Postgraduate Funding for University Students through Grants from Charity | GradFunding

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Tilotama Pradhan, PhD Sociology, University of Essex
Funding for Maintenance
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I am a third year PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology, University of Essex. My research is about Student migration specifically in relation to Indian migrant students and the maintenance of the home culture during their stay in the UK. I am a full time, self-funded international student from India. While I had been funded for my Masters, I was unable to secure sponsorship for my PhD.

My mother who is a retired and a single parent, wanted to support my academic aspirations and decided to sponsor my tuitions fees from the money she had saved up over the years. International students have to pay triple the fees of home students, and given this, I could not depend on my mother to send me remittance to also support living expenses as well. So I decided to work part time as a teaching assistant in my department, and as a student adviser. A problem I encountered is that international students are only allowed to work 20 hours a week, and I wanted extra funding so I could reduce my working hours to focus on my research and have some savings.

My initial searches for funding turned up very limited grants for International students, and I faced a particular challenge when I had to visit four Indian cities for fieldwork. The flight tickets from the UK to India were sponsored by my Department’s graduate small grant for £1000, and I managed to supplement this with a grant from the Gilchrist Educational Trust (Travel) Grant, which awarded me £500. I also found out about the Sir Richard Stapley Education Trust Grant, and although it was not a travel grant, they awarded me £800, which I used towards the payment of my tuition fees. The application process for both was not complicated, although the Stapley Grant did request academic transcripts and certificates for all my academic qualifications so far. When hunting for alternative funding, it's handy to keep scans or copies of all your certificates just in case!

I recently came to know that the contract for my part-time job will end this year, and will not be renewed. If I don’t have a job, I do not have the means to support my life in UK, and will have to return to India. While frantically looking for funding, the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding website, which Essex subscribes to, has been very helpful and a beacon of hope for students like me who are in dire need of financial support. The search criteria filtered by specific funding that I could apply for; I found this feature time saving and efficient. I soon discovered more than 20 grants that were possibilities that I could approach, and sent emails and letters to all of them requesting application forms. I have heard back from few saying they don’t give grants to individuals or that they have exhausted their funds for the year. However, the Leche trust, one of the trusts I had applied for, has sent me their application form and I have applied for the grant. I am waiting to hear from the rest of the trusts and charities. I am hopeful but also remain realistic in case I am not successful to acquire the funding.

From my personal experience of applying for grants I think it is important to prepare few things:

1)    Always keep a personal statement ready and make the necessary changes as and when required like the year of study and if your circumstances have changed.
2)    Keep an updated CV to hand.
3)    Active contacts details of your referees.
4)    A financial statement- most charities have a standard format [Editor's note: we have example templates on the Alternative Guide!]
5)    Supporting documents- like a certificate of registration from your university especially that shows the tuition fees and estimated living expenses.
6)    Scanned copies of awards and certificates.
7)    If you have any doubt or are unsure about how to apply always email or call them, it saves a lot of time and in most cases they reply.

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