Suraiya Nasreen, PhD Business Studies, University of Hull
Raising funds for International Students' Fees
I am a fourth year PhD candidate at Hull University Business School and my research is in the area of non-profit marketing. I am an international student from Bangladesh and I came to UK for a Masters in 2009 (self-funded). I got hooked into the idea of doing a PhD after encouragement from my supervisor. I was lucky enough to get full funding from my university for tuition (home rates) and maintenance. But even with full funding, I still had a large hole in my funding package as I had to pay the overseas tuition fees- which are triple that of a home student!
I started a part-time job and after two years I realised that it was eating into my research hours. Then I saw a poster for the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding (2010-2011) in the Hull Graduate School and this answered my prayers! The Alternative Guide gives you a big list/database of possible places you can apply for funding. Using this (and turn2us) I started making applications to funding bodies. I’ve managed to accumulate sufficient funding to cover my fees for two years- a very substantial sum indeed!
There are many challenges to gaining charity funding but the rewards made it well worth it. One challenge I found was in crafting grant applications. Every charity and trust is different, and hence they all want slightly different emphasis. Another challenge I faced is the waiting time. Sometimes charities are very quick to respond but occasionally they took a long time- up to a year. It's sensible to keep an excel file recording the charities you are applying to, it’s very easy to lose track, and you can also use the Personal Grants Manager on this website. Another challenge is to manage your referees (academic supervisors) and get them to find time to send an email or send a signed hard copy reference. In one a charity wanted a reference from a religious leader! But managing these things is part of the challenge. You just need to be patient and persuasive.
There is truly something for everyone. I was initially discouraged as I am not a home student, and assumed that would hinder me. However, as soon as you start looking you will find there are specific charities for international students, women, and students studying specific subjects. Some of the grants I received were from Funds for Women Graduate, Leche Trust, Hammond Trust, Muslim Aid and the Bestway Foundation among others. One of them actually rang me again to ask if I was in need of more funds! In my opinion and experience, charities will want to fund you again if they know and feel that you are genuine. The takeaway from this story is although charities and trusts have many eligibility criteria, they are very often undersubscribed- especially the more obscure bodies. So apply PEOPLE!
If you need the money to fund fees and living or to complement another award, do not give up. Yes, it takes up a lot of time. From personal experiences, I wasted two years in part time work. If I gave a small percentage of that time in applying to alternative funding, I possibly could have completed earlier. Another advice for students is ‘do your homework’. Charities have eligibility criteria, past award holders’ stories that tell you a lot about how you should present your case and who these trusts typically fund. For instance, I rang a charity in my Masters and they asked ‘what help do you need’. I said ‘I need help with living costs’ and their immediate reply was ‘we only help with tuition fees’. So before emailing or ringing charities, it is important to research them.
Finally, one huge help I received from the Alternative Guide was in crafting applications. There are good examples as to how to present your case/need to charities. Now as I am applying for University teaching jobs, I wish there was a CV guide like Alternative Guide suggesting the dos and don’ts! I would recommend every UK University to subscribe to the Alternative Guide!
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