The bank of mum may not be able to fund postgrad degrees

(62 Posts)
funnyperson Mon 21-Jan-13 15:10:29

I read this article about postgrad degrees in Oxford and my worst fears are confirmed
ttp://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/21/suing-oxford-university-students-wealth?commentpage=2

funnyperson Mon 21-Jan-13 15:11:04
funnyperson Mon 21-Jan-13 15:12:57
creamteas Mon 21-Jan-13 18:49:34

The situation for postgrad study is dire.

Most universities only ask about covering fees though, not the same demands as Oxford (and lower fees!)

Most of my students are working to support themselves or have employers sponsoring them (I teach Sociology). Many study part-time, so Masters over 2 years, PhD over 4-6, but it is tough.

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 20:07:12

I have also supported myself through my postgrads, both an MBA in the 80s (actually sponsored) and an MA recently. Both times I was under no illusion that we were anything but cash cows for the institutions, plus 25 in tutorial groups etc. However there is also a high drop out rate especially on my MA, so you can see why a uni with an oversubscribed course would want to be sure that a student would last the course, not that I think expecting them to have that amount of cash up front is reasonable, students may be better at budgeting, have well paid part time jobs etc. .

I saw that.

Something I think is important to be aware of is that if this lad takes a year or two out, he will no longer be eligible further down the line for most of the jobs at Oxford or Cambridge. So Oxbridge know perfectly well that they are excluding poorer students.

It is also absolutely absurd to suggest you need 13k to live in Oxford. I looked at their breakdown of figures on the website and they are totally out of touch. They have no idea. To insist a student should have that much money is really out of order IMO.

It is very similar to other universities though - the figure at another university I know of is 10k up front. It's not just an Oxbridge problem, not at all.

Yellowtip Tue 22-Jan-13 17:31:44

I'm puzzled as to how living costs for an undergrad are estimated at £7,900 yet a first year postgrad apparently all of a sudden requires £5,000 more.

That said, there's a great deal of funding out there for good students.

mathanxiety Tue 22-Jan-13 17:33:30

Students should look further afield for postgrad opportunities, especially US universities. If you're good enough for Oxford, you should be looking at top places abroad too.

Some info on the US postgrad experience here.

The GRE tests verbal (reading comprehension at university level) and quantitative reasoning (maths and data interpretation at US high school/university level) and assesses analytical writing ability ('analyse an issue' and 'analyse an argument' tasks). A test prep course is very advisable for non US students who may not have encountered this sort of test before, and certainly for UK students who may have dropped maths after GCSE.

yellow - I think it probably is cheaper for undergraduates, living in college.

What funding is out there, though? The government has just decided to abolish funding for MAs that aren't the first year of a PhD (that is, as far as I know, most of the ones Oxford offers). There really isn't a lot of funding out there.

amillionyears Tue 22-Jan-13 17:39:22

In my limited experience, I would say that there is limited funding.

Already ,a lot of the PhDs are a lot easier to get if you fund them yourselves.
So that automatically rules out poorer students.
£40,000 approx , in total, for 3 years is not that easy to come by for most.

But the bank of mum and dad at least, will most likely already have coughed up a lot, for 1 Uni offspring, let alone more than 1.

I think there's a difficulty, in that at the moment, it's not always clear why people do or don't get funding for a PhD. Some universities use it as a way of indicating that they don't think this student is really very good. But I think it would be better simply to admit that to the student.

I didn't get funding for my master's, and it was because the university simply didn't think I was as good as the people they did fund. But they thought I was good enough to give me a place. However, there were also people they thought were very good, and they still didn't have funding for them. That's a real problem.

A mate of mine was a foster child, and it always seems horrible that the system is really still assuming that most people have parents' money to fall back on.

amillionyears Tue 22-Jan-13 18:02:34

ok
I want to say something
but am thinking about it.
I know someone, not saying who, and this is how it worked for him.
He applied for a funded or maybe partly funded PhD [cant remember exactly which]. this was last year. Didnt get that one, but they immediately turned round and offered him a non funded one.

So the person knew that they were good enough [the tutor had previosly tutored him, so knew his capabilites].
He then applied for 3 more different ,mixture of unis, most were in the running for funding, ie a 1/3 or 1/6 chance of funding. Got a mixture of interviews, short listed, or not an interview.
Then he applied for a fully funded one, and got it.

amillionyears Tue 22-Jan-13 18:05:26

But if the person above, had no problem with funds, he could have just taken the non funded one.
Which rather begs the question, that PhDs will mainly be the preserve of the rich, or much more mature student maybe.
The person I mentioned above had done a recent Masters, and had ,as been advised, did 1 year of real work.

Yes, it's very common to apply for funding, not get it, and then get a non-funded postgrad place.

There are more people who would do well, than there is funding. The reason I brought up the point that it's possible non-funded places sometimes go to people who aren't as good as people with funding is that I think some universities have got a bit inclined to shrug and offer places to people who they wouldn't offer places to if they had to take responsibility for funding them. I think if they are going to offer non-funded places, they need to take really big steps to make those places as fair as possible. Demanding 13k isn't doing that.

