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HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme

Come the 2016 academic year, it is going to be easier than ever to complete a postgraduate program without endless financial stress, as the government introduces postgraduate loans similar to those already offered to undergraduates. However, for those looking to go straight into postgrad study from their undergraduate studies, this could be a case of too little too late for those graduating in 2015. Fortunately, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) along with the government are offering 10,000 loans of £10,000 to aspiring postgrads looking to study before these new postgraduate loans are introduced.

Criteria for the HEFCE PSS

Maths graduates amongst you will have already calculated this as a total of £100 million, with half coming from the government’s National Scholarship Program and the other half provided by the HEFCE. The criteria for this bursary, named the Postgraduate Support Scheme (PSS), are simple.

HEFCE Firstly, this funding is available to any student graduating in 2015 from a three-year bachelors degree – in short, anyone who had to pay the higher tuition fees introduced in 2012.


  Secondly, you have to be a resident of the United Kingdom or the European Union.


Thirdly, they are only available for full and part time masters courses of up to two years.


Lastly, to quote from the proposal, students must identify as part of a group ‘under-represented among the institution’s taught masters population’.


In summary, PSS scholarships are available to students who:

  Paid the higher (£9,000) tuition fees introduced in the 2012-3 academic year.

 Are living in the UK or EU.

 Want to undertake masters programs of two years or less.

 Are part of an ‘evidentially under-represented’ group.

What this latter criteria entails seems to be at the discretion of the university you are applying to, but presumably will be decided on a macro (i.e. certain religious groups or sexual orientations who are under-represented in masters populations in general) or a micro (i.e. certain specific courses in which there are gender imbalances) level. However, any group that can be demonstrated to be under-represented within a certain university or a certain course are in theory eligible.

The funding is already allocated to the universities

This is a crucial point to note. These PSS scholarships have been allocated to the universities, and it is them that you will be applying to, and them that will be awarding them. This may seem like an unimportant detail to those applying, but it is important in two ways.  First of all, it means that these funding pools have not been allocated evenly, meaning some universities have far more bursaries available than other, whether because they have a bigger student body, have demonstrated the positive effects of diversity in their masters programs better and so on. The differences are notable, with some universities having £2.5-3million worth of match-funded scholarships available, with some smaller colleges having only a handful or less of these funded places available.

So for those who do not believe they will be able to fund their masters degrees without this HEFCE support, the bigger universities tend to have more of these £10,000 funds available. For example, the two premier University of London colleges (UCL and King’s) both have over £1.3 million available in HEFCE funds, which will be matched evenly by the government to equal close to £3 million each. Rounding out the list of those awarded over £1 million by the Higher Education Funding Council are three more large Russell Group universities: Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham.

On the other end of the scale, 23 institutions have less than ten awards available, and one institution (London-based digital media specialists Ravensbourne) has only one award. As ever, if you are looking to secure this funding, it pays to research thoroughly how many scholarships your chosen university has to offer. Another research-based top tip is to find statistics of the make-up of your chosen institution or institutions’ student body, so as to best make your case as to why it is you who deserves a funded place. If your course has fewer places with funding attached, this little piece of research (which is information that should be freely available on the internet for every institution) could be the difference between being awarded £10,000 or not, which could be the difference between being able to accept a place on a masters program or not.

How to apply for the HEFCE funding

So if you fit all of the four criteria for a government/HEFCE award and are considering applying for one, your best course of action is to contact the university by email, asking what their allocations are and what their application procedures are, as these could differ from institution to institution. Then, consider whether you are really eligible. Everybody can make an argument for their being a minority within a given group of people, but trying to ‘cheat the system’ in this way not only will be a waste of your time, but it prevents those who really need and deserve this funding from being able to access it. If this could apply to you, bear in mind the postgraduate loan system is only one additional academic year away. Consider this, and the fact that thousands of other bursaries and scholarships are available to you including the £500 Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries , and good luck in finding the funding you need.  And for those applying for the HEFCE awards, equally good luck!

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