were five available: three in the fields of engineering and energy, the remaining two in art, business, science and social science. The closing date for applications is in May. More details are available here

Help from the Government

State support for postgraduate students is shrinking, and students starting a postgraduate course from 2012 onwards will not be entitled to maintenance grants. There will still be some help available with fees: some postgraduates will be eligible to have their tuition fees paid (up to a maximum €6,270), while others may be eligible for a €2,000 fee contribution grant. See here for details. There is no mandatory support for postgraduate study in Northern Ireland but you may be able to apply for help through your college or university under the Access to Learning Fund and the Additional Fee Support Scheme. Currently the approximate rate of support for taught programmes is £7,028. The Department for Employment and Learning makes two kinds of postgraduate research studentships: DEL studentships for research (MPhil, DPhil, PhD) and CAST awards (see page 130). For students in Northern Ireland, the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) could pay for extra course costs incurred as a direct result of a disability – for advice, contact SKILL here You can find an overview of and guidance on available funding in Northern Ireland on the Department for Employment and Learning website Information is also available from the Northern Ireland Education and Library Boards and Student Finance NI here .

Help from your employer

In technological, scientific and, sometimes, business areas, funding may occasionally be available for a research topic of interest to employers. This funding is normally applied for at department level and through research teams rather than by individuals. Some students may make personal arrangements to have part-time study fees paid for by their employers. If you’re in work and thinking about a postgraduate course related to your current career, consider asking your employer whether they would contribute to the costs – highlighting the benefits to them. Some of the more expensive taught postgraduate programmes, such as MBAs and professional courses, are more likely to be undertaken with employer support.

Other help

You may need to approach financial institutions for additional support – some may have designated study loans. You may consider working part time to fund your studies – research students, in particular, may be offered tutorial work, exam marking etc. But do be aware that it is less easy to absorb part-time work into the demands of a taught postgraduate course than it may have been on undergraduate courses.

Tips

  • Recognise that funding is limited and is highly competitive to obtain.
  • Begin your search for funding at the same time as you initiate your search for a place, and make sure to follow up on all awards as they are announced.
  • All the rules about applying for a place come into play when applying for funding – maybe more so. It is most important to pay attention to your 'personal statement' and questions relating to work and future plans.
  • Go to your careers adviser and tutors for advice when filling out your application for funding.
  • Keep an eye on deadlines for funding applications: some fall as early as 1 March.