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

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

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?

creamteas Tue 22-Jan-13 22:12:19

Leaving aside the Post-grad stuff which is (curently) funded like undergrad (PGCE, social work etc), at most uni's, the majority of Masters are self-funded or company sponsored. For PhDs, it varies by discipline, more are funded in the sciences that arts/humanities.

Can't speak for Oxford, but can't see why it would any different, they certainly don't seen to advertise any more scholarships than anywhere else.

yellow - I had thought you could get cheaper living costs in college, but I've never been an undergrad in Oxford so I expect I'm wrong. I've rented here since 2008, though, so I do know that their expectations of private rent prices are off. They think you might be renting a room for over 500pcm plus utilities. It's not likely you would choose to do that unless you were well off.

I don't think the majority of Oxford post grads are fully funded, but I don't have stats to hand. In my discipline, I think they fund rather less than half the Masters students - but I only base that on knowing people from year to year.

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Tue 22-Jan-13 22:23:27

I had cheap housing as an undergrad in Oxford. I would have dearly loved to have continued studying, either at Oxford or somewhere else, but there just wasn't the finances for it in my family (over 10 years ago). I was most envious at the time of friends for whom it was possibly to just "carry on". Is it much different?

I'm guessing no, it's not much different. This bloke who is sueing, it sounds as if he is making a stand, rather than he thinks he's really unusual. I think it's the same situation all over the place.

takeaway2 Tue 22-Jan-13 22:35:32

Think there are a couple of issues here.

The 'proof that you have £12k' is a common thing that's required of international students both ug and pg. parents or sponsors had to write a letter accompanied by a bank statement or even a letter from the bank manager saying that I confirm that daddy/mummy of said child has the funds to support child for x number of years. And this is before said child takes on any work hours. Or not.

As for the REF requirements, there is a criteria within the REF that marks departments down if the phd completion rate is below the requisite 4 years. There was a push in 2007 in many big name universities to rid their long staying students from the phd programmes regardless of sponsorship status. I imagine they'll start doing that this year in prep for 2014.

The time completion I suppose is a reflection of the quality of academics one has in the dept who can get student completions on time.

Copthallresident Tue 22-Jan-13 22:43:26

The main source of funding for Humanities students is the Arts and Humanities Research Council who will fund around 300 Masters in Arts subjects a year to 2013, 100 in English and History. Those are spread across 48 institutions, including the art and drama schools.

icebowl Wed 23-Jan-13 00:03:04

I am doing an MA which is only possible because DH is paying the fees, my parents are quite poor so I would never have considered asking them. I applied for AHRC funding but it's very rare to get it in my field. I don't know anyone on my course who was funded externally - it was mostly by parents or through work/savings. There are a few on scholarships (I have one) but it only pays a tiny percentage of the fees.

I think the socio-economic mix on my course is slightly skewed towards the higher end (especially with the international students), but there are some students here who came from quite dire backgrounds and are determinedly working to pay their way. I am from a low-income background myself but was just lucky that I met and married DH who managed to get a very high-paying job out of university.

There was no requirement to show any existing funds though, just a threat that our student cards would stop us accessing the building if we didn't pay fees.

creamteas Wed 23-Jan-13 18:35:00

The proof of living costs for international students was not a university initiative it is from what now is the Borders Agency and in line with other visa rules. There is no good reason for universities to apply it to any one who doesn't need a visa.

The ESRC is the research board for social sciences and funds similar low numbers.

ubik Thu 24-Jan-13 11:06:32

I know one girl who is doing a phd. Or was. She is from Saudi and was funded by the Saudi government through her first degree, and on to phd. Her living costs and flights home were also funded. She has now been told her work isn't up to scratch after bring given many chances. She now faces paying back the entire funding package. This is hundreds if thousands of pounds.

amillionyears Thu 24-Jan-13 12:02:26

Trouble is, even funding them yourselves, as others have done, is going to get more and nore out of reach, when you and or partner have student debt. And are earning enough to gradually pay it all back.

LaFataTurchina Fri 25-Jan-13 16:09:24

I'd love to do a PhD when I've finished my MA, and the only way I'll be able to do it is if I get ESRC funding or a studentship.

Every now and then uni sends us emails encouraging us to write things which they'll try and get published (in industry magazines). I'd love to write something and get it published to make myself a bit more attractive when it comes to filling in applications next Autumn, but I'm always at blinking work and I barely have time to do my MA work let alone extra stuff!

I don't really have a point, I'm just having a moan.

TheCollieDog Fri 25-Jan-13 16:39:34

In my department (nationally top five for the discipline in a tip top of the league table university) has 3 funded AHRC Doctoral studentships, plus 3 funded by an international collaboration, for 2013-14 academic year.

To get one of these, students will need pretty much First Class honours and Distinction or near distinction at Masters level. That's about the level of competition and the numb of studentships, as actually a good 2, i and a good project will suffice (that's what I had back in the day, and was offered a studentship and a job straight out of my BA).

So the fact that someone doesn't get offered funding can be related to a number of issues. But it's usually a very individual admissions process, so applicants offered a place but no funding are likely to be told why if they ask.

I count myself very lucky to have funding off a 2:1. But my peers who didn't get it were certainly not told why - and I know they asked. I think maybe it varies from discipline to discipline?

There are four of us in my year with some kind of funding - I forget whether two or three are AHRC, but one definitely isn't.

