The Student Loans Company do not offer universal funding at the postgraduate level; an impenetrable brick wall for some, a major hurdle for most. Funding is often found through companies, trusts, societies or studentships by Research Councils – but these are incredibly hard to get. Student Finance will only assist in teaching and social work, with NHS Bursaries funding parts of medical courses. There are only options for a select and lucky few, who still have to work sensationally hard to get them in the first place.
For the majority of courses, finding any funding can often be impossible and for many it marks the end of their academic careers.
Philanthropic funding has sadly become a necessity just to get these students off the mark. Without this funding, we would lose the experts of the future in so many fields. We would lose our doctors, our engineers, our leading scientists. We would lose our future teachers; leaders in academic fields. Out there in the no man’s land of empty pockets are thousands of people that could have found the cures for diseases or developed revolutionary theories, lost because of a lack of money.
It is right that postgraduate study is for the elite, but it should not be an elite based on wealth.
Luckily, our university has a department for fundraising and a pool of generous alumni that do not provide loans, but donate to students who they want to see excel in higher education like they did themselves. The Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) raised in excess of £300,000 towards philanthropic bursaries. The majority of these ninety-nine awards went to postgraduate students, and even then only a few will fund the entirety of their course fees.
The DARO celebration evening for the winners of scholarships and bursaries was not only a thank you to those who donated, but a sigh of relief for many students who were there. One postgraduate nursing student said that she would not even be at the University if it was not for the funding she received.
Is there not a problem with the fact that the SLC will fund undergraduates, but then abandon the next generation? Is it right that so many have to rely on philanthropy with funding from employers being so limited?
For me, no higher education should be free. But the loan system in place for undergrads should be on offer in the same instance to our postgraduate students. The system needs to be revolutionised and divided fairly, with lower course fees that would not leave the government out of pocket, and also the students.
We should congratulate those lucky enough to receive funding, but we should at the same time be concerned that the requirement for philanthropy is growing. We should think of the unfortunate majority that have been left behind by a society fuelled by financial incentive and not by the ability and intelligence of their students. So, if you are currently an undergraduate considering further study, whether you are smart enough or not is not the first question you need to ask – when it should be.
We should praise DARO and thank the philanthropic alumni and encourage donations even more. Without their generosity, hardwork and genuine care, so many students would be in very difficult places right now.
Philanthropic funding is fantastic for students, but should not be a necessity for postgraduates.