Genevieve Richardson, MPhil Development Studies, University of Oxford
Raising funds for fees with Crowdfunding. Visit her campaign here!
I have just finished my undergraduate degree in French and Spanish at the University of Leeds. I knew early on in my degree that I wanted to do a research-based Master’s, hoping eventually to secure a position as a lecturer. Given the international scope of my undergraduate course and my passion for social justice, I decided to write my thesis on the pejorative effects of foreign aid on West African, francophone countries. I successfully applied for the MPhil in Development Studies at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. However, after missing out on the few scholarships and bursaries for which I was eligible, the financial burden became a reality. I accepted Oxford’s offer, but the tuition fees for the two-year MPhil course were so expensive that a personal development loan would not even cover it and, in any case, I wanted to avoid taking out a large loan because I didn’t want to get into even more debt than I am already in from my undergraduate degree.
I had two options: I could apply for funding from charitable trusts and I could start a crowdfunding campaign. I was sceptical about crowdfunding because I didn’t think anyone would want to ‘donate’ to a cause that wasn’t a charity. I thought people would ask, ‘Why should I give my money to someone I don’t know for their education?’ (which they have done). However, when I visited Oxford in April to have a look at my future department, I happened to meet a girl who had successfully crowdfunded over £16,000 to pay for her tuition fees. The reasons why she had done it resonated with me: she had got into Oxford and did not want to let her socioeconomic background get in the way of her taking her place.
A few months later, then, I set up a crowd-funding page on www.hubbub.net, where the girl I had met in Oxford had staged her campaign; Hubbub is particularly geared towards educational projects, hence why I chose not to use a more well-known platform like Kickstarter. I knew that I had to show people just how much I wanted to do this Master’s course, why it was not just important for me but on a larger scale. In other words, crowdfunding campaigns for education help people who ordinarily might not have access to further education the opportunity to do so. In addition, I have tried to show people that through my Master’s degree, and subsequent doctoral study, I hope to make a significant contribution to the academic world and policymakers, as well as further afield.
I also knew I had to get social media savvy, and set up a Facebook page, Tumblr and hashtag. My campaign is called 'Get Me To Oxford’ so I gave all of my social media platforms the same name, changing my Twitter handle to @getme2oxford. I shared my story on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr with my immediate friends and family, and asked them to share, too. Soon I had accumulated £350. I knew I needed to spread the word more, so I contacted my local newspaper and they wrote an article about the campaign on their website. Soon I was up to £1,000. This led to the paper publishing the article in their paper version. Seeing my article in the Yorkshire Evening Post, I was contacted by a journalist who wanted to write a story about me, and by BBC Radio Leeds, who interviewed me on their breakfast show.
Obviously it’s really hard to go viral; it takes determination, savvy and luck. This is why I’m hoping that through crowdfunding and charitable trusts, I will be able to create a substantial funding package. As of the beginning of July 2015, I’ve crowdfunded well over £2,000 so far and am confident I can crowdfund even more.
We think Genevieve's story shows how innovative students are rewriting the rules of student funding by harnessing the voluntary sector in a new and creative way that surprised even us! We also think that crowdfunding and the more 'conventional' charity funding through the Alternative Guide - are ideal allies. Look out for more on Crowdfunding on the Alternative Guide Online soon!
Visit Genevieve's Crowdfunding Campaign here. And help get her to Oxford! Good luck Genevieve!