Funding for business, management and finance postgraduate courses

Funding for business, management and finance postgraduate courses

If you're planning to take a postgraduate course in finance, business or management then you'll need to be able to manage your own finances. There is help available in the form of loans, bursaries or sponsorship and you could also consider other options such as working part time.

Unless your family owns half of Yorkshire, funding your postgraduate degree course will be a top priority and, unfortunately, it usually means continuing your dependence on baked beans. Postgraduate study incurs two main expenses: fees and the cost of living. Rest assured that courses do not come cheap, and depending on where you choose to study, rent prices can be fairly high too. But don't despair – there is help available in the form of loans or grants and most students now combine a number of these funding sources to finance their studies.

Funding options

Your main options are:

  • Funding offered by institutions. Since the demise of UK Research Council taught masters funding, universities have put financial resources into encouraging academically strong students to continue with postgraduate education. Finance and management course fees can be expensive, so business schools often look to alumni and sponsorship to raise funds to support new students. Over 60% of MBA students at Harvard Business School receive some sort of financial assistance from the school.

    If you're thinking of staying where you’ve done undergraduate studies, look for any alumni or progression discounts on offer. Occasionally these discounts get extended to family – for example at Oxford Brookes University, the University of Kent and Bangor University.

  • Employer sponsorship or payment towards your fees taken from your gross salary – likely to be an easier sell if you'll be studying while you're working and you can use your learning for the benefit of your employer or colleagues. The Open University even offer a case study template to help you put the case for support to your boss.

    Employer sponsorship doesn’t necessarily always come in the form of money. It might be easier for your boss to agree to study leave before exams.

  • Professional and career development loans (PCDL) – available through an arrangement between the government (which covers the interest on the loan while you're studying) and participating high street banks (currently Barclays and the Cooperative Bank). PCDL loans from £300-£10,000 are available for recognised courses that will help your career.
  • Private postgraduate loans – several companies have developed funding packages specifically for students. Future Finance offers loans to students of between £2,500–£40,000 towards tuition fees and living costs.
  • If you're research-focussed, you might be able to apply for a graduate teaching assistantship post. In return for a small amount of teaching, the institution covers your tuition fees. This is possibly less common in business, finance and management than in other subjects.

    Alternatively, you might be able to use your skills and experience to tutor undergraduates who want intensive cramming in particular areas before exams.

  • If you're thinking of a PhD, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) sponsors a number of studentships through doctorial training centre partnerships. Masters programmes are very rarely sponsored on their own these days, but combined studentships for one year as a research masters student and then three years as a PhD student are a little more common. Research Councils welcome discipline crossover in projects – such as the climate change and technology adaptation to support service continuity and flood response and resilience studentship offered at Leeds University Business School in collaboration with BT.
  • Government funding – if you're from Scotland you could be eligible for postgraduate support from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).

    A scheme to offer taught masters course loans for study at universities in England is currently in government consultation.

    If you're an overseas student you should contact your local Ministry of Education for advice on funding sources.

Business, management and finance courses most typically charge higher tuition fees. Most students manage by combining several different funding methods along with personal savings/family loans or charitable support.

Study while working

Business, finance and management courses cater for working students better than most other disciplines. Business schools offer executive MBA courses for experienced professionals with teaching weeks spread over the year to minimise time out of the office. Many accountancy professional body qualifications will need you to be in work while doing them, because developing your experience is part of the programme.

Working full-time while you study requires a huge amount of commitment and a willingness to sacrifice your free time. However it means that you don't need to factor in loss of wages to the cost of studying, and additional living costs can be minimised.

Going part time

If you’d like to be able to commit more time to your studies, taking a part-time course will allow you to spend more time on your assignments. While you'll be studying for longer, combining it with part-time work can be worth the additional time spent studying. It will allow you to spread course payments over double the time, cover living costs as you go and the loss of earnings is a less bitter pill to swallow. You can also pick up valuable skills and experience in the workplace – which can help to set you apart from your peers.

Funding tips for postgraduate business, finance or management students

  • Competition for sponsorship or institutional funding can be tough, so it really does pay to do your research and investigate funding sources early in the final year of your first degree if you’re considering moving straight on to PG study.
  • Leave plenty of time to apply for funding. For example, you should apply for a PCDL at least three months before you start your course. Business school scholarships often get judged on application essays, so give yourself the chance to shine rather than having to rush.
  • Put a little bit by for application costs, tests and any other application expenses you might need to cover. These can be higher with finance, business and management courses than other subjects.
  • It's all about the value – will the course help you to get where you want to go? Check the reputational scores of schools and programmes before you apply. Paying $4000 for an 'official MBA' from a website might seem like good value – but if employers won't recognise it as a valid qualification and it isn't accredited, you've wasted $4000 and look pretty daft. You don't need Warren Buffett to know that's not a good return on investment.
  • Always keep in mind why you want to do the course. If you want to work for a global company, what connections does the university have? Researching alumni will help you to gauge whether you’re on the right track.