A number of enquiries sent to the National Postgraduate Committee (NPC) are about how to find particular courses and postgraduate funding. This page has therefore been set up to provide some immediate information about postgraduate funding to assist in answering the main enquiries that reach us. There is no ordinary source of funding in the UK for postgraduate study, it varies largely between home/EU and overseas students as well as widely between part time, full time and different subject disciplines in both taught and research programmes. This guide is there to try and give an idea of sources of funding across these different spheres of postgraduate community.
This web page has been put together through knowledge of individuals in the NPC as to what sources of funding are available. This website is always open to update on any further information of funding sources so if you have any further useful weblinks or information that can be posted onto this web page, it would be greatly valued. Please email the General Secretary with any suggestions on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Postgraduate Committee is a charity dedicated to the advancement of postgraduate education in the United Kingdom. Its activities do not include financial sponsorship of individuals or of courses; any reports that NPC is involved in such activity are misinformation and are to be ignored.
If you are looking for a particular postgraduate course but do not know which particular institution(s) in the UK offer it, then your best choice is to visit our website links page for postgraduate course information and search engines at http://www.npc.org.uk/links/Postgraduate_Courses. These websites should provide a helpful avenue to seeking such relevant information.
For home and EU students, some funding sources are good news, while others are bad news. It largely depends on the subject area and what the demand is for particular individuals on a course or research programme. Don't forget if you are still in a higher education institution you can visit your careers service for more information on postgraduate funding. A summary of the main funding sources are outlined below.
Scholarships - These are rare, especially in social sciences and arts and humanities. A number of higher education institutions and professional institutions do offer postgraduate scholarships and will widely advertise them from their websites. You will find if you use an internet search engine and use "Postgraduate Scholarship" or even just "Scholarship" as the search word for websites in the UK only a number of higher education institutions or professional institutions will come up offering awards. If you wish to undertake a course/programme at a particular institution you should also seek advice from the department.
The following websites are also useful points from which to search for scholarships:
http://www.newscientistjobs.com - New Scientist Jobs
http://www.jobs.ac.uk - The Academic Jobs website, including scholarships
http://www.scholarship-search.org.uk - Search engine for scholarships
http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk - The Royal Society
http://www.royalsoced.org.uk - The Royal Society of Edinburgh
http://www.prospects.ac.uk - Graduate Prospects
http://www.postgrad.hobsons.com - Hobsons Postgraduate
State Funding - There is limited state funding at present in terms of what is available for postgraduates. The Department for Education and Skills has information on postgraduate funding for England and Wales at http://www.dfes.gov.uk/studentsupport/students/, where the only case they provide funding is for teacher training. In medical courses, there are possibilities for funding from the National Health Service with information at http://www.dfes.gov.uk/studentsupport/students/nhs_.shtml. Students in Scotland will find more information about the Postgraduate Student Allowances Scheme (PSAS) at http://www.student-support-saas.gov.uk/. Within Scotland there are a number of generous quota awards (where a limited number of awards are provided) and non quota awards where unlimited awards are available. For Northern Ireland, there is information from the Department of Employment and Learning, although similar conditions apply there as for England and Wales - http://www.student-support.org.uk.
Employer/Self Funding - It is not unusual for postgraduates to pursue a course from savings or from family support. In a number of cases, part time postgraduate study is a popular option in this case as a means to enhance career development by undertaking a complimentary course or research programme. This is more likely to be found in the arts and social sciences where other sources of funding are not so common.
Employer sponsored postgraduate study can be an ideal arrangement where you get to study for a qualification that will improve the ability to do your job and advance your career prospects. However, convincing your employer to fund further study may be a difficult task. You will need to produce a proposal, like a business plan, to identify the benefits for an employer funding further study. There are obstacles however that you may need to consider. You may be tied in to your employer for a period of time and you may be required to pay travel expenses, or books and resource costs.
Career Development Loans - For a number of vocational courses, these can be taken out subject to repayment 6 months after completing the postgraduate course. They can be provided to postgraduate students requiring funding for tuition and/or maintenance for a vocational course for anything from £300 to £8,000. Only some courses are eligible for this loan and the student has to be confident that they will get a beneficial job after the course to be able to repay the loan. For this reason, career development loans are normally taken out for courses such as Law, Business Management and Information Technology, where employment potential is high. The terms and conditions should be carefully paid attention to, which are not as simple as that of the undergraduate student loan. More information is at http://www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/cdl/index.htm. Career Development Loans will only apply to students in England, Scotland and Wales. To study in Northern Ireland this is not an option, where a bank loan would be necessary.
Research Council Funding - The research councils will mainly fund research degree programmes and also taught postgraduate degree programmes (mainly to allow postgraduates to progress to a research degree).