We were simply told it's partly a matter of luck, and that they will often find that a project that isn't funded is perfectly good. Of course, it's quite likely we don't get told the real reasons - but that does make it harder for us to know what's going on.

(That sounds grouchy, and I'm not: I appreciate that I am dead lucky. I just find it hard to understand the process.)

amillionyears Fri 25-Jan-13 18:28:38

The person I was talking about had a 2:1 at degree level, but a distinction in a fairly relevant masters. The the jobs he did after the masters, particularly one of them, also helped. And he was willing to apply and travel anywhere.

takeaway2 Fri 25-Jan-13 20:16:21

My first phd student I supervised was on an ESRC +3 scholarship (them days!). I have also had a v highly rated project (rated by ESRC) that didn't get funding. I tweaked it, and got university funding and a phd student to work on it. Several other phd students are either funded by their organization (nhs) or government (other country's university).

The is a lot of competition but there is money. Just got to hunt a bit more...

But I thought the government had decided to do away with funding for stand-alone MAs?

LaFataTurchina Sat 26-Jan-13 15:58:04

My stand alone MA is funded (2011-2013). It's not teaching, PGCE or medical related but it is in a 'useful' subject.

Also, I think 3 plus 1 still exists at some uni's. i.e. at my old uni if you got a 2.1 in some departments you could stay on and do a free MA (I graduated in 2010).

amillionyears Sat 26-Jan-13 16:51:29

It is going to be even worse than I thought.

mathanxiety Sat 26-Jan-13 17:49:44

Professor Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of Exeter University, said: "The latest data is that 1.8% of GDP goes on research and development. The average in the OECD is 2.34%. That is a third more. And a lot of our competitors, Japan, Korea, are above 3%.

The UK is seriously shooting itself in the foot here. Postgrad research drives technological breakthroughs and therefore industry.

amillionyears Sat 26-Jan-13 17:57:02

Also, tbh, having only a load of people from very wealthy backgrounds being able to do research, would seriously impact on quality imo.
[wince] I feel I am being richist here.

TheCollieDog Sat 26-Jan-13 20:45:31

Yes, the research future of this country is in terrible trouble. I think we'll look back in 20 years and look at a first class world standard (2nd only to the US) education system, relatively open to any qualified student, and wonder when was the actual moment a government pressed the destruct button.

mathanxiety Sun 27-Jan-13 02:07:56

Worse, the only people who can afford postgrad degrees may be students from abroad, so essentially Britain is exporting expertise. A brain drain always costs a lot more than the cost of supporting brains at home.

amillionyears Sun 27-Jan-13 07:41:18

That first sentence is true mathanxiety. The person I am talking about upthread, is surrounded by students from abroad.
Didnt quite understand the second sentence.

amillionyears Sun 27-Jan-13 07:41:50

Mainly European students I think.

True, math.

funnyperson Tue 29-Jan-13 04:14:17

Exporting expertise is a national strategy. There are at least 2 problems with the strategy

a) It bankrupts foreign families
b) It drives up the price of education, and the support structure such as student accommodation, to beyond the reach of the average earning UK family.

Whilst a) is perfectly consistent with a colonialist ethic, b) was not foreseen simply because no one in Westminster has average earnings.

I'm cross with a and b actually.

funnyperson Tue 29-Jan-13 04:20:07

Postgraduate education is pricing itself out of the market.

I'm cross cross cross because inevitably postgraduate degrees will become the privilege of the wealthy and whilst some wealthy people are brainy not all brainy people are wealthy.

funnyperson Tue 29-Jan-13 04:24:34

I'm cross because I was lucky enough to be born in a socialist society which provided care and opportunity to an extent which I now realise will never again happen in the history of mankind.
Our generation should have fought tooth and nail for our children's education and welfare. But like most I thought it would last forever and did nothing. I feel so much to blame.

mathanxiety Tue 29-Jan-13 05:50:46

What I mean by brain drains being expensive to the exporting country is that the govt is being penny wise by cutting support to postgrad students and pretty much forcing universities to recruit full whack fee payers from abroad, and pound foolish because those foreign PhDs will take their expertise with them and their education will ultimately benefit Britain's competition. Bringing in brains from abroad and then letting them off to make money elsewhere is going to cost Britain.

TheCollieDog Tue 29-Jan-13 08:06:33

Thing is, the price charged to non-EU students, both UG and PG is generally a more accurate reflection of the real costs of a university degree.

Since the [unprintable word] coalition decided to withdraw 80% of public funding from public universities, we're seeing real costs.

I don't see how you are to blame, funny!

funnyperson Tue 29-Jan-13 16:43:09

LRD because a) I didnt save up enough to put DC through college without debt and b) didnt protest when the govt introduced the extortionate fees.

mathanxiety Tue 29-Jan-13 18:39:54

One potentially hopeful element to the postgrad scene is Britain's continuing membership of the EU. British students are entitled to study anywhere in the EU for local rates, both at undergraduate level and postgrad.

Hint - vote possibly coming up on EU membership..

Please don't blame yourself, funny. I am really furious about what is happening but I don't think it's the fault of ordinary people, really. As far as I can see, there was no-one making a huge fuss about students getting their degrees subsidized, so it's not as if tuition fees were a hugely popular move.

I can see it must feel rotten to be worrying about your DC like that, of course.

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