December newsletter - Alternative PG funding
The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding:
Britain's most unusual student funding resource celebrates its sixth anniversary
By Dr. Shuzhi Zhou
The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding – published by GradFunding – recently celebrated its sixth birthday. It’s a book, also a web resource, and it's all about funding from the obscure world of charities and trusts. These bodies (of which there are tens of thousands) were often set up long ago, and make grants based on all manner of criteria. Some depend on a student’s subject of study, where he or she lives, or their income. But many are much odder, and include, for example, whether the student is descended from grocers or pharmacists, whether they have the surname ‘Forsyth’, whether they are a vegetarian or vegan, or whether they live within a twenty mile radius of the 'Who'd a Thought It' public house in Grafty Green, Kent. Many have no website, or are even listed online.
The Alternative Guide (now used at 85 universities) is designed to unlock this mysterious – but potentially highly lucrative – world of charities and trusts for students who are unfunded, or partially funded. The lead author, Luke Blaxill, won more than 40 of these grants during his PhD in History, raising £45,000.
"The Guide contains a directory of over 700 charities, which is obviously a tremendous help" Luke says. "But at its heart, it's really a methodology– a step-by-step battleplan for current or prospective postgraduates to identify, find, and apply to charities regardless of course, background, or nationality. Many have used it to raise a few thousand pounds, and some (several have their stories on our website) have managed to fund entire PhDs!"
"Public funding for postgraduates always seems to be being cut and students are naturally becoming pessimistic. The Alternative Guide isn't a silver bullet for this problem, but it gives students the tools they need to think creatively about funding– to look beyond the world of academic scholarships and bank loans to the many people and organisations out there who can help. Students often end up being funded by bodies they have never heard of: perhaps a church down the road, a wealthy retired person, or an ancient livery company. I'll freely admit it's all a bit unusual, but the funders are there– if you can find them, and know how to ask."
"The Alternative Guide is really the only product which deals with this niche funding, especially since Funderfinder was retired. It's a shame charity funding isn't better known about, but we're trying to change that! If a university doesn't have the Guide, they're welcome to get in touch for a free evaluation" Luke concludes.
Student money advisors and Careers Services are the heaviest users of the Alternative Guide. Some simply have a few hard copies or CD versions available to students who walk in. However, many have invested – either themselves, or with the Graduate School of Research Office – in a university-wide licence to the Alternative Guide Online (AGO) which was launched last year. This is very much the premier version of the Guide, with a host of interactive features, and the facility for students to logon whether on or off campus.
Interested? You can find a full list of universities subscribing to the Guide at www.postgraduate-funding.com/ and you can request a free no-obligation trial at your university by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 0207 564 8172.