Postgraduate Funding for University Students through Grants from Charity | GradFunding


For Staff: Our take on the new Postgraduate Loans System

We at Gradfunding welcome the new loans systems because they provide a greatly needed extra source of support for students, and will hopefully have the effect of driving students away from the high-interest private loans companies targeted at students which have appeared en masse in recent years. On the other hand, we are also mindful that - even though the loans are at a much better rate of interest - students will be encouraged to incur even more debt, to the extent that somebody who takes out loans for Bachelors, Masters, and PhD may find themselves in personal debt of over £50,000 before they begin earning. We are also mindful that this change makes it necessary for postgraduate funding resources like the Alternative Guide to make our place in this changing market crystal clear, and to show how we dovetail with the new circumstances. However, rather than the new loans system rendering us obsolete, we believe they make the Guide much more important than ever before.

The first reason is simply how many students are not eligible for support. International students, students living outside England, and students already in receipt of government funding. That's probably approaching 50% of the current postgraduate student body. Read more on eligibility here.

The second reason for this is that the loans are not enough to bankroll a whole course. After Masters fees have been paid, the full loan of £11,836 will leave (at best) a few thousand left for the student’s maintenance. For many courses, paying the fees will consume the entire loan. For a PhD, the full loan of £27,892 will average £9,297 a year if the doctorate takes three years, and £6,973 a year if it takes four. This, similarly, will leave precious little (if any) money after fees are paid. The Alternative Guide then comes in to supplement this loan funding. Indeed, it must be stressed that charity awards are almost always supplementary- that is to say that charities have always been likelier to back students who had some other income (whether other grants, part time work, savings, or loans from a respectable source) rather than those who present them with a black hole and no other means to fill it. The loans system makes partial funding much easier to get, which in turn makes charities much likelier to offer supplementary funding.

The third reason - and one our customers in postgraduate recruitment are naturally very mindful of - is that supply is clearly going to generate its own demand. Already, the number of students studying for Masters degrees has increased by nearly a third- just since 2016! It's too early assess the impact for PhD loans yet, but it seems likely that it will also have a significant effect. There will thus be many more partially-funded students who need extra funding to bridge the gap between what their loan gives them, and what they actually need. Again, the value of flexible supplementary grant funding - a few thousand pounds here and there - becomes more pronounced than ever before. And that’s where charities, and the Alternative Guide, excels.

The fourth reason is simply that we offer grants, not loans. While superficially attractive, encouraging students to incur ever-more mountainous debt is inherently problematic, and many students will want an alternative in the form of grants.

The Alternative Guide - in both book and web resource versions - has been updated to take into account the new loans system, with an emphasis on how students can use loans (if they decide to take them out) to unlock further funds through charity.

Read our advice to students on postgraduate loans here