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Postgraduate funding - is there any still out there?

Interested in fourth-level study but put off by the rising costs? Don't despair! We can help you track down the hidden funding sources.
Coins in a stack

These are uncertain financial times for postgraduate students in Ireland. Postgraduate education is slipping out of reach for many, thanks to slashing of fourth-level state support. But before you give up on the idea, it's worth bearing in mind that financial aid is still available from other, non-government-affiliated sources. These include higher education institutions themselves, industry sponsors, charitable organisations and private donors.

Most higher education institutions offering postgraduate programmes will also offer financial awards, bursaries and scholarships. Once you start digging around the wider funding options available in your area of interest, you might just find opportunities opening up for you.

Here is a snapshot of what's out there.

University College Cork

UCC has 23 “Excellence Scholarships” to give away every year to new PhD and Masters students. The scholarships cover full EU fees for the duration of your postgraduate course. They are available only in the disciplines of arts, humanities or social sciences. Closing dates for 2016 are 10th April (Masters) and 17th April (PhD). More information and application forms at here

Trinity College Dublin postgraduate awards and prizes

As well as various university studentships and fellowships, Trinity College Dublin lists a grand total of 39 other postgraduate awards and prizes – largely private donations, bequests and bursaries – ranging from the modest (€63) to the very generous (more than €16,000 per year). One such prize, the Claude and Vincenette Pichois Research Award, is for fees covered and an annual stipend of €16,000 and is available to a graduate of French who wishes to do a PhD on French 19th- or 20th-century literature at the college. Similar awards for scholarships in the field of medical research are also sometimes available. Awards like these make it possible for a student to pursue further academic research where otherwise they may not have been in a position to.

UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School scholarships

UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School has just announced its 2012 Aspire Scholarship programme, offering three MBA and nine MSc scholarships, aimed specifically at those who could not otherwise afford to study at the School. The scholarships cover half the cost of the tuition fees of the relevant courses.

NUI Galway postgraduate scholarships

NUI Galway has announced 100 new postgraduate scholarships at €2,000 each for taught Masters students for September 2012.

Burren College of Art scholarships and funding opportunities

Burren College of Art, a private art college affiliated to NUI Galway, lists 25 scholarships and funding opportunities on its website for its fine art students.

Research funding for PhD students in telecommunications

The Telecommunications Graduate Initiative (TGI) promotes four-year structured PhDs in telecommunications across a consortium of seven Irish universities and ITs. 35 four-year studentships incorporating a tax-free €16,000 annual stipend and a €5,000 annual allowance were launched in 2011, and a number are still available.

Queen's University Belfast studentships

In Northern Ireland, Queen's University Belfast offers annual university studentships for both taught and research programmes, which cover the full payment of tuition fees and include a maintenance allowance. Queen's also offers six other annual scholarships ranging from €650 to €5,000, and links to further external funding sources, including the Leverhulme Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

University of Ulster scholarships and awards

Funding is available for both taught and research postgraduate study at the University of Ulster in the form of studentships and scholarships, including the Print Futures Awards and the North/South Postgraduate Scholarships.

Keep a regular eye on institution websites for new funding opportunities, and of course keep checking back with us for the latest information and advice.

Top tips for uncovering the hidden postgraduate funding sources

You may have to search further, for longer (frustratingly, funding opportunities are not always well sign-posted on institution websites), but a little bit of extra research will be well worth the effort if it results in a financial award. Here’s how to root out the funding:

  • Be exhaustive in your search. If there is no obvious signposting for financial aid for postgraduates on an institution's website, this doesn't necessarily mean that they don't offer any. If fourth-level funding opportunities are not flagged up in their own right, they are likely to be located on or near the fees section, or the application section, of an institution's graduate school website. If all else fails, send the college an email or give them a call to double check what funding they can offer.
  • Be prepared to be flexible. If you have your heart set on studying at a particular college but they don't provide adequate funding, then have a look at what other colleges that run similar programmes can do for you financially. If you can find a more affordable alternative elsewhere, pursuing your studies at a different college is preferable to not pursuing them at all.
  • Use social media to follow what institutions are up to. Follow colleges that interest you on Twitter – it's arguably the fastest way of finding out about postgraduate funding developments.

All the information in this article was correct at the time of writing, March 2012.