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Becki Neale, PhD, Durham University
Funding for PhD in Religious Studies after being rejected for AHRC Funding
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I have won five grants from charitable bodies and trusts so far to fund my PhD in Religious Studies using the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding. When combined, these cover all my fees for the three years and leave a little left over to go towards books. I've also not heard back from some bodies yet, so this amount might rise.

Having narrowly missed out on AHRC funding for my PhD, at first I thought there was no possible way to continue and was resigned to the fact that I would have to withdraw my acceptance of the place at Durham, my chosen University. However, after briefly searching the internet for ideas on how to fund PhDs, I discovered this website, the Alternative Guide, and read your advice eagerly. I quickly began to search out and identify relevant charitable bodies and trusts with whom I might be eligible and drew up a shortlist. As my PhD is in the field of Study of Religion I was at first sceptical that there would be any funding available for this subject area other than through the AHRC. But, particularly using my background as a secondary school teacher of Religious Studies - as well as the nature of my proposed research/ research methodology - I found there were in fact many organisations who were interested in me and my PhD.

After reading up on the values, aims and priorities of these charities and trusts I set about writing to them and applying for their grants/ awards. In some cases a simple letter detailing my situation, research and further ambitions was all that was needed, whereas in others a formal initial letter of enquiry was then followed with a formal application form to complete and return. In all cases I followed the advice given by the Alternative Guide by doing my homework on the organisation and ensuring my letters/ application forms were both to the point but specific in relevant detail.

 In total so far I have won the following, but still have a few more I have yet to hear back from:

  •        All Saints Educational Trust- £6,000 over three years
  •        St Luke’s College Foundation- £2,250 over three years
  •        The Spalding Trust- £1,800 one off grant
  •        St Hild and St Bede Trust- £1,500 one off grant
  •        The Hockerill Foundation- £800 one off grant

In total this amounts to over £12,300 and as such is enough to cover my c.£4000 per year fees. My university department/ college have been so impressed by my success in raising these costs after so narrowly missing out on research council funding they are arranging for me to give a talk to prospective postgraduate students about such options and are considering me for a further scholarship of £3,000 across the three years which I hope to hear the outcome shortly.

In all, this fundraising journey has taken me 6 months so far with initial enquiries back in late January to having all my fees raised by the end of July. My advice to others in similar situations would be perseverance; keep looking for those organisations who can help, there are many out there and every little bit adds up. Clarity; always be clear in your letters and application forms, clear in what your research is (if you are a research student) and how it relates to the charities’ own goals and aims. And finally consideration of the long-term; charitable bodies and trusts want to know why they should help you, where your research is headed and the impact it will have.

Update (November 2016): Becki has let us know she has also won an award of £6,000 from the Leverhulme Trades Charities Trust. This puts her total at the time of writing at over £21,000 raised! A huge well done to Becki- we think this just goes to prove that even if you are studying something like Religious Studies which might not seem to be well funded from conventional sources, charities can be a major alternative ally with the right approach!

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