Lucy Atkinson, PhD Cogitive Psychology, University of Northampton
Raising funds for fees, accommodation, and research expenses
I am a second-year postgraduate researcher in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Northampton. I am 24 years old and among the youngest in my university enrolled on a PhD. My primary specialism is cognitive psychology and second language learning. I went to Lancaster University from 2008-2011 for my BSc in psychology in Education, and then did my Master's in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (which was fully funded by a departmental scholarship). After this, I went to China to teach English for one year in a boarding school. Whilst out in China I began thinking more about a PhD and eventually - partly through the inspiration of an academic who had supervised me as an undergraduate - decided to go to University of Northampton. She and I knew I would be a self-funded research student with some help from my parents and my savings, but we both felt I would be a good candidate for gaining funding whilst on my course.
Shortly after being accepted for my PhD in April 2013, I began researching for awards and funding. Quite baffled and not entirely eligible for some research council awards, I realised it looked as though I'd have to self-fund. First, I looked for university internal funding awards and applied to them all. Then, it was my mother who came across the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding from an article on the Guardian website. We bought it, read it, and followed all the tips. I applied for over 20 awards, and it also taught me to look for further funding online and in local newspapers and companies.
To date, I've won more than seven awards and ended up gaining just under £6,000 for my first year of my PhD. Among these charities were the Sidney Perry Foundation, Merchant Navy Educational Trust, and the Dorothy Johnson Charity. One of my most unusual funders was the Swallowdale Children’s Charity which is really for younger children in need. This award was featured in my local newspaper in the area I had grown up. I contacted them, and they agreed I could apply, so I did. I was invited to their award ceremony (which I could not attend as I was in China on a research trip) so my parents went in my place. The charity seemed to be delighted to be helping a young adult researching for a PhD, and wanted me to keep in touch year by year to tell of my progress. Other awards which were of great notice were the Merchant Navy Educational Trusts. My father has been in the Merchant Navy for over 20 years, and because of this I could apply.
One challenge I faced with charity funders was that I was a young candidate at the beginning of her PhD and I thought they would consider my application mediocre. However, combined with my references (from recent academic supervisors), my C.V., alongside funding and financial statements – I made a strong case that I still needed funds to help cover the remainder of my PhD.
I would advise any graduate who is thinking of going into postgraduate study, that you should always follow your plan and dream. If money is the only barrier, it can be alleviated. Charity funding is an incredible source and one not to forget when planning further higher studies.
Overall, I would say the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding is a wonderful resource, and without finding this little gem I would really have never enrolled on my PhD. The guide gave me the blueprint for successful letter writing and spurred my interest and determination to keep on applying throughout each year of my PhD. Thank you!