I think they should make students submit a plan of how they will cover their costs, instead of demanding the money up front. And if a student can demonstrate they've found housing that's cheaper than the rather expensive rate that's set out as the 'norm', that should be allowable.

The issue with the Masters is that they are planning (as I understand it) to remove a lot of the funding, and as you say, it'll turn into a degree you can only do if you're rich.

amillionyears Tue 22-Jan-13 18:26:19

Can I ask a question, to you, or someone else.
Which is currently looked more favourably on, by a future employed, either in the work place, or at a Uni or research centre.
Someone who has finished a funded PhD, or someone who has completed a non funded one?
Or doesnt it matter?

amillionyears Tue 22-Jan-13 18:26:41

employer not employed.

I've never heard that it matters at all. I don't think they'd even necessarily know?

I suppose if you got a scholarship that was prestigious, that might count.

The issue with non-funded degrees is, if you work alongside (which most people do even if they're funded), you might take longer. This lad who is sueing, he could take a year or two out, work, and get up the money that way.

But once you've taken longer, you're no longer eligible for some of the jobs going. Most Oxbridge junior research posts want you to have completed your masters and PhD in a certain time limit, and some specify you must have no fewer than, say, five years between graduating from your undergrad and getting a PhD. They'll accept exceptional circumstances at discretion, but basically, you have to make your case if you're a mature student or you've had years out to earn some money.

I know this student is only just starting a master's so this may seem as if it's not really important (he might perfectly well go on to do something non-academic), but I think it's crucial because the people who make these rules about time limits are the same people who are insisting that this student should have 13k. They must know what they're doing, and that it'll end up as self-reinforcing discrimination, because they will end up with dons who've been the students who could afford it all.

amillionyears Tue 22-Jan-13 18:47:07

Why do Oxbridge do that with junior research posts?
Is it because they then think they will get the best?

or, thinking about it, it could be more to do with getting those with easier finances.

fwiw, I know someone who did a masters at Oxford,struggled, and had to have an extension to finish it. Dont think he/she will be doing a PhD anytime soon. But perhaps could manage it later on in life.

ubik Tue 22-Jan-13 18:49:43

Even when I was at university in the '90's, post grads were really for folk who could afford them.

There was no way I would have been able to afford further study and no way my parents would have supported me for a fourth year of study, even when there were no tuition fees.

amillion - I think they think they'll get the fastest writers. It matters a lot at the moment to get people who write fast, because of the way universities are judged by the government when they're applying for funding. It matters because there are maybe 15 postdoc places at either one, and far fewer at other places.

I just find it really appalling. I think my lot are the last generation who could afford to go to university without worrying (because we were there before tuition fees came in), and we could reasonably expect to get a funded place somewhere if we worked hard enough. It seems as if it's all changing so fast now, and the people who will suffer are the students who've already just finished degrees where they were being charged the higher-rate tuition fees.

amillionyears Tue 22-Jan-13 19:00:31

It is wrong behaviour isnt it.

Even with all these students doing degrees, not that many are going to be able to afford to do a Masters, let alone a PhD.

amillionyears Tue 22-Jan-13 19:01:45

fastest writers?
Never heard that before.
Not sure I really understand.

Because at the moment, universities get judged for funding purposes based on something called the REF. Academics have to submit enough papers/books, of good enough quality, to count towards it. So, it's in the university's interests to employ people who're very good at getting work out fast. I'm not convinced writing a Masters+PhD in four years is actually any measure of that - because you might also take longer because you're working to fund yourself - but I think that's part of the idea.

The other thing is, I guess, that they'd worry a person who had had too much time out, would have some rather dated ideas.

It does seem so cruel, that students are still being pushed in huge numbers to do undergraduate degrees, and masters' courses seem to have become the thing you do to differentiate yourself from other people who 'only' have a degree. It's mad.

Copthallresident Tue 22-Jan-13 19:15:33

ubik I was lucky to get a company to sponsor my MBA in the 80's but DH got a bank loan to supplement his savings. Most of our peers were like us, we had worked for 5 to 10 years and were in a position to fund ourselves, get sponsorship or had saved up, I don't remember anyone using the Bank of Mum and Dad. DHs loan seemed huge at first but paled into insignificance over the years. The majority on my recent MA were also out of uni 3-5 years and working part time, or had worked to save up to fund it, once again no one being funded by Mum and Dad. Admittedly the subject area meant that not only did they tend to have worked overseas but the time spent overseas was of benefit to the course and their future careers (academic, business or in NGOs). The big change that has happened relatively recently is an increase in applicants straight from uni seeking to enhance their CVs in a difficult market, who seem to think that funding should flow to them regardless, given funding has always been rationed and is even scarcer now perhaps it is time for a reality check?

I think St Hilda's are being totally unreasonable in expecting students to fund a comfortable lifestyle upfront, or even question how they fund their living costs, but equally students shouldn't expect Master's degrees to suddenly be available on a plate, they never have been.

Yellowtip Tue 22-Jan-13 21:52:02

College undergraduate accommodation charges vary quite a bit LRD but the difference between the middle range charge and the rent in a shared house is pretty indistinguishable tbh. Whereas £5000 is a gulf.

The majority of Oxford post grads are fully funded, no?

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