I started my taught MA in Contemporary History and International Politics in September 2020. Now halfway through, I have found funding my Masters study to be challenging. Balancing self-funding alongside teaching during a pandemic has certainly been more stressful than I expected, but I don’t regret undertaking my postgraduate studies. I wish I’d have known more about how to access money and how it might impact me on a day-to-day basis before I’d started.
I’m going to give you some guidance by outlining how I have funded my Masters study. Hopefully this will show you how you might approach these challenges yourself.
The government loan
The government loan you can borrow is not based on you or your family’s household income. Instead you can borrow up to £11,222, which is paid directly to you in three instalments across the year. If you’re a part-time student this is paid to you across the years of your degree, so you’ll receive a proportionally lower sum each year. This sum usually increases slightly every year, so check the government website for updates.
I borrowed the full sum to to help with funding my masters study and it has been added directly onto my loans from my undergraduate degree. I don’t have to pay it off immediately and the interest rates are the same. Unlike at undergraduate level however my tuition fees are not directly paid by Student Finance to the University. The fee is a lump sum so I pay tuition fees every term and I’m responsible for organising this.
While the government loan can be used to cover tuition fees, rent and other living expenses, it is not enough for many students to live on. As a result I have continued to work part-time to support myself and to pay my rent. I am lucky enough to work remotely as an online tutor, which means I‘ve been able to continue working despite the pandemic.
Balancing part-time work with postgraduate studies can be tricky. The work has definitely been a step up from undergraduate. I have to be really careful to make sure I’m not doing too much work outside of my degree. Many students understandably choose to rely on different sources of funding or don’t have time for a job.
If you do need or want a part-time job to help fund your studies, I would recommend looking for a job where your employers understand your needs as a student. This will allow you to be more flexible and ensure you don’t work too many or too few hours.
As a self-employed tutor I have to be careful about how I allocate my time. All of my contact hours happen to fall on one day a week this term so I have taken this day off from work. I also take one day at the weekend so that I am able to make time for admin and day-to-day activities. Many people find it easier to dedicate certain days for work and study. This might involve only working one day a week, or choosing only to work shifts on certain days.
For many students, including myself, additional funding is often essential to make postgraduate study viable. Alongside part-time work and a government loan, I am lucky to be able to access parental support and savings where necessary. However, as with part-time work, this isn’t always possible depending on your personal circumstances.
Whilst additional sources of funding are not always obvious, there are many ways you can access additional support. For example you could be eligible to access the Disabled Students’ Allowance. This support isn’t just for undergraduate students, it continues into postgraduate study and is a fantastic source of accessible support.
A growing number of universities and departments offer a range of postgraduate funding which can supplement your postgraduate degree. I was able to take advantage of the Graduate Loyalty Discount that York offer to all students who have completed an undergraduate degree here.
Funding my Masters study has been a challenge, but working part-time has made me better at time management. Much of the current system isn’t helped by the fact that we don’t talk about how to fund your studies. With more guidance and support, funding doesn’t have to be so tricky.