Jakub Janas, MSc European Governance, Cardiff University
Funding for Fees and Maintenance
My name is Jakub and I study MSc European Governance at Cardiff University. After I wasn’t given the CU Master Excellence Scholarship (£3k), I was distressed as I didn’t know where to find the missing funds from. It already took me a year to save for my Masters and I managed to save only a portion of the money needed for my tuition fees and living costs; it made the rejection hard to swallow, especially as I cannot receive any financial support from family. However, as I faced a financial wall with seemingly no chance of jumping over it, giving up my goal was not an option. Although the university’s postgraduate office could not directly solve my problem, I was advised to use the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding which Cardiff subscribed to. I read it through with a reasonable dose of skepticism, made notes and prepared a first list of educational charities to contact.
Between August 2015 and January 2016 I sent over 30 application letters (with the statement, university references, confirmation of study, living expenses estimation and self-addressed envelope) and by the end of first semester I received 8 responses; 3 were positive, giving me around £3,300 - exactly the sum I was missing from Master Excellence Scholarship! As I now how the system works, by the end of my course, I plan to double this amount- wish me luck! Here are some tips that I found in my search for grants:
The Alternative Guide is a good starting point – it takes the reader by hand and presents step-by-step solutions, plus its written in a very approachable English;
- Neither me nor my friends were ever told about educational charities. As they are not too well known about. you have good chances to get at least some funding if you apply;
- The best thing about charities is that their trustees often meet few times a year – so there is always a good time to start searching!
- Divide your charity list into three categories – charities that support your area of study (I study European Governance and Public Policy at Law and Politics Department – I found hardly any charities supporting this discipline); charities that are reasonably close and the ones that support any discipline. Don’t restrict yourself only to the closest matches that look the most appropriate – I had little luck with charities closely related to my discipline, and ended up being supported by the least predictable ones;
- Be patient, but once in a while call the charity you sent the letter to in order to confirm whether they received your application and made the decision;
- Check at your own university for financial assistance programmes, but don’t expect help to come easilly, unless you make some effort (finding a part-time job, sending charity applications, contacting local bank for a loan etc.);
- Together you go further - exchange information with your friends, but don’t sell it too cheaply J
I was successful despite of:
- Reading the Guide too late. I read it in August and started to apply a month later, already missing some deadlines. It is true, that some charities require early (spring before the course’s beginning) application, but others don’t!
- Being an international/EU student. I am Polish, not British – the nationality criteria exists (what is reasonable, as we all study in the UK) and it constrained me in some cases. However, as long as you can prove your UK residency, there should be no problem in majority of cases!
- Studying a taught master in social science. I study taught master of European Governance and Public Policy, making me unable to apply for reasonable number of research grants or private business sector support. Despite of it, I managed to get over £3k in 4 months!
To make it clear: I received the first responses in the end of September and only in December-January I received the bulk of the sum I have now. Be positive, but not over-positive and unrealistic – some students can get £10k+/year from charities but if you have never done charitying before and you don’t study law/medicine/science/engineering, do not expect “quick and easy” money for nothing.
Educational charities’ support is a great contribution to your budget but you must be good at searching to live off it – during my master studies I had to work part-time in not-so-fancy places and I also started to give language classes to make ends meet. On the other side, the fact that you have to work part-time is a strong reason to receive support, isn’t it? Eventually, I don’t regret it as it boosted my confidence and partially solve my money problem!