Funding a degree

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It’s no secret that studying at university is expensive – tuition fees are high and living costs are just as bad. Obviously, the job prospects out of university once you have a degree vastly outweigh the price you pay to study, but you’re not quite there yet and so how do you finance your degree and other things along the way?

Fortunately, for today’s undergraduates, loan schemes like those provided by Student Finance England allow young people from all financial backgrounds to get the opportunity to study at university and you are offered an additional ‘maintenance’ loan which intends to support you whilst you are studying. The structure of the undergraduate academic year also allows around 20 weeks as breaks from term-time too, making it a lot more flexible to take on part-time and temporary jobs when you’re not on campus.

But, up until very recently, prospective PhD students could not apply for this sort of loan to help pay for their degree. Even after the announcement this year of a new PhD loan that will be rolled out for the first time in 2018/2019, the allowance certainly won’t leave much money to cover living costs… for the average doctoral degree of 4 years the loan will leave little over £3000 a year to live off after fees are paid!!

So, if you’re not lucky enough to be able to pay your own way or even subsidise the loan then what are your other options for a full-time degree? Most PhD applications are for those degrees that offer a ‘studentship’ (the equivalent of a PhD scholarship). These awards of money almost always cover fees, but some also cover living costs known as a ‘stipend’ which is tax-free and paid monthly like a wage to help you get by.

Once you have your degree many universities also offer a few hours part-time work for you to undertake during your studies that are related to your field and easily workable around your full-time PhD schedule. This sort of work is usually stuff which would be expected of you if you worked in academia anyway and can include things like mentoring, assisting in practical demonstrations and tutorial sessions or marking work. These opportunities can really help PhD students that might be a little bit strapped for cash to grab some extra quids whilst helping out other students.

Now that I am nearly 3 months into my PhD I’m beginning to hear more about these opportunities and I’m really keen to start getting involved. Not only to raise a little bit extra cash but also to get involved with the teaching and mentoring that goes on in the university. Yesterday I attended my first assessment centre for a position as an academic assignment tutor so look out for my next post soon on how I got on…

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