Postgraduate Funding for University Students through Grants from Charity | GradFunding



Vicky Paterson, MA Music Therapy,  Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Funding for Fees and Maintenance
Vicky white border

I am currently doing a Masters in Music Therapy at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. When I found out I had been accepted onto the course I quickly realised I had lots of work to do to ensure I could afford the two years of study.

Since graduating from my undergraduate degree I had been working full-time, which had allowed me to save some money, but this was not going to cover the £16,000 tuition fees, or commuting into London. I worked out that my total outgoings for the two years was going to be approximately £40,000. Through an online search I came across the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding. Following its advice, I spent two days in my local library looking through the Grants Register and Directory of Grant Making Trusts. I started to create a long spreadsheet of potential charities and trusts. I then went through the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding's own database and added these to my list. I decided to adopt what the Guide calls 'the industrial approach' (one of several strategies outlined in it) and ended up with a list of around 150 potential charities whose criteria seemed matched my circumstances, albeit some rather loosely!

Much to the amusement of my local Post Office, I started buying numerous stamps and sending out dozens of initial enquiry letters to see if I was eligible. I tried sending emails where they were listed but found these usually bounced back, or I was told to send a letter anyway. I sent these letters with a stamped and addressed envelope enclosed. Although I did have one charity that suggested I did not bother this with this in the future, overall I think this was a worthwhile added expense as it encouraged charities to get back to me even if their reply was negative, which saved me from not knowing. 

I then went through a spell of receiving letters most days, with all of them being negative. After about a month of this I was becoming very despondent, feeling that I had wasted my time and money. However, it was at this point that a cheque arrived in the post for £300 from a charity who do not wish to be publicly named. This re-sparked my enthusiasm as I hadn’t even properly applied for this grant, it was simply a result of my initial enquiry. After this I was then invited to apply to a few more charities.

I ended up raising £4,700 from seven different charities both before and then during my first year of study. The most obscure one was from the Michael James Music Trust who usually support Organ Scholars. They agreed to give me £350 in both my first and second year. My largest grant was from the Clive and Sylvia Richards Charity which was for £2,500. Most of the requirements for these grants were simply to keep the charities updated on my progress. However, I am also required to put a concert on in aid of the Michael James Music Trust and do a presentation on music therapy for the Exuberant Trust.

As my first year came to a close I had the sad realisation that I had to start the application process again to help me cover my final year. This time I met the deadline for a scholarship at my University which was hugely helpful. I have also got a cheque for the second instalment of £350 from the Michael James Music Trust to look forward to. I was also successful with the Sarum St Michael Educational Trust which I will receive at the start of the second year.

I am still working through my initial spreadsheet, trying to narrow it down to send out more enquiries. As time is tighter now I am studying I am not able to take the large scale approach I did before. However, I am hoping to be successful from a few more to help towards my final year of studying.

This experience has been hugely worthwhile but wasn’t without its ups and downs. I have learnt a huge amount about applying for funding which will be crucial for the industry I will be entering. It has also meant I have been able to get through the first year of the course without a deficit and without jeopardising my studies by working too many shifts at the part-time job. Overall I’m glad I took the effort to find funding from alternative sources such as charities and found the Alternative Guide a great resources for helping with this.