Postgraduate Funding for University Students through Grants from Charity | GradFunding



Alex Tapping, MSc Applied Neuropsychology, University of Bristol
Funding for Maintenance to build on a Postgraduate Loan
alex whiteborder

My name is Alex and I am a 23 year old student studying Applied Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol. I previously studied psychology at Bath and in my final year was introduced to the concept of neuropsychology as a career path. This is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders, working in areas such as stroke, epilepsy, dementia, and traumatic brain injury. I soon realised that, given how competitive this field is, that a masters degree would hand me a considerable advantage.

As I became more certain that this was the route I wanted to take, I then had to try and look at the finical realities of it to see if I could afford it. Having worked full time all summer  I had some savings. But the course fees were £10100, rent would be another £6000. Even with the new £10,000 postgraduate loan which I took out in full, I was still be around £3000 short of what I needed. This therefore gave me a tricky decision to make; whether to gamble and accept my place on the course, or spend a year working to save more money. After much deliberation with my parents I decided to accept my place on the course.

I knew part-time work alongside my course would be a necessity to give me a chance of affording the year, and so I started working around 3-4 evenings a week in a cocktail bar, which was tough trying to juggle with the workload of my course. I realised around November that this wasn't sustainable if I wanted to achieve the best grades I possibly could. I had heard of alternative pathos of postgraduate funding however did not really know much about it. I was then recommend the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding which had a  database of 1,000 of organisation willing to give funding to students. I searched using different criteria, such as psychological subjects and ones specific to postgraduates. After this I probably sent around 50 emails to organisations requesting application forms. Many didn’t reply, however some sent back their application processes, to which I probably applied to around 20. Whilst some did not get back to me or replied saying I did not match the eligibility criteria, one organisation called the Leathersellers invited me for an interview with their board of trustees in London. This consisted of a 15 minute interview where they asked me about my course, how it will benefit my career, and my financial difficulties. After a month a was thrilled to receive an email saying that they had decided to award me £1500 as a contribution towards my living costs- a massive relief as it meant I could afford my next rent instalment.

This did however still leave me around £1000 short for my last rent instalment, and with exams in January, and the course demands increasing, I was finding less time available for part time work to raise this. I therefore decided to apply for my universities financial hardship fund which I also found out about through the Alternative Guide. This required me to fill out a large booklet of forms, and provide proof that I was in financial difficulty. I received £130, which whilst I was grateful for it, still left me somewhat short for my final rent instalment. At this point I was beginning to get a little nervous, as my final rent instalment was looming. However, I then received a positive email from a lady at the Humanitarian Trust (which I also found through the Alternative Guide) inviting me to fill out an application for and provide two references. Without even an interview, they awarded me £1000 from their educational trust fund. With this I was able to pay my last rent instalment which was a massive weight off my shoulders. I was then able to focus completely on my course and am proud to say I am currently on track for a distinction grade. This is something I truly believe would not have been possible without securing the extra charity funding unlocked by the Alternative Guide. It allowed me to spend more time on my course work, instead of part-time work, and lifted the increasing stress that was building up on me when I was worrying about how to pay my rent.

Moreover, I have since been able to take a job at a brain injury rehabilitation unit, working a smaller number of hours a week then my previous job required. This has given me valuable and much needed experience, and a great boost to my CV as it is relevant to my course. Moreover, without having to worry about finances over the summer, I can now fully focus on my dissertation research at the Bristol Children’s Hospital which is due in for submission in September. Without the help of the Alternative Guide and the generosity of the two charities that gave me awards, I am not sure if I would have been able to remain in Bristol to complete my course.

We think Alex's story is an excellent example of the opportunities - and also the challenges - created by the recent postgraduate loans system. The loan isn't anywhere near to fund whole Masters courses, and this story showcases the important role that charities can play in helping to bridge the deficit between what the loan gives you, and what you actually need.