To be eligible for Research Council Awards you must be an Ordinary Resident in the UK throughout the three years preceding your application. You should normally possess a first-class or upper second-class honours degree.
Except for some AHRC and ESRC schemes you should not apply directly to the Research Councils. Research councils allocate funding to individual departments and you should apply directly to the department in which you want to study.
There are different research councils for different discipline areas with the following names and weblinks:
- Medical Research Council (MRC) - http://www.mrc.ac.uk - This is for all research in medical funding with the most generous funding stipends for research students. Studentships are awarded to departments for both Master level and Doctoral level postgraduates.
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) - http://www.nerc.ac.uk - One of the smaller research councils with a limited number of studentships available distributed via departments, which would normally be for postgraduate research.
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) - http://www.esrc.ac.uk - This research council covers all the social sciences where competition is tough, and the ESRC have recently introduced a quota of awards to departments with high quality research to try and ease selection processes. This research council will fund Master level courses only for those wishing to carry on to Doctoral level via a "1 + 3" scheme. It is also possible to apply for a "+3" scheme only for students already qualified to begin a research degree.
- Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) - http://www.epsrc.ac.uk - As a large research council with a wide scope for research, there are many awards available here for both Master level and Doctoral level programmes. All these awards are provided via departments. The EPSRC offers different ways of funding doctoral programmes including doctoral training accounts, co-operative awards in science and engineering (CASE) schemes and engineering doctorates. Such awards can warrant generous donations of funding with the inclusion of industrial sponsorship.
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council - http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk - As a similar sized research council to EPSRC it offers similar support to Master and Doctoral level students other than the doctoral training accounts. All funding is available via departments in biological sciences, biomedical, biochemistry and other related fields.
- Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) - http://www.pparc.ac.uk - As one of the most specialist research councils it is also one of the smallest. They largely offer Doctoral awards rather than Master level awards including CASE studentships and also CASE Plus studentships, which will involve an additional year working in academic research or industry.
- Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/ - The AHRC awards around 1,500 awards each year for Masters and Doctoral Study. Competition is high. There are three types of studentship: Research Preparation Masters Scheme, Professional Preparation Masters Scheme and Doctoral Awards Scheme.
Charity Funding - Charities, trusts, and foundations differ in size from the Wellcome Trust, http://www.wellcome.ac.uk, which awards hundreds of studentships each year to the British Federation of Women Graduates which offers small living cost bursaries and the Anglo-Brazilian Society which offers a single two month research visit for the award holder.
The different types of scheme available include studentships, scholarships, grants, bursaries, competitions and prizes depending on the size of the charity or trust.
Lists of charities and trusts with funding opportunities can be found through Prospects.
Students from the European Union are often entitled to the scholarships on offer with search methods described above and of course self/employer funding applies in the same way since fees for UK and EU students are the same. Career Development Loans are only available to students in England, Wales and Scotland. Research Councils can award grants to cover the tuition fees but not the maintenance costs.
For other funding for trans-national European study or research there are other sources of funding:
European Social Fund - http://www.esf.gov.uk
UK Socrates/Erasmus Council - http://www.erasmus.ac.uk for European study
UK Research Office in Brussels - http://www.ukro.ac.uk for information on Early Stage Researcher funding
For International Students, the situation gets even more difficult in terms of studying in the UK and finding funding if it is not available from your home country given the immensely high fees involved. The cost of living in the UK is not the same throughout the country with average costs for a twelve month period ranging from £9,200 in London and the South East to £7,200 elsewhere in the UK.
However, there are scholarships often available and can be searched for in the same way as explained in the section about scholarships for UK Postgraduates, where the same websites will also be of use.
It is important to thoroughly explore all options while still in your home country. The first point of contact should be your education ministry. The British Council and your own institution will be able to offer advice.
The institution you wish to apply to is more than likely to have its own web pages about international student scholarships etc. where you can find out more information. On top of that it is also possible to find further information from the following websites about international student funding:
http://www.educationuk.org - Education UK, a useful website for international students set up by the British Council.
http://www.educationuk.org/scholarships - A useful source of scholarships you may be eligible for.
http://www.britishcouncil.org/education/funding/ - Information from the British Council on Postgraduate Scholarships.
http://ukscholarshipsdatabase.britishcouncil.org/ - a directory of UK Scholarships.
http://www.ukcosa.org.uk - The Council for International Education, which contains useful guidance notes for international students.
http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/ors/ - Overseas Research Scholarship Scheme, grants to allow international students to undertake research degrees.
http://www.acu.ac.uk - Association of Commonwealth Universities with funding opportunities for postgraduates resident in The Commonwealth.
http://www.support4learning.org.uk/money/funds_internat.htm - Other information for international students.
http://www.studyoverseas.com/uk/uked/funding.htm - Helpful tips on applying for funding in the UK.