Postgraduate Funding for University Students through Grants from Charity | GradFunding


Eman Zied, PhD, Northumbria University
Funding to finish a PhD in Architecture

I am an international student reaching the end of my PhD in Architecture and Built Environment at Northumbria University in Newcastle. I completed my BSc (Hons) in Architectural Engineering and Environmental Design at AASTMT in Cairo, Egypt, and I then started to apply for postgraduate study in the UK. I could not afford to be self-funded so I had to secure funding before I could start my course. After applying to over 50 different programs and funding bodies I managed to secure a Research Development Fund Studentship from Northumbria University, which covered 3 years of fees and stipend, and the Civil Society Scholar Award, which covered relocation and travel expenses.

After completing 2.5 years of my course I realised that I would need extra time to write up my thesis. I was able to get an academic extension, but I could not extend the studentship to cover it, so I had to find alternative sources of funding. I could not apply for university hardship funds as I was an international student, and there was a 6h/week limit on my working hours, so I turned to charity grants to make up my financial deficit. Luckily, I did not have to pay tuition fees for my final year, so I was only searching for maintenance grants.

I mostly used the Alternative Postgraduate Funding Guide to find charity grants, as my university had a subscription so I could access it on campus. Using the filters on the site was really useful as it allowed me to exclude any charities that were region specific or only for UK students. The keyword search also helped narrow down the charities to those who fund international students, and those who offer maintenance grants. Checking the Charity Commission website and Family Action was also helpful, and often I could phone to check my eligibility instead of waiting for an email or letter. The Charity Commission website also had other charities on there which may not exclusively be for educational grants, but would consider applications from students, so its always worth checking!

In the end I had a short list of about 25 charities which I contacted, and I applied to 15 of those. The application process for all the charities was different; some required just a cover letter, reference, and a CV, while the Humanitarian Trust required a statement from an independent person and copies of bank statements! I found it helpful to keep track of the different requirements, deadlines and contact information in a spreadsheet (or on the Alternative Postgraduate Funding Guide website) and to prepare my application well in advance of the deadline, and to make sure my referees were aware of the deadlines and requirements.

I raised £3150 over five awards to cover maintenance costs for my extension. These are the awards I gained:

-Gilchrist Educational Trust (£500)
-Humanitarian Trust Grant (£1000)
-SC Witting Trust (£100)
-The Sidney Perry Foundation (£800)
-Edinburgh association of university women president’s Fund Grant (£750)

Finding charity funding is definitely possible as an international student, and it is also worth checking if there are country specific charities for your nationality. My top tips are to have a prepared detailed financial statement and to avoid jargon in your application and include a small summary of your research and its significance in layman’s terms. If you have gained one award, include it on your CV as I have found that if funding bodies can see you have been funded before, they are more likely to consider you. Above all just be specific and honest about your circumstances, charities do want to